Dance Local: The Mariinsky Ballet at the Yusupov Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

The Intrepid Explorer and your blogger, stepping back in time with an entrance to the Yusupov Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia, for a tour, Mariinsky Ballet performance in the Palace Theater and a festive black-tie St. Petersburg farewell dinner

The Intrepid Explorer and your blogger, stepping back in time with an entrance to the Yusupov Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia, for a tour, Mariinsky Ballet performance in the Palace Theater and a festive black-tie St. Petersburg farewell dinner

 

“One of two surviving St. Petersburg residences of the monumentally wealthy Yusupov family, the Yusupov Palace on the Moika River is perhaps most famous as the scene of the assassination of Grigory Rasputin, and is one of the few aristocratic homes in the city to have retained many of its original interiors.” – http://www.saint-petersburg.com

 

The rooms in the palace were preserved after the Russian Revolution in 1917; the palace was opened to the public in 1925 as a museum to show the excesses of the nobles under the Tsarist era; Yusupov Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

The rooms in the palace were preserved after the Russian Revolution in 1917; the palace was opened to the public in 1925 as a museum to show the excesses of the nobles under the Tsarist era; Yusupov Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

“The land on which the palace stands, in the south of the historic centre close to the Mariinsky Theatre, was originally the site of a wooden palace belonging to Tsarevna Praskovia Ivanovna, niece of Peter the Great. In the mid-18th century it was bought by Count Peter Shuvalov.  In 1770, his heir Andrei Shuvalov commissioned the French architect Jean-Baptiste Vallin de la Mothe, designer of the Small Hermitage, Gostiny Dvor and the Academy of Sciences, to build a new palace on the site.  De la Mothe’s building forms the basis of the palace that can be seen today, although various additions and alterations were made by leading architects as the palace changed hands over the years.” – http://www.saint-petersburg.com

“The luxurious interiors of the palace were not inferior to those of contemporary royal palaces.  More than 40,000 works of art, including works by Rembrandt, jewelry, and sculptures decorated the palace.  Following the Russian Revolution, the Yusupov art collections were nationalized and relocated in the Hermitage and other museums.” — Wikipedia

 

A "Palace of Culture for Educators", portions of the Yusupov Palace, today are open as a museum, including the basement where Rasputin was murdered by Prince Felix Yusupov; St. Petersburg, Russia

A “Palace of Culture for Educators”, portions of the Yusupov Palace, today are open as a museum, including the basement where Rasputin was murdered by Prince Felix Yusupov; St. Petersburg, Russia

 

“In 1830, the palace was purchased by Prince Nikolay Borisovich Yusupov, and it remained in the ownership of the family until seized by the Bolsheviks in 1917.  The legends surrounding Rasputin’s murder, which took place in the basement of the Yusupov Palace on 16 December 1916, are mostly based on the sensationalist account in the autobiography of Prince Felix Yusupov, who claimed to have led the plotters in first poisoning, then shooting, then beating Rasputin with clubs and throwing him into the icy Malaya Nevka River, where the Mad Monk eventually died of hypothermia.” – http://www.saint-petersburg.com

 

The staircase descends for the entry into the Palace Theater which frequently hosts concerts and ballet performances, Yusupov Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

The staircase descends for the entry into the Palace Theater which frequently hosts concerts and ballet performances, Yusupov Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Pas de deux by dancers from the nearby renowned Mariinsky Ballet; Yusupov Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

Pas de deux by dancers from the nearby renowned Mariinsky Ballet; Yusupov Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

The curtain call with all of the ballet dancers performing that evening from the nearby renowned Mariinsky Ballet; Yusupov Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

The curtain call with all of the ballet dancers performing that evening from the nearby renowned Mariinsky Ballet; Yusupov Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Following the outstanding performance by the Mariinsky Ballet dancers in the Palace Theater, we adjourned to the opulent Dancing Hall in the Yusupov Palace where we enjoyed a festive (black-tie) four-course dinner with lots of vodka and wines.  We were entertained at dinner by two young virtuoso violinists playing Russian music and an acrobatic young woman who was of the caliber of the Cirque du Soleil circus.  This evening – a recreation of life in the palaces of Russia’s nobility in the mid-19th century (including the dress of the dining room staff) — was a memorable end to our visit to St. Petersburg.

