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End of the Empire of Nicholas IIReign of Alexander II and Alexander IIIReign of Paul I, Alexander I, and Nicholas IEra of Catherine the GreatReign of Anna IoannovnaPeter the GreatIcons of Ancient RussiaArchaeological Artifacts






The brief reign of Emperor Paul I (b. 1754, reigned 1796-1801) has been studied relatively. For nearly two centuries, historical literature has treated Paul as a petty tyrant and described his reign as "a bacchanalia of despotism."

Only a few shrewd contemporaries and historians, including the poet Alexander Pushkin, who considered Paul "our most romantic emperor," appreciated the merits of that admittedly violent period. During Paul's reign, Russian portraiture took great strides: this was the highpoint of Vasily Borovikovsky's career; Dmitry Levitsky was still hard at work; Stepan Shchukin, the head of the portraiture class at the Academy and teacher of a number of notable early 19th-century artists, was just starting out. Shchukin's portrait of Paul I is one of the most interesting formal Russian portraits, from both a psychological and the artistic point of view. The "park and town landscape" genre came into being and the museum has whole series of prints and drawings of this type by Silvester Shchedrin, Andrey Martinov, F. Y. Alexeyev, and other artists. A series of St. Petersburg views by Benjamin Paterssen includes several interesting pieces showing the Mikhailovsky Castle, commissioned by the emperor and today regarded as a remarkable example of Russian late 18th-century architecture.

Major architects continued to erect other exciting and innovative buildings-Vasily Bazhenov, Antonio Rinaldi, Andrey Voronikhin, and, of course, Charles Cameron, one of the creators of the palace and park at Pavlovsk, near St. Petersburg. Named in honour of Paul, Pavlovsk was fitted out with many newly created works of art, much of it purchased or commissioned by Paul and his wife, Maria Fyodorovna. Indeed, the construction and decoration of Pavlovsk stimulated the production of the applied arts in general. Tapestries, decorative silks, furniture, bronzes, porcelain, and glassware were commissioned in Europe and Russia. All those works of art bore the features of the so-called "Pavlovsk" style, which contrasted with the accentuated Neoclassicism of the era of Paul's mother, Catherine II. The throne of the Grand Master of the Knights of Malta by Giacomo Quarenghi (designed for Paul, who became Grand Master after Napoleon seized Malta), lavishly decorated with gilded carving, is well in keeping with Paul's tastes.

The life and reign of Alexander I (b. 1777, reigned 1801-1825), by contrast, has been studied in detail, with numerous books devoted to this period in Russian and other languages. The early 19th century coincided with a new era in the history of Russian art and particularly portraiture, as the ideas of humanism and Romanticism, and the accompanying interest in the inner world of subjects, exerted increasing influence. Such are the portraits created by Orest Kiprensky, Alexander Orlovsky, Vasily Tropinin, and Alexey Venetsianov. Venetsianov introduced new types of painting new to Russia, including genre scenes, such as his early pictures of peasants, and the interior. The Hermitage possesses a unique collection of paintings, drawing, watercolours, and prints of the rooms of the Winter Palace, produced, before a fire in 1837 destroyed most of the interior, by Venetsianov's pupils (the Rotunda by Yefim Tukharinov, the Cathedral of the Winter Palace by Alexey Tyranov, etc.). An excellent example of the portraiture of Alexander's reign is the portrait of the emperor himself by Francois Gerard. The portraits of V. Apraksin by N. Krylov and Pyotr Chicherin by Alexey Venetsianov reveal many Romantic features. Pencil, watercolour, and lithograph portraits also became very popular.

Patriotism, given renewed energy by the Napoleonic Wars and the occupation of Moscow in 1812, was the new impetus for history painting, which became the most important genre in Russian art from 1820 to 1830. Note the works of Andrey Ivanov, Vasily Shebuev, Alexey Yegorov, and other celebrated artists. The Military Gallery of 1812 in the Winter Palace, with its numerous portraits of generals and officers who made their name during the battles of 1812, and the "Russia" Vase, made at the Imperial Porcelain factory, glorified the victory of Russian arms.

