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The Small Hermitage
When after coronation in Moscow Catherine II returned to the capital the Winter Palace met her with solemn coldness of the official halls full of draughts of court gossiping where both friends and enemies remind her about her impetuous and illegal accesion to the throne. In the palace she would always remain unapproachable in her majesty empress. She wrote to a foreign correspondent m-me Joffrin, "When I come into the room everybody is stunned and put on a haughty air, I often cry in indignation as an eagle against this custom... and the more I get angry, the less natural they are with me...". In an absolutely different way, gaily and unconstrainedly, the guests of Catherine II felt in the "cosy solitary corner" created by her where in an intimate circle she played the role of a charming nice hostess. The stage for this performance was the Small Hermitage constructed at the wish of the Empress next to the official residence. From 1765 till autumn of 1766 Yury Veldten built a two-story living pavilion in the southern part of the hanging garden laid out above the royal stables and the riding-house. Refined decoration of the facade with figured platbands of the windows and doubled columns, curved corners of the building enabled the author to combine in a natural maner the features of the Late Baroque style with the Early Classicism.

In this South wing called "Favourite's" Catherine II lodged Grigory Orlov. His luxurious appartments were connected with the palace of the Empress by a passage. She wrote about her favourite: "He is the most handsome man of his time, nature was very generous regarding his appearance, intellect, heart and soul". The love affair with this brilliant Guards officer brought her a present - the son. He also brought her to power as a result of swift political plot. After the coup d'etat Grigory Orlov practically did not interfere into state affairs. Unlike Orlov another favourite of Catherine II, Grigory Potemkin who also lived next to the Empress, in the wing of the riding-house, went deeply into all details of politics and the Empress willingly discussed them with him. She highly appreciated his opinion and ability for action and wrote in the letter of 1783: "I feel helpless without you." After death of Prince Grigory Potemkin she said: " He had a wonderful intellect, hot temper, kind heart, looked at you like a wolf and therefore was nor admired, but giving fillips he made a lot of good even to his enemies. It is hard to replace him... Now all the burdens of the rule lie on me alone".

Acoording to the idea of the Empress the northern part of the hanging garden should have been closed by the pavilion for solitary rest with a gala hall, some drawing rooms and a green-house. The architect Jean Baptiste Michel Vallin de la Mothe was commissioned in 1767 to built the pavilion. The pavilion arranged along the Neva river in one line with the official residence was designed in the Early Classicism style. It is distingwished by strict proportions that are in tune with architectural articulation of the Winter Palace. The rythm of the collonade of Corinthian order in the first circle of the facade of the North pavilion expressively points out artistic unity of the two buildings of different architectural styles. In the North pavilion after the construction was completed in 1769 Catherine II organized "small hermitages" - entertainment parties during which her guests participated in games and performances. Quite often the scenarios for the hermitage plays from Russian history and life composed the Empress herself. The parties were finished with a dinner in the room with lifting tables as were the tables in the Hermitage in the Tsar's Village. These secluded assemblies of the retinue became traditional and therefore the original name the"Conservatory House" was changed and since then all the buildings started to be called the Small Hermitage. The first party in the newly built pavilion was held in February 1769. The guests had to come to the "small hermitage assemblies" in Russian style dresses and speak only in the Russian language. Special rules of behaviour were invented by Catherine II and posted up in the gallery connecting the Winter Palace with the Small Hermitage. They read that "titles should have been left at the door like hats, the more so spades, seniority and arrogance, guests should be merry but nevertheless would not spoil, crush or gnaw anything, they should not speak very loudly so that the others would not have a headache, or argue in a temper, but they were also not allowed to sigh deeply or yawn, to prevent others from entertainments, to drink excessively, though to eat sweetly, and not to foul the nest". Those who violated the rules were fined. They should either drink a glass of cold water "ladies including" , read some lines from a poem or learn by heart very difficult for perception poems from "Telemakhida" by Vasily Trediakovsky.

Collections of the works of art - pictures, sculptures, attires of the Russian tsars, jewellery and cameos placed in the side galleries on two sides of the garden were supposed to rejoice the sight of the selected guests and to help create the image of the hostess as a connoisseur of fine arts according to the spirit of the age. Though in the letter to Melchior Grimm Catherine II wrote that her treasures charm only her and mice still the fact of creation of the Hermitage collection should have shown to the Enlighted Europe that Russia deserves to be called a European country.


Miniature of Count Grigorii Orlov
Andri Chernyi
Larger view


Portrait of Prince Grigorii Potemkin - Tavricheskii
Giovanni Baptist Lampi
Larger view


Hanging Garden, view from the opposite of the North Pavilion
Nikolai Sablin
Larger view


Western Picture Gallery
Apollon Mokritsky
Larger view

 
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The Hermitage
 
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Related Links:
The official homepage of the State Hermitage Museum: www.hermitagemuseum.org

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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