 

Ernst Friedrich von Liphart, who was the curator of paintings at the Hermitage, painted the original curtain and ceiling of the ornate Rococo Palace Theatre, Yusupov Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

Ernst Friedrich von Liphart, who was the curator of paintings at the Hermitage, painted the original curtain and ceiling of the ornate Rococo Palace Theatre, Yusupov Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

The Hermitage Museum: Modern Art, St. Petersburg, Russia

The Alexander Column in Palace Square (viewed from the new Hermitage galleries) is a monument to the Russian military victory in the war with Napoleon's France, named after Emperor Alexander I, St. Petersburg, Russia

The Alexander Column in Palace Square (viewed from the new Hermitage galleries) is a monument to the Russian military victory in the war with Napoleon’s France, named after Emperor Alexander I, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

“The Alexander Column (Aleksandrovskaia Kolonna), the focal point of Palace Square, was designed by the French-born architect Auguste de Montferrand and built between 1830 and 1834.  The monument is 155 feet 8 inches tall and is topped with a statue of an angel holding a cross (the face of the angel is said to be modeled on the face of Emperor Alexander I).  The body of the column is made of a single monolith of red granite, which stands 83 feet 6 inches high and about 11 feet 5 inches in diameter.  It is a terrific feat of engineering that this enormous column, weighing an incredible 1,322,760 pounds (600 tons), was erected in under 2 hours without the aid of modern cranes and engineering machines.” – saint-petersburg.com

“The Hermitage’s superb collection of Modern European Art, the bulk of which is made up of French impressionist and post-impressionist painting, is divided between those works that were received into the Hermitage collections after the Revolution, and art seized from Germany after World War II.” – saint-petersburg.com

 

Pierre Bonnard (1867 – 1947) “On the Mediterranean (Tryptch)”, 1911, oil on canvas, Acquired in 1948 from the State Museum of Modern Western Art, Moscow; formerly in the I.A. Morozov collection; The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Pierre Bonnard (1867 – 1947) “On the Mediterranean (Tryptch)”, 1911, oil on canvas, Acquired in 1948 from the State Museum of Modern Western Art, Moscow; formerly in the I.A. Morozov collection; The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Pierre Bonnard (1867 – 1947) “Le soir a Paris [Evening in Paris]”, 1911, oil on canvas, from the I. A. Morozov collection; The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Pierre Bonnard (1867 – 1947) “Le soir a Paris [Evening in Paris]”, 1911, oil on canvas, from the I. A. Morozov collection; The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973) “Two Sisters (the Visit)”, 1902, oil on canvas, Acquired in 1948 from the State Museum of Modern Western Art, Moscow; formerly in the S. I. Shchukin collection; The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973) “Two Sisters (the Visit)”, 1902, oil on canvas, Acquired in 1948 from the State Museum of Modern Western Art, Moscow; formerly in the S. I. Shchukin collection; The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973) “Table au café (Bouteille de pernod) [Table in a Café (Bottle of Pernod)]”, 1912, from the S. I. Shchukin collection; The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973) “Table au café (Bouteille de pernod) [Table in a Café (Bottle of Pernod)]”, 1912, from the S. I. Shchukin collection; The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973) “Instruments de musique [Musical Instruments]”, 1912, from the S. I. Shchukin collection; The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973) “Instruments de musique [Musical Instruments]”, 1912, from the S. I. Shchukin collection; The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Henri Matisse (1869 – 1954), “Dance”, 1910, oil on canvas, Acquired in 1948 from the State Museum of Modern Western Art, Moscow; formerly in the S. I. Shchukin collection; The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Henri Matisse (1869 – 1954), “Dance”, 1910, oil on canvas, Acquired in 1948 from the State Museum of Modern Western Art, Moscow; formerly in the S. I. Shchukin collection; The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

