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The New Hermitage

The Building and the Rooms
The 19th century was the time of creation of public museums in Europe. The New Museum in Berlin was built in 1830. In 1830 the architect Leo von Klenze completed construction of the building for "the marbles from Aegina" and for the Albani collection of sculptures purchased by the future king of Bavaria Ludvig I, the building, known as the Glyptothek in Munich. In 1836 the picture gallery Pinacothek, constructed by the same architect, opened in Munich. It was this fashionable architect, who built the first museum buildings and was invited by Nicholas I to construct the Emperor's Hermitage in Saint Petersburg.
The New Hermitage was not a typical example of the Petersburg architecture. It revealed not only distinctive features of the style of Leo von Klenze but also the tendencies of the "Historicism". It managed to combine in a single composition elements of different styles: Antique, Renaissance, Baroque, all being interpreted with the accent on the Classicism. Every facade of the building has its own decoration. The main facade, facing the Millionnaya street, is notable for the monumental portico with ten wonderful figures of the atlantes struck by Alexander Terebenev from grey Serdobol granite. His immediate assistant, stone-mason Gavriil Balushkin wrote that 150 masters worked with Terebenev. Klenze thought highly of the skill of Terebenev. "The beauty and noble character of these sculptures, accurateness and delicacy of work, glittering polish are beyond comparison and allow to say that as Egyptian Pharaohs could make their monolyth colossi, so these telamones are no worse for the Extreme North"- he wrote.
Apart from the portico with the atlantes and ornamental decor the facades are embellished with 28 sculptures and high reliefs on the eastern pediment that represent famous artists, architects, sculptors and engravers of all times and countries. The arrangement of the sculptural portraits of artists and sculptors in the niches and on the corbels demonstrated where the rooms with paintings or sculptures of this or that school were located.
Leo von Klenze paid only flying visits to Saint Petersburg and his project was designed without taking into account the existing architectural surroundings. The architects of the Special Commission, established by the order of Nicholas I, Vasily Stasov and Nikolai Yefimov introduced substantial changes in the design of their colleague from Munich. They changed the location of the main entrance to the Museum, added expressive details to the facade facing the Millionnaya street and what is most important, preserved the building of the Great Hermitage of Catherine's time.
The New Hermitage was the first building in Russia constructed with the idea to house there a huge art collections of the Museum. It is also a monument of art by itself.

Rooms and Interiors
When creating the interiors for the exhibiting works of art Leo von Klenze kept in mind close connection of the Hermitage and the Winter Palace: "This Museum being a part of the royal residence has to be designed and decorated as an endless suite of rooms luxiriously and elegantly embellished..." More than 800 drawings and sketches were made by Klenze to show every detail of the decor of the rooms, furniture and even the exhibition that the architect strived to include in the ensemble of the interiors. These interiors are preserved till today almost untouched.

The Gallery of History of Ancient Painting
The idea of Leo von Klenze was to reproduce in the paintings of the gallery the history of the development of painting in Greece and Rome from archaic coloring of idols to the decay of art and culture of Antiquity in the epoch of the great migration of peoples. Grotesque ornaments, pictures by the Munich artist Georg Hiltensperger in the encaustic technique (wax paints on copper), plafonds in the cupolas by the Italian artist Chosroe Duzi are free imitations of the paintings in the antique buildings, created by the imagination of the architect. The pictures reproduce works of famous ancient artists - Zeuxis, Parrasius, Apelles - known from the descriptions of ancient authors. The sides of the vaults are decorated with thirty six reliefs with profiles of the world famous artists - Giotto, Perugino, Raphael, Michelangelo, Titian, Rubens, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Holbein. There is also a "portrait" of apostle Luke and Klenze himself. Today the gallery houses sculptures of the well-known masters of the late 18th - early 19th centuries.

The Sky-light Rooms
The most spacious and most beautifully decorated rooms of the first floor are three rooms with sky-light windows arranged one by one, designed by Leo von Klenze.These rooms with glass windows on top and vast huge walls were meant to display the largest pictures of the collection. Though the windows were not particularly big and the light on a winter day in the northern country was not enough still the idea to give diffused light for the pictures through them was a great innovation one hundred years ago that proved that the requirements for the modern museum were quite definite. As long as the function of the building was both a museum and a palace, the architect accentuated the decor of the Sky-light Rooms on the ceiling. Huge vaults with wide friezes on top are covered with gilded arabesque stucco decoration against light blue background that is contrasting with dark red of the walls where the pictures hung. "Rich and versatile" appearance of these rooms is to a large extent created by the specially designed furniture. Carved gilded sofas and arm-chairs upholstered with crimson velvet were executed in the court furniture workshops from the designs of Leo von Klenz. Vases, standard lamps and table plates, made of semi-precious stones and richly ornamented with gilded bronze, were made at the Ekaterinburg and Peterhof lapidary works in the mid-19th century. Now in the Sky-light Rooms exhibitions of Italian and Spanish painting of the 16th -18th centuries are on display.

The Main Staircase of the New Hermitage
The monumental Main Staircase with the splendid colonnade on the first floor produces solemn impression immediatly when you enter the Museum. The entrance hall with dark pink columns of polished granite is opposed to the wide straight staircase consisting of three flights of white marble stairs. The walls of yellow polished stucco imitating Siena marble complete the composition. The gallery surrounding the top of the staircase is decorated with two rows of well-proportioned columns of Serdobol granite that are in elegant harmony with the yellow colour of the stucco walls. The noble colour-scheme of the staircase, its monumentality and harmony characteristic of the Classicism are inherent in this interior.
The upper landing of the staircase houses vases of coloured stone, made in the 19th century in Russia, and works of Italian sculptors of the 17th -19th centuries Bartolini, Barozzi, Tenerani.

The Hall of Twenty Columns
The hall was designed specially to exhibit Greek and Etruscan painted vases. Leo von Klenze, being an expert in Antique art, applied some devices of Greek architects. Two rows of perfectly polished columns made of Serdobol granite separate the central part from the side ones. The walls, frieze and caisson ceiling are painted in the style of antique painted ceramics by Feodor Wunderlich. The paintings on the walls, reproducing subject scenes from the painted vases of Ancient Greece, were executed by Pyotr Shamshin. Antique vessels included in the compositions remind that the purpose of the hall was to display vases. The floor is according to ancient tradition a stone mosaic made of coloured marble at the Peterhof lapidary works. The monuments of culture of Ancient Italy are displayed in the hall today.


Portico with Atlantes
Larger view


The New Hermitage
Luigi Premazzi
Water-colour

Larger view


Main Staircase of the New Hermitage
Konstantin Ukhtomsky
Water-colour

Larger view


Portrait of Leo von Klenze
Larger view


Fragment of the mozaic floor in the Hall of Twenty Columns
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

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