Topic: Winter Palace
© State Hermitage Museum. 23 December, 2015
Next year marks the 250th anniversary of the State Hermitage Museum, an occasion which will be marked by some very exciting exhibitions and events. Among them is the long-awaited restoration of the former Grand Church of the Winter Palace.
The restoration of the church will also include a reconstruction of the three-tier iconostasis (the original iconstasis was destroyed by the Soviets in 1938) at the cost of 128.8 million Rubles (more than 4 million USD). Specialists will reconstruct the framework of the iconostasis, manufacture the lost ornamental gilded stucco carvings, restore icons which survived, and reproduce those destroyed by the Bolsheviks. The State Hermitage will also pay 70 million Rubles for repairs to the church dome and the cross.
The Grand Church of the Winter Palace was originally built by Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli (1700-1771) in the Baroque style in 1763. It was considered "one of the most splendid rooms" in the palace. After a devastating fire in 1837, the church was rebuilt by Vasily Stasov (1769-1848) who recreated its original look.
The space of the church is divided into three architectural volumes; two of them - the one closest to the entrance and the altar portion - are provided with double rows of windows. The central volume is crowned with a dome and accentuated by pylons with double fluted Corinthian columns. The walls are decorated with the Corinthian pilasters alternating with the arched windows that give light to the church on two sides. The lower row of the windows is separated from the upper one with the highly projected and fractured cornice. The gilded stucco ornament made of papier-mache is the principal artistic decoration of the church along with the ceiling painting The Ascension of Christ by Pyotr Basin and the images of the four evangelists by Fiodor Bruni on the vault sides under the dome. The crimson draperies and gilded chandeliers complete the impressive décor of the interior.
The new church was consecrated by Metropolitan Filaret on May 25th, 1839 in the presence of the Imperial family. At the end of the 19th century a belfry was added with five bells.
The wedding of Emperor Nicholas II and Princess Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt took place in the church on 26 November [O.S. 14 November], 1895. Artist: Laurits Tuxen (1853-1927)
The Cathedral was the repository of multiple relics and memorabilia related to the Romanovs. It was used as the imperial family's private place of worship, with the imperial family's members usually praying in a special room beyond the sanctuary. This was the place where Nicholas II prayed at the liturgy before exiting onto the balcony to face the crowd on the day of declaring war on Germany in 1914. In May 1918, the church was officially closed for worship.
For decades the church has served as an unconsecrated exhibition hall of the State Hermitage Museum. The newly restored church will be part of a new permanent exhibit dedicated to Russian religious art. The newly restored Grand Church of the Winter Palace is scheduled to open in 2014.
Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 08 June, 2013
The staff of the State Hermitage Museum will celebrate the 250th anniversary of the museum in a modest way, the director of the Hermitage Mikhail Piotrovsky said at the meeting with the residents of St. Petersburg.
The Hermitage will celebrate its 250th anniversary in 2014. As it had been previously reported by Piotrovsky, by its anniversary the museum plans to significantly expand its exhibition space and to open the new storages to the public. The activities related to the anniversary of the Hermitage, including the depository construction and the renovation of buildings, the publication of catalogs and updates of the website, will cost 13.03 billion rubles, of which 12.96 billion will come from the federal budget. "We are not planning any big celebrations: we will not have any special formal meetings, there will be no exhibitions gathered from around the world", - Piotrovsky reported.
© Gazeta.ru. 27 January, 2013
Cleaners dust the giant chandeliers in one of the halls of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg earlier this week.
© St. Petersburg Times. 01 November, 2012
The State Hermitage Museum’s legendary Johann Strasser clock, also known as “the mechanical orchestra,” is to be restored by 2014 as part of the celebrations of the museum’s 250th anniversary.
The elaborate 18th-century clock has been silent for at least 150 years.
“This clock is outstanding in so many ways: It is a fascinating example of decorative and applied art, it is a technical marvel, it is a fine musical instrument in which there are recordings of masterpieces of 18th-century classical music, and it is an artifact that has a most romantic and dramatic story behind it,” said Igor Sychev, the Hermitage curator responsible for the maintenance of the exhibit.