“The Hermitage has a magnificent collection of close to forty works by…seminal artist [Henri Matisse (1869 – 1954)]… focus our attention on the iconic Dance (1910) where Matisse’s unique and evocative use of color and form opened a new artistic language.  This work, along with its counterpart Music on the opposite wall, was commissioned Sergei Shchukin, one of the most avid and forward-thinking Russian collectors of contemporary French art, to whom, thanks to the Russian Revolution’s confiscation frenzy, the Hermitage owes much.  Two years before starting on these works, Matisse wrote ‘What interests me most is neither still life or landscape, but the human figure.  It is that which best permits me to express my so-to-speak religious awe towards life.’  We see this passion reflected in Dance, where five figures, dancing in a rhythmic circle and painted in an intense reddish-orange, are set against the flat, cool green of the earth and the intense blue of the sky, uniting Human, Heaven, and Earth.  There is no superfluous line or emotion in this powerful, energy-packed work that is commonly considered a key point in both Matisse’s career and in the development of modern art.” – saint-petersburg.com

 

Henri Matisse (1869 – 1954), “Portrait of Lydia Delectorskaya”, 1947, oil on canvas, Donated by L. N. Delectorskaya in 1967; The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Henri Matisse (1869 – 1954), “Portrait of Lydia Delectorskaya”, 1947, oil on canvas, Donated by L. N. Delectorskaya in 1967; The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hermitage Museum: French Impressionists, St. Petersburg, Russia

The triumphal arch, a monument to Russia’s victory in the war of 1812, atop The General Staff Building, one of the most famous architectural monuments in St. Petersburg, Russia, designed by the architect K. I. Rossi, built 1820 to 1830

The triumphal arch, a monument to Russia’s victory in the war of 1812, atop The General Staff Building, one of the most famous architectural monuments in St. Petersburg, Russia, designed by the architect K. I. Rossi, built 1820 to 1830

 

After our tour of the European Masterpieces in The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia [see our previous blog post], we had the opportunity for a private tour of the Hermitage’s “Treasure Gallery” where the country’s amazing collection of state “jewels” is housed.  “Containing the Hermitage’s most valuable collections of jewelry and gold, these heavily guarded galleries in two parts of the museum’s first floor are… a remarkable collection of priceless artifacts, from ancient Scythian and Greek gold work to exquisite decorations from St. Petersburg’s court jewelers, including Carl Faberge.  Although the modern, high-security displays are somewhat soulless in comparison to the rest of the Hermitage, the opulence of the exhibits on display is overwhelming, including exquisite Scythian shield ornaments from the Crimea, jewel-encrusted icon casings, and intriguing historical curios such as Sir Francis Drake’s pendant.” – www.saint-petersburg.com

Following our tour of the Treasure Gallery of the Hermitage Museum in the Winter Palace, we crossed Palace Square and went through the arch of Carlo Rossi’s General Staff building that defines the south side of Palace Square.  We then entered the so-called Hermitage XXI, the home of the museum’s superb collection of Impressionist and Postmodern art which relocated in five of the General Staff Buildings in 2014.

 

From the ceremonial entrance hall, the majestic staircase located in the largest of the five inner courts leads to the exhibition spaces in the east wing of the General Staff Building, now part of The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

From the ceremonial entrance hall, the majestic staircase located in the largest of the five inner courts leads to the exhibition spaces in the east wing of the General Staff Building, now part of The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

“The State Hermitage Museum is finally dragging itself into the modern age.  The museum – which began life in the 18th century as the private art collection of the Romanovs and morphed spectacularly through Catherine the Great’s art grabs in the auction houses of Western Europe to become quite possibly the greatest collection of European art in history – has been in need of modern hanging space for some time.  That this has taken a while is hardly surprising, given that the main museum buildings are historically significant palaces which cannot be altered easily and were not built to be public galleries in the first place.

