Âîïðîñ 20. Russian Art museum. The construction of the Mikhalovsky Palace. Foundation of the museum. Russian Icons.
The State Russian Museum
The Russian Museum today is a unique depository of artistic treasures, a leading restoration center, an authoritative institute of academic research, a major educational center and the nucleus of a network of national museums of art.
The Russian Museum collection contains circa 400.000 exhibits. The main complex of museum buildings - the Mikhailovsky Palace and Benois Wing - houses the permanent exhibition of the Russian Museum, tracing the entire history of Russian art from the tenth to the twentieth centuries. The museum collection embraces all forms, genres, schools and movements of art.
The Russian Museum holds many exhibitions both in Russia and abroad. The Museum holds more than 50 temporary exhibitions and organizes more than 10 in other cities and abroad annually. Catalogues, albums and booklets made by museum researchers accompany many exhibitions.
Over the past twenty years, the museum complex has grown to include the Stroganov Palace, St Michael's (Engineers) Castle and the Marble Palace. The complex also includes the Mikhailovsky Gardens, Engineering Gardens, Summer Garden (including the Summer Palace) and the House of Peter the Great.
The State Russian Museum is the first state museum of Russian Art in the country. It was founded by decree of Tsar Nicholas II in St Petersburg in 1895. The museum solemnly opened its doors to the public on 7/19 March 1898.
The Russian museum is a unique depository of art values, well-known restoration centre, authoritative academic and research institute, one of the biggest centres of cultural and educational work and academic and methodical centre of museums of art in the Russian Federation, curating work of 260 Russian museums of art.
The collection of the Russian Museum numbers 400000 exhibits and covers all historical periods and tendencies of development of Russian art, all its main forms and genres, styles and schools for the last 1000 years: from the 10th century to the 20th century.
The Mikhailovsky Palace
The history of the Palace begins when Grand Duke Mikhail was born. In 1798 Emperor Paul I ordered to save several hundreds thousands of roubles to built later a palace for his younger son. The palace should suit the grandeur and tastes of the Emperor's Family.
The august father did not manage to see the fruition of his plans — in three years his life and reign were tragically cut off by the palace coup. However, the Emperor's will was carried out properly and the sums were being allotted regularly. When Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich reached the age of 21 and the sum was 9 millions the construction of the palace was started. On 17 April 1819 Alexander I put a stone ark with silver coins in the basement and laid a silver plate with a memorial inscription.
The palace was designed and built by Carlo Rossi (1775-1849) — a brilliant architect who created the largest Empire architectural ensembles which completed the building-up of the central part of St Petersburg in the 1810s-20s.
The city complex with the Mikhailovsky Palace in the centre is a pearl among creations of the great architect. The architect managed to reach the harmony between the palace building and the landscape and architecture surrounding. The fundamental reshaping of the vast territory, that was only partly built up by wooden greenhouses of the Third Summer Garden near the St Michael's Castle, allowed Rossi to lay the Mikhailovskaya street and to connect the square in front of the Mikhailovsky Palace with the central artery of the city — the Nevsky Prospect. Thus a spectacular view of the main palace façade with a well-shaped elegant eight-columned Corinthian portico was opened.
The opposite façade that overlooks the Mikhailovsky Garden is less known though not less beautiful. It unites a parade solemnity of the palace and chamber park construction, harmonious proportion of all parts and magnificent and a little bit heavy monumentality that reminds us of Carlo Rossi's teacher — the architect Vincenzo Brenna who built the St Michael's Castle.
The sculptural, figurative, plastic, carved and other kind of décor were created by prominent sculptors Vasily Demut-Malinovsky and Stepan Pimenov, painters Pietro and Giovanni Batista Scotti, Antonio Vigi, Barnaba Medici, Fyodor Brullo, masters of plastic Nikita and Sergei Sayegin, carvers Vasily Zakharov and Vasily Bobkov, famous craftsmen Tarasovs (carvers, parquet masters, woodmen) and many others.
Carlo Rossi made detailed plans of everything: from a cast iron grating with his favourite military attributes on the gate to the planning of the park, from the solution of the city building task to draughtsmanship of patterns on glued-laminated parquet in palace premises.
The facade of the main building and the western wing remained almost unchanged. Among the interiors only two may give a complete idea of the architect's gift and his original plan — the main vestibule of the palace and the White Room. These are masterpieces of the classic interior art.
The main vestibule includes a broad front staircase with two flights. It leads to the gallery on the next floor that is decorated by 18 great Corinthian columns.
The architect developed every detail of the interior in strict accordance with the general principle of the White Room — symmetry and harmony. The wooden walls have two doors (one of which is fake) flanking a mantelpiece. The magnificent gilt fretwork forms a striking element in the interior decor. The recesses above the doors are adorned with figures of muses on gilded theatrical masks.
Sculpture is employed in the decor of the mantelpieces. The decor was sculpted by Stepan Pimenov. The model of the White Room (1/8 of the original) was given as a present to the English King George IV.
The Mikhailovsky Palace was also famed for the salons and musical evenings held by Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna. Born Princess Helene Charlotte von Württemberg, she married Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich in 1824. A highly educated woman, she was the life and soul of the parties at the Mikhailovsky Palace. Her musical classes paved the way for the foundation of the St Petersburg Conservatoire.
When Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna died in 1873, the Mikhailovsky Palace was inherited by her daughter, Duchess Meklenburg-Strelitskaya, who in turn left it to her children — sons, Princes George and Mikhail of Meklenburg and a daughter, Princess Elena of Sachsen-Altenburg.
