Hermitage to Get Back its Original Colour?

The Hermitage Museum (former Winter Palace) in St. Petersburg

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The colour for the Winter Palace is back on the agenda in St.Petersburg. For years Hermitage Director Mikhail Piotrovsky has talked of the need to re-paint the Winter Palace in sandy pink, the colour it was originally painted by Rastrelli in the middle of the 18th century. The Palace changed colour repeatedly over the years. It was ochre white under Emperors Paul I and Nicholas I, and the ochre became more intense under Emperor Alexander II in the second half of the 19th century. Under Emperor Alexander III the Palace acquired a more pronounced ochre tint with a touch of red. Emperor Nicholas II approved the painting of facades in the colour of his garden’s new fencing. The metal fence built in 1899-1901 on a project by R.F.Meltzer rested on about three-meter-high foundation of red sandstone so it was decided to paint the palace the colour to match. Winter Palace remained terra-cotta red until the late 1920s. In 1927 it was painted gray and in 1928-1930 – brown-gray. In 1934, at the initiative of members of the city’s executive committee the Winter Palace was for the first time painted in oil paint the colour of an expressive orange with the classical order parts painted white.

The experiment was pronounced a failure for aesthetic considerations and for the negative effect of oils on stone, plaster and stucco ornament. In 1940 the oil-base paint was removed from the façade and the search for a better colour resumed in 1941 with the participation of famous architects, artists and restorers. They suggested painting the facades in three colours. But the Great Patriotic War changed the plans and the Winter Palace was painted a reversible glue-water gray as a disguise against artillery attacks and bombardments. Right after the war, in 1945-1947, on decision by the city committee the buildings on Palace Square undergo an overhaul and the Winter Palace walls were painted with chromium oxide with a touch of emerald-green; columns, cornices, ventilation ducts and winter frames were painted white; stucco ornaments, cartouches, capitals were painted ochre. The Winter Palace was last re-painted about two years ago with the customary tint largely preserved unchanged.

Voice of Russia
17 November, 2009