“To mark the museum’s 250th anniversary, the Hermitage has reopened Carlo Rossi’s staggering early-19th-century General Staff Building, having totally refitted its interior.  This is now a startling combination of sky-lit atriums, brushed concrete walls and spaces that could well have been newly built for the optimal display of modernist friezes and landscapes.  The redeployment of the 19th- and 20th-century collections (formerly on display in the state rooms of the Winter Palace across the square) is now complete – the extra space means that in many cases new paintings, which had been hidden away in storage or in other buildings of the museum, have finally made it into the display.

“And this is no ordinary collection, but a roll call of the greats in modern European art.  Many of the paintings here were culled by the Bolsheviks from the private collections of Russian businessmen Sergei Shchukin and the Morozov brothers, and even from that of German industrialist Otto Krebs, whose collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist paintings was removed by the Red Army from the ruins of Nazi Germany in 1945.  The paintings here include key works of Monet, Cézanne, Renoir, Degas, Gauguin, Seurat, Pissarro, Van Gogh, Matisse and Picasso, to name but a few.” – lonelyplanet.com

 

Claude Monet (1840 – 1926) “Meadows at Giverny”, 1888, oil on canvas, from S. I. Shchukin’s collection, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Claude Monet (1840 – 1926) “Meadows at Giverny”, 1888, oil on canvas, from S. I. Shchukin’s collection, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Camille Pissarro (1830 – 1903) “Place du Theatre Francais, Paris”, 1898, oil on canvas, from S. I. Shchukin’s collection, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Camille Pissarro (1830 – 1903) “Place du Theatre Francais, Paris”, 1898, oil on canvas, from S. I. Shchukin’s collection, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Auguste Renoir (1841 – 1919) “Young Woman with a Fan”, 1880, oil on canvas, from I. A. Morozov’s collection, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Auguste Renoir (1841 – 1919) “Young Woman with a Fan”, 1880, oil on canvas, from I. A. Morozov’s collection, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Paul Cezanne (1839 – 1906) “Bathers”, ca. 1890-1891, oil on canvas, from Otto Krebs’s collection, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Paul Cezanne (1839 – 1906) “Bathers”, ca. 1890-1891, oil on canvas, from Otto Krebs’s collection, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Paul Cezanne (1839 – 1906) “Mont Saint-Victoire”, ca. 1896-1898, oil on canvas, from I. A. Morozov’s collection, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Paul Cezanne (1839 – 1906) “Mont Saint-Victoire”, ca. 1896-1898, oil on canvas, from I. A. Morozov’s collection, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Paul Gauguin (1848 – 1903) “Les Parau Parau (Conversation)”, 1891, oil on canvas, from I. A. Morozov’s collection, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Paul Gauguin (1848 – 1903) “Les Parau Parau (Conversation)”, 1891, oil on canvas, from I. A. Morozov’s collection, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Vincent Van Gogh (1853 – 1890) “The White House at Night””, June 1890, oil on canvas, from Otto Krebs’s collection, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Vincent Van Gogh (1853 – 1890) “The White House at Night””, June 1890, oil on canvas, from Otto Krebs’s collection, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

 

The Hermitage Museum: European Masterpieces (part II), St. Petersburg, Russia

Façade of the courtyard entrance to The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Façade of the courtyard entrance to The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

On our second tour of the European Masterpieces wing of the vast Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia [see our earlier blog post], we had a chance to visit different rooms.  This vast collection was given a solid foundation by the collecting of Catherine the Great in the mid-18th century, with many additions over the following 250 years.

 

Many of the larger European paintings rooms are hung “salon style” in order to display a larger number of paintings, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Many of the larger European paintings rooms are hung “salon style” in order to display a larger number of paintings, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Peter Paul Rubens (1577 Germany – 1640 Antwerp) “Roman Charity (Cimon and Pero)”, oil on canvas, acquired in 1768 from the collection of Count C. Cobenzl, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Peter Paul Rubens (1577 Germany – 1640 Antwerp) “Roman Charity (Cimon and Pero)”, oil on canvas, acquired in 1768 from the collection of Count C. Cobenzl, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Peter Paul Rubens “Portrait of a Lady-in-Waiting to the Infanta Isabel (Portrait of Rubens’ Daughter Clara Serena?)”, oil on panel, acquired in 1772 from the Crozat collection, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Peter Paul Rubens “Portrait of a Lady-in-Waiting to the Infanta Isabel (Portrait of Rubens’ Daughter Clara Serena?)”, oil on panel, acquired in 1772 from the Crozat collection, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Entrance hall for visiting dignitaries, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