Vast architectural ensembles in the Neoclassical style appeared in Petersburg during the first quarter of the 19th century: the Kazan Cathedral was consecrated; Andreyan Zakharov created the Admiralty with its spire and its adjacent squares, and today we can still enjoy the perfection of Rossi's Arts Square and the Mikhaylovsky Palace. Construction of the Palace and Senate Square ensembles began, and the museum has numerous prints and drawings showing views of Neoclassical Petersburg, such Karl Beggrov's view of Palace Embankment.

Meanwhile, applied arts continued to flourish, with articles commissioned by the court and often designed by celebrated and highly talented architects (Carlo Rossi, Andrey Voronikhin, Thomas de Thomon, and others). These were made at the Imperial manufactories and at private workshops.

The Hermitage is perhaps the only museum in Russia to have a collection of Russian uniforms, court and formal attire.

The second quarter of the 19th century was distinguished by the 30-year reign of Nicholas I (b. 1796, reigned 1825-1855). An imperious and despotic ruler, his reign is described as "the time of official regulation of life and the arts." It started with the suppression of the uprising of the Decembrists, the first Russian revolutionaries, who were officers of aristocratic birth and sought not to do away with the monarchy but to lessen the yoke of autocracy and serfdom on the people. Most of all, they feared Nicholas's accession to the throne, and in 1825 they led an uprising to refuse to recognize him as tsar. But Nicholas was victorious, and the Decembrists were tortured, executed, and exiled to Siberia with their relatives. A large collection of paintings, prints, and drawings associated with the Decembrists are held in the Hermitage, from portraits of the participants and their relations to views of those parts of Siberia where they lived in exile. From this collection comes a wonderful portrait of Alexandra Muravyova, wife of the Decembrist Nikita Muravyov.

Nicholas I was authoritarian and he loved all things military, from parades to battle paintings. During his reign, the Winter Palace was decorated with large canvases showing battle scenes from the War of 1812 and the foreign campaigns of 1813-1814, created by Peter Hess and Bogdan Villevalde. Meanwhile, Karl Bryullov, Pvel Fedotov, and contemporary portrait and genre painters were also creating remarkable works. Vasily Sadovnikov created charming views of Petersburg; Pyotr Sokolov, Edward Hau, and Alexander Bryullov created a veritable gallery of portraits showing numerous statesmen, writers and artists.

Palace Square, with the magnificent Alexander Column at the center, was completed; the Winter Palace was restored after the fire of 1837; Rossi was producing his magnificent architectural complexes; St. Isaac's Cathedral, the work of Auguste Montferrand, was consecrated. But the most important event in Russian culture of Nicholas's reign was the opening of the New Hermitage in 1852, the first public museum in Russia to provide public access to masterpieces by Russian and Western European artists, acquired by rulers since the time of Peter the Great.

Meanwhile, the Imperial Porcelain Manufactory and Glassworks were still receiving numerous commissions, as the construction of new palaces and mansions-not just for members of the royal family, but for other aristocrats and rich merchants-required ever more table services, chandeliers, vases, and other pieces to fill them. Many of these articles were executed in the so-called Historicist Style, which combined and developed elements from different styles of the past.


View of the Anichkov Bridge
Vasily Sadovnikov
Full description

Vase Russia
1828
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Portrait of Paul I - 1796-1797
Stepan Shchukin
Full description




Panorama of the Mikhailovsky Castle. View from the Connetable Square
Lory Gabriel I Ludwig and Lory Gabriel II Matthias
Full description




Throne of Paul I
1798-1800
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Portrait of Emperor Alexander I
Gerard Francois (?)
Full description




Pieces from the Private Service of Nicholas I and Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna
St. Petersburg, Russia
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Portrait of Vladimir Apraksin
Nikifor Krylov
Full description




Snuff-box with a Portrait of Nicholas I
St Petersburg, Russia
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Desk Set
St Petersburg
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Field Liturgy-Set of Alexander I
St. Petersburg, Russia
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Dress
St. Petersburg, Russia
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Portrait of Alexandra Muravyova
Pyotr Sokolov
Full description



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Complete playbill of all St. Petersburg,Russia theatres, shows, concerts, etcComplete playbill of all St. Petersburg,Russia theatres, shows, concerts, etc. !
World-known music festival "The Stars of the White Nights". Artistic director - Valery Gergiev (Mariinky (Kirov) Opera and Ballet)World-known music festival "The Stars of the White Nights".
Artistic director - Valery Gergiev (Mariinky (Kirov) Opera and Ballet)

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