Samson Returns to Peterhof

The Samson sculpture is driven past the Alexandriinsky Theater in St. Petersburg on its way back to Peterhof.

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The iconic sculpture of Samson pulling open the jaws of a lion that crowns the central cascade of fountains in the suburb of Peterhof returned to its pedestal after restoration on Sunday.

Three months ago, the symbol of Peterhof left its historical home for the first time since 1947.

Restoration experts painted the sculpture with a double layer of gold leaf, using about a kilogram of gold. Samson is now expected to be able to go without restoration work for at least 12 years, as long as the fountain’s water system does not contain abrasive substances.

Yelena Kalnitskaya, director of the Peterhof museum, said that museum workers and the local authorities are trying to resolve the issue of water quality in the Staropetergovsky Canal that feeds the fountain, RIA Novosti reported.

“We had trouble last year when lime from a nearby construction site got into the water due to the rain. We want to prevent these kinds of pollutants because they may contain sand, which can seriously erode the layer of gild,” Kalnitskaya said.

A restoration of the statue on this scale hasn’t been completed since 1947. Previously the sculpture of Samson, weighing in at five tons, was gilded several times in loco. However, last year it was decided to perform more thorough repairs on account of the statue’s serious condition.

The sculpture of Samson was first erected in 1735, in honor of the 25th anniversary of the Battle of Poltava that took place on the day of Saint Sampson. The statue was based on a model by the Italian architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli.

In 1801 the sculpture was in disrepair and was replaced by a bronze copy. After Nazi troops invaded Peterhof, the statue disappeared completely.

In 1947, the sculpture was restored using pre-war photos.

Sources: The St. Petersburg Times
20 April, 2011