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Vyacheslav Pakulin, endowed with a unique, striking talent, in 1920s and 1930s was caught up by the search for a "great style", paying tribute to...
|Monday||10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.|
|Mikhailovsky Palace, Benois Wing are open until 8:p.m.|
|Tuesday||The Museum is closed|
|Wednesday||10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.|
|Thursday||1:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.|
|Friday||10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.|
|Saturday||10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.|
|Sunday||10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.|
Ticket offices close 30 minutes earlier
4 Inzhenernaya Str., St. Petersburg
Metro - Gostiny Dvor, Nevsky Prospekt
The Russian Museum, a treasury of Russian art, occupies one of the finest buildings in the center of Saint-Petersburg — a palace formerly belonging to Grand Duke Michail. Owing to architectural genius of Carlo Rossi, in the 1820 — 30s an Empire style ensemble appeared in the center of the capital of Russia: a palace, a square and a street linked with the name of Emperor Paul I’s youngest son Grand Duke Michail. The construction works on the palace started in 1819 near St. Michael’s castle, on the spot of buildings in the garden next to it, in accordance with Alexander I’s order. This all suggested an opportunity of having a private garden and being close to Winter and Anichkov palaces as well as Nevsky Avenue.
According to the project, the palace occupied the central part of the ensemble. The building was adjoined with two symmetrical service ap wings: West one — for ladies-in-waiting, East one — a riding hall; the stables were situated in line with the riding hall, behind it there was a Laundry house on the crossroad of Inzhenernaya and Sadovaya streets. The spacious garden was decorated with a pavilion, a bridge over the ponds and a quay on the Moika River bank. The foundation of the ensemble took place on 26 June.
The trunk of the palace was constructed in 1819 — 1820. In 1821the building received its ap wings. By the end of the season of 1822 construction works had been completed (masons F.Adamini, D.Adamini and I.Bernadazzi). In 1823 The Construction Committee concluded an agreement for decoration works providing with best designers by tender. An architech A.Menelaws headed the reconstruction of Mikhailovsky Garden.
In 1824 interior works on the palace were well under way. In February 1824 Grand Duke Mikhail married Princess Charlotte of Wurtemberg, who got a new name and a new title Grand Duchess Elena after being converted into orthodox Christianity. By the middle of 1825 the works in general had been completed. Alexander I stayed extremely pleased having examined the palace, and he awarded Rossi with a diamond ring and the third class order of St. Vladimir. 30 August 1825 the newly built palace was consecrated and presented by the Emperor to his younger brother in hereditary possession in perpetuity. To sum up, it took 6 years to construct the palace, and the government coffers spent 7.875.000 rubles.
The state façade overlooks the square. Rock-faced lower floor is the basis for the first floor, designed as a three-quarter Corinthian colonnade, making for upwards. The ornaments, assembled of armory sets, reflect the epoch of Russian military glory (by the prof. of the Imperial Academy of arts S.Pimenov and V.Demut-Malinovsky).
Mikhailovsky palace is a four-storeyed building. The height of the state vestibule, the central premise, is approximately 25 meters. The lower floor was intended for everyday life and therefore contains the palace owners’ private apartments, children’s rooms and spare rooms for guests. The first floor premises were arranged in a suite: ballrooms in the west and north sides, Grand Duke and Duchess’ staterooms — in the east one. In the south-east corner of the mezzanine floor there was Archangel Michael’s home chapel, the ground floor housed kitchens.
The inner decorations of the palace astonished with their splendor and sobriety not less than its outer appearance. All the details had been reasoned out by Rossi’s genius and executed in co-operation with best masters. Rossi created an individual ensemble of coexisting in eternal harmony elements in every hall of the palace.
Preserved until now enormous Vestibule is especially impressive: a wide archway, solemn gala stairways, a Corinthian colonnade on the first floor, crowning the stairs, a plafond with a skylight, richly painted by Giovanny Scotti, and a tier of perfectly carved bas-reliefs on the walls.
Exquisitely decorated Blue Gallery, whose doors are still flanked with caryatides by S.Pimenov, used to lead to Big Dining Room. Big Dining Room had a vaulted ceiling ornamented with grisaille caissons and Bacchical subjects at its basis. The walls used to be decorated with 32 marble pilasters of goldish color; from the surbase to high windows, doorways and mirrors circles of molded and painted ornaments (by j.Scotti and S.Pimenov) used to stretch. In marble-faced Dancing Hall against the background of white walls 28 blue three-quarter columns stood out. A blue vault, divided into panels, showed arabesques and groups of mossgrown dancers. High mirrors, gilded chandeliers and floor lamps elaborated the interior. White Sitting Room has been preserved up to nowadays. Rossi demonstrated virtuosity of architectural composition emphasizing the distinctiveness of Corinthian order. He divided the space into three parts with pairs of free-standing columns. Such division is stressed by individual design of the ceiling in every part. The column heights are also sophisticatedly tempered to the entablature and plafonds with a border. This is how the hall acquired ideal proportions. At the same time every architectural detail, revived in decorator’s hands, is considered not as a construction element but as an individual masterpiece. Perfect architectural composition, composed by Rossi, became the basis for a unique artistic ensemble.