Tsar Nicholas II later decided to acquire the palace for the state and use it to house the Emperor Alexander III Russian Museum. The price was 4 million silver roubles.
The director of the museum was appointed by the Emperor. He had to belong to the Emperor's Home. Nicholas II appointed Grand Duke Georgy Mikhailovich.
There was also a special committee arranged to study the scope of restoration work and to supervise the process.
Between 1895 and 1898, Vasily Svinin transformed the Mikhailovsky Palace into a museum. A. Polovtsov, the author of one of the first guidebooks in the Russian Museum appreciated domesticity and assiduity of Vasily Svinin who helped to save money and to restore the palace and to preserve the integrity of its architectural decor.
V. Pushkarev, director of the Museum in the 1950s-70s, wrote: «Svinin was often reprimanded for changes in many premises in order to adapt them to the museum needs. However, he faced a very complicated task. He had to transform private palace rooms into public places convenient to exhibit pictures and sculptures. We must admit that the architect attacked the problem correctly…»
Still, after all alterations made by Vasily Svinin that preserved the unique interior and the complete architectural outlook of the building the Mikhailovsky Palace remained a truly precious frame for precious collections.
The State Russian museum in St. Petersburg is a treasure-house of world importance, where all the wealth and variety of Russian figurative art is superbly represented. However, it would hardly be an exaggeration to say that visiting public associate this Museum first and foremost with its famous picture gallery. Indeed, it was the picture gallery that formed the core of the Museum during the period of its foundation in 1895-97 and over the next decade or so. Later on the Museum amassed various collections of sculpture, graphics, and objects of decorative and applied art which were just as important, but for all their richness it is still the picture gallery that enjoys the greatest popularity.
The new collection thus amassed in the Russian Museum toward the close of the nineteenth century ranked with such treasure-houses of Russian painting as the Tretyakov Gallery and the Rumiantsev Museum in Moscow, and Academy of Art in St. Petersburg. Each of these older collections had its own distinctive feature, reflecting the aesthetic principles which had underlain the selection of new entries. Similar factors determined the Russian Museum's activities in the first ten years after its inception. The Museum was run under the supervision of the Board of Directors of the Academy of Art and remained totally dependent on the Ministry of the Imperial Court. The Grand Duke Georgi Mikhailovich was designated as the "most august director" of the Museum, while Albert Benois, professor of the Academy of Arts, and Pavel Briullov, academician, were made curators of the collections (in 1901 Benois was replaced by the genre painter K. Lemokh). The Russian Museum collection almost doubled in size during the first ten years of its existence.
In 1909 K. Lemokh retired and the art historian and painter P. Neradovsky was appointed curator of the Department of Painting. For the first time since its foundation the Museum's activities were put on a scientific basis, be it selection, preservation or restoration of art treasures. The growing collection made it more and more urgent to review the exhibiting principles. An overall rearrangement of the Museum exhibits was undertaken in 1909-10, and the new system based on artistic and historical principles offered, despite some lapses, a much major faithful and consistent picture of the development of Russian painting.
During the War of 1914-18 the collection was partially evacuated to Moscow and from February 1917 the Museum was closed to visitors. As early as November 7, 1918, on the First Anniversary of the October Revolution some exhibition rooms were re-opened to the public. But the inauguration of the entire new exhibition had to be postponed until 1922 in view of the capital repairs of the buildings, its heating and ventilation systems.
Having amassed so many brilliant collections, the Russian Museum became one of the reaches picture galleries in the world and acquired the significance of a national gallery in which the many-sided phenomena of Russian art spanning the period from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries are fully represented. Subsequent additions to the Museum did not alter the standing of the so-called historical part of the exhibition, but contemporary art was not given first priority in the collecting, which was quite natural for Soviet museums with its far-reaching scientific, ideological, artistic and educational tasks.
During the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 the most valuable paintings were removed to the hinterland of the Soviet Union survived. After the war, work was began to restore the Museum whose main building suffered severe damage from artillery fire and air raids. The first exhibition rooms were opened on May 9, 1946on the first anniversary of victory. Half a year later the entire exhibition was installed in all the rooms of the Museums main building.
Today the unique and comprehensive collection of the Russian Museum affords an exceptional opportunity for an all-round, detailed study of the development of artistic ideas and culture in Russia over a period a period of nearly two and a half centuries.
The Russian Museum holds one of Russia's leading collections of icons and Old Russian applied art. A start was made to this collection back in 1898, when the museum was founded. Acquisitions made in the 1900s and early 1910s were of enormous significance for the collection.The collection was added to in the years following the revolution by acquisitons made through the Museum Fund, as well as directly from churches and monasteries. Later, particularly in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, regular expeditions of museum research assistants and restorers were organized to gather works of Old Russian art. These became an important source of new acquistions.The collection currently includes some 6,000 icons and roughly the same number of works of Old Russian applied art, ranging from the tenth to the eighteenth
• St. Gabriel ("Angel with golden hair") XIIth century.
• St. Peter. late XVth century. Novgorod
• The Tale. Late XVIth century. Moscow school
• Madonna The Belozerskaya. Early XIIIth century.
• Entombment. Epitaphious. 1565.
• Madonna odygidria. Near 1502-1503th.
• St. Boris and St. Gleb XIVth century. Moscow school
• St. George. Late XVth century. Novgorod's school
• Descent into Hell. Pskov School
• St. Paul. XIVth century. Novgorod's school
• St. Cyril of the White Lake. Pall. Moscow. 1555. 186x86
• St. Cyril of the White Lake. Pall. Moscow. 1514. 198x84 cm.