The celebrated craftsman Johann Georg Strasser originally designed the Mechanical Orchestra for the Mikhailovsky Castle, the residence built by Tsar Paul I that already housed two of Strasser’s less sophisticated clocks. It took the master eight years — from 1793 to 1801 — to finish the technically challenging piece.
The tsar, however, never had a chance to enjoy the commission: He was murdered in the spring of 1801, before the order was complete. After the tsar’s death, the master craftsman, whom the project had saddled with losses as he invested most of his fortune into making the unique item, decided to organize a lottery and make the clock the main prize. It took Strasser more than two years to sell enough tickets to make the lottery financially viable. To promote the lottery, he traveled across the country and arranged performances of “the mechanical orchestra.”
The draw was held on May 4 1804, yet the lucky winner would not show up for almost a year. The winner, a young officer who, en route to his detachment, was staying with a Latvian widow, gave the lottery ticket to his landlady as a parting gift before the winning ticket was announced. When she discovered her luck, the widow decided not to keep the clock, and arrived in St. Petersburg in 1805 with the intention of setting up another lottery to dispose of it, but Tsar Alexander I instead agreed to buy it from her for 20,000 rubles plus a lifetime pension.
According to some sources, Alexander I also had a plan for the unlucky clock. He allegedly intended to include it among the gifts that were being sent to China with a diplomatic mission. However, the Chinese emperor refused to receive the Russian ambassadors, and the clock was instead installed in one of the halls of the Winter Palace.
The Mechanical Orchestra is shaped like a temple. It is about four meters high, and has a portico and paired mahogany columns embellished with gilded bronze.
The organ is driven by four weights, each weighing nearly 200 kilograms. The music is recorded on 14 removable wooden barrels, with each of them playing an eight-minute classical composition.
The original thirteen barrels contained pieces by Haydn and Mozart, including the overture from Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute.” One of the pieces, composed by the then-popular Viennese pianist and composer Anton Eberl, was written especially for Strasser’s “mechanical orchestra.” In 1861, a fourteenth barrel was added, but even at that time the clock was barely functional, and it has been broken ever since.
“Like any experimental piece, and like any unique piece, the ‘mechanical orchestra’ has a rather long list of sensitive issues,” said restorer Mikhail Guriyev, head of the department of restoration of clocks and musical instruments of the State Hermitage Museum.
“Despite its massive size and imposing looks, the Strasser clock is a very fragile creature. The coil springs that make the barrels roll can be compared with those of a steam train. The poises would often drop, destroying the mechanics, and the instrument needed to be fixed. The trick is that the instrument needs to produce a smooth, light, graceful sound, despite the rather mighty machinery that is involved in making it run.”
The grand-scale restoration project is being funded by JTI tobacco company, which signed an agreement with the Hermitage in 2011. Such charitable activities are at great risk of being banned for tobacco companies in early 2013: A draft law that would ban tobacco companies from taking part in philanthropic activities is currently awaiting review at the State Duma. If passed, the law, which has stirred a nationwide debate, would prohibit tobacco companies from donating to charities and taking part in any other philanthropic activities.
The bill’s critics have branded the initiative as hypocritical: After all, the Russian state is comfortable with harvesting high tax revenues from tobacco companies, yet is willing to impose a ban on charity for them, thus ostracizing their business.
In these challenging circumstances, Anatoly Vereshchagin, JTI’s director of charitable projects, has promised that the company will deliver on all its obligations that have been made to date, regardless of the outcome of the forthcoming Duma vote.
“There is still time for the State Duma to decide against the law; however, if the ban does get introduced, we will transfer all the money required for the restoration of the clock before the law comes into force,” Vereshchagin said. “All calculations of the costs have been made, and we can assure you that the money will suffice.”
© St. Petersburg Times. 01 November, 2012
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