Coming after the sitting rooms, Grand Duchess Elena’s staterooms in the north-east side of the first floor were notable for especially refined and luxurious décor. Some fragments of State Bedchamber and Small Study have survived: that’s a mantelpiece with a mirror, inlaid floor, sophisticated plafonds and pilasters’ paintings.
Grand Duke Mikhail’s staterooms revealed the personality of their host in their own way: the rooms didn’t have luxury. His lower rooms, facing the garden in the north-east side, his Study, Armory Hall and Library are painted in the pictures and infixed in contemporaries’ stories. В бельэтаже они перестроены. “The only place where Grand Duke allowed splendor and luxury is a rich and varied collection of weapons, military suits, headwear, equipment, artillery and other guns of any kind in perfect conditions”, wrote А.Grenwill. “In the Study and Library with a collection of rare books, gravures, numismatics, lots of magnificent art books there also were pretty small and amazingly thoroughly outfit and armed statuettes under bell-glass, they used to stand on the upper shelves of the bookcases. The walls of the hall were hung all over with trophies, mostly sabres, swords, banners, canvases of military subjects and portraits” (A. Benois).
Grand Duke Michail had never organized any reconstructions himself, but Grand Duchess felt new artistic tastes of the epoch in a very susceptible way. This is how in the middle of the 1830s, starting with Elena’s two rooms’ reconstruction by A.Stackenschneider, new architectural fashion was implemented into the interiors of a classical palace. In general, we can say that only large state halls were not touched. Nowadays, broadly speaking, we can imagine the scope and dynamic pattern of the reconstruction. After A.Stackenschneiderother famous architects worked on the palace: H.von Bosse in 1840-50s (two sitting rooms and two studies in Grand Duchess’ premises); L.Bohnstedt in 1850 (rooms for Grand Duchess Ekaterina), A.Yurkevish in 1857 (Upper Church), R. Goedicke in 1863(Music Room).
In 1859 G.Preiss became the full-time architect for the palace. I.Jogansson and V.Stuckey filled several orders as well (early 1870s). In 1865 G.Preiss constructed private rooms for Ekaterina and her daughter in the Riding Hall wing, where Grand Duchess resided until her death in 1894. After Duchess Elena died, G.Preiss reconstructed the ladies-in-waiting wing and renovated interiors of Ekaterina’s staterooms’ interiors in the state part of the palace on the ground floor. In 1888 he retired and transferred his duties to his son Konstantin Preiss, the last architect of the grand-ducal residence. By the early 1890s Grand Duchess’ family had gradually settled down in the service wings and on the periphery of the palace, abandoned palace halls meanwhile were coming into decrease.
After Grand Duchess Ekaterina died 30 April 1894, her heirs decided to sell the palace. It was bought for the government coffers in January 1895 by Nicolas II in order to establish thre the Russian Museum in memory of Alexander III (14 April). Grand Duke George became the supervisor of the palace. Professor M.Botkin headed the Construction Committee. The Fine Arts Academy architect Vassily Svinyin conducted the works. The committee examined the premises and suggested preserving only those interior details which did not contravene the character of future display but emphasized it.
It was decided to heighten low doorways and passages between the halls on the ground floor, remove intercommunication doors, stoves, mantelpieces and mirrors, to preserve the paintings in the vaults, to fill in the doorways from the front rooms to one at the back; to remove paintings and moldings off the walls but preserve the ceiling moldings, to amalgamate small rooms into exhibition halls, to remove all wooden attic storeys, to put up a new entrance vestibule and restore the bas-reliefs on the upper level of the entrance hall, to preserve the sitting rooms of Rossi’s design and all the moldings and ceiling paintings on the first floor , decorated doors, inlaid floors and sometimes mantelpieces. The most dramatic changes occurred in Dancing Hall and the Big Theatre. These halls were supposed to preserve only original sizes and the door positions. The need to construct a skylight led to filling in all the windows.
Neoclassic style of big museum halls was determined by the aim to interlink them with Rossi’s suite of rooms. The plan of technical reconstruction, taken by the Construction Committee, spoke for the fact that they wanted seminal reconstruction:
In spring 1896, after the end of general reconstruction works, interior design work contracts were dispensed. Architect V.Svinyin, artists N.Blinov, N.Budakov, A.Boravsky, modelers N.Savin, N.Popov, marble K.Guidi, parquet layers I.Tarasov, P.Beliayev, A.Ziffer, sculptors A.Adamson, cabinetmaker s.Volkovisky and others reconstructed and created the interiors.
28 February 1898 the Committee held final examination of the works and found them well-done and completely following the aims of the museum.
August 1825 — August 1849. Grand Duke Mikhail
August 1849 — January 1873. Grand Duchess Elena
January 1873 — April 1894. Grand Duchess Ekaterina, Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
April 1894 — January 1895. Grand Duchess Ekaterina’s children: Dukes of Mecklenburg-Strelitz Georgy(1859—1909), Mikhail
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