Sunday, 24 October 2010


Pavlovsk Ruins in 1944
On February 18, 1944, a meeting was held at the House of Architects in Leningrad to discuss the fate of the ruined Palaces. The academician and architect Aleksei Shchusev, who had designed the Lenin Mausoleum, called for the immediate reconstruction of the Palaces. "if we do not do this," he said, "we who know and remember these palaces in all their glory as they were, then the next generation will never be able to reconstruct them." [12]. Even before the war had ended, the Soviet government decided to restore Pavlovsk and the other ruined palaces around Leningrad.

First the mines had to be cleared from the ruins and palace and the park. Then the remaining walls were supported with scaffolding, and casts were made of the remaining molding. Fragments of plaster molding were collected, sorting, and casts made. The color of paint still on the remaining walls was carefully noted for later copying. Photographs and early plans of the palace were brought together to help with the restoration.

As soon as the war ended, a search began for treasures stolen from the Palace. Curators collected pieces of furniture, fabric, the legs of tables and pieces of doors and gilded cornices from the German fortifications around the Palace. In the buildings which had been German headquarters, they found chairs , marble statues and rolled-up paintings from the Palace. They found other furniture and objects as far away as Riga, Tallinn, and in Konigsberg, in Germany.

Some precious objects from Pavlovsk left Russia even before the war. Four Gobelins tapestries from Pavlovsk were sold by the Soviet Government to J. Paul Getty, and are now on display in the Getty Museum in Malibu, California. [13]

The restorers used only the original variants of the architectural decoration; those created by Cameron, Brenna, Voronykhin, and Rossi. The only changes permitted were to use modern materials. Columns made of wood were replaced by poured concrete or bricks, and the ceilings of the Italian and Greek Halls were made of steel and concrete so they would be fireproof.

A special school, the Mukhina Leningrad Higher Artistic Industry School, was created in Leningrad to teach the arts of restoring architectural details, furniture, and art objects. This school produced a corps of restoration experts who worked on all the palaces around Leningrad.

The work was meticulous and difficult, and proceeded very slowly. In 1950, after six years of planting new trees, parts of the Park opened to the public. In 1955, the restoration of the facade of the Palace was completed, and restoration of the interiors began.

Fortunately for the restorers, the original plans by Cameron, Brenna, Voronykhin and Rossi still existed. Also, fragments of the original interior molding, cornices, friezes and the frames for the carvings, bas-reliefs, medallions and paintings still remained, and could be copied. In addition, there were twenty-five hundred photographic negatives taken in the early century by Benois, and another eleven thousand photographs taken just before the war. [14]

The chief of the restoration, Feodor Oleinik, was insistent that all the restoration be faithful to the original work: "Pay attention and do not use later details," he demanded. "Only the original variant, only that done by Cameron, Brenna, Vornykhin, or Rossi." Old techniques of artisans of the eighteenth century, such as painting false marble and gilding furniture, had to be relearned and applied. A silk workshop was opened in Moscow to recreate the original woven fabrics for wall coverings and upholstery, copyng the texture, color and thread counts of the originals. In forty rooms of the Palace, painted decoration on the walls and ceilings had to be precisely recreated in the original colors and designs. A Master painter and six helpers recreated the original trompe l'oeil ceilings and wall paintings. [15]

Once the interior walls and decoration had been exactly recreated, the next step was the furnishings. The twelve thousand pieces of furniture and art objects removed from their original places, from paintings and tapestries to water pitchers and glasses, had to be put back where they belonged. Furniture, doors, and parquet floors of many different colors of wood which had been burned or stolen were remade exactly like the originals. The crystal chandeliers of the eighteenth century were exactly copied.

In 1957, thirteen years after the Palace had been burned, the first seven rooms were opened to the public. In 1958, four more rooms were opened, and eleven more in 1960. The Egyptian Vestibule was finished in 1963, and the Italian Room opened in 1965. Eleven more rooms were ready by 1967. By 1977, on the 200th anniverary of the beginning of the Palace, fifty rooms were finished, and the Palace looked again as it had in the time of Maria Feodorovna.[16](wikipedia)

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