The view down the length of the European Sculpture Gallery, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

The view down the length of the European Sculpture Gallery, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Here are some facts about the Hermitage’s amazing art collection:

  • officially began in 1764 when Catherine the Great made her first bulk purchase of 225 paintings from a Berlin merchant, including thirteen Rembrandts and eleven Rubens.  Ironically, the collection had originally been intended for Catherine’s adversary, Frederick the Great of Prussia, but poor Frederick was forced to decline as his unsuccessful wars with Russia had resulted in a deficit of funds.

* increased exponentially as Catherine’s diligent agents purchased massive lots of artwork across Europe.  By the time of her death in 1796, she had amassed thousands of items including paintings, books, drawings, jewelry, coins, medals, sculpture, and copies of original Vatican frescoes, and had expanded the complex beyond the Small Hermitage to include the Large (Old) Hermitage and the Hermitage Theatre.

* continued to burgeon, causing Nicholas I to commission the New Hermitage, built between 1842 and 1851, with its Atlas-embellished entrance on Millionaya Street.  This was the only part of the complex that was occasionally opened to the well-heeled public until after the Revolution in 1917.

* greatly benefited from the confiscational mindset of the post-revolutionary period and actually increased threefold as many valuable private collections were expropriated by the state and deposited in the Hermitage.  This influx of, among other things, Matisses, Picassos, and Gaugins helps to compensate somewhat for the artworks secretly sold off for hard currency by Stalin in the 1920s and 1930s. – www.saint-petersburg.com

 

Wall and ceiling paintings in the European Sculpture Gallery, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Wall and ceiling paintings in the European Sculpture Gallery, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Detail of European Sculpture Gallery, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Detail of European Sculpture Gallery, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606 – 1669 The Netherlands),  “Danaë” (185 cm × 203 cm; 73 in × 80 in), acquired in 1772 for the Hermitage with the Crozat Collection, Paris; The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606 – 1669 The Netherlands), “Danaë” (185 cm × 203 cm; 73 in × 80 in), acquired in 1772 for the Hermitage with the Crozat Collection, Paris; The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

“Danaë is Rembrandt‘s painting from the collection of Pierre Crozat which since the 18th century has resided in the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.  It is a life-sized depiction of the character Danaë from Greek mythology, the mother of Perseus.  She is presumably depicted as welcoming Zeus, who impregnated her in the form of a shower of gold.  Given that this is one of Rembrandt’s most magnificent paintings, it is not out of the question that he cherished it, but it also may have been difficult to sell because of its eight-by-ten-foot size.  Although the artist’s wife Saskia was the original model for Danaë, Rembrandt later changed the figure’s face to that of his mistress Geertje Dircx.” — Wikipedia

 

A winner in the annual students’ art completion, this year depicting one of the 30 cats that live in the basement of the museum – a group of “protectors” to catch the museum mice!; The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

A winner in the annual students’ art completion, this year depicting one of the 30 cats that live in the basement of the museum – a group of “protectors” to catch the museum mice!; The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

 

The Winter Palace (Part II), St. Petersburg, Russia

The “Jordan Staircase” entry to the palace retains Rastrelli’s 18th century rococo style, The Winter Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

The “Jordan Staircase” entry to the palace retains Rastrelli’s 18th century rococo style, The Winter Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

As noted in our previous blog post [The Winter Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia], this Baroque-style palace [now the home of the Hermitage Museum] is perhaps St. Petersburg’s most impressive site.  Completed in 1735, it was expanded and enhanced considerably by Empress Elizabeth 17 years later and even more after Catherine the Great ascended the throne in 1762.  We had a second opportunity on this trip to visit the Palace on our way into the Hermitage collections — on cleaning day, when the museum is closed to the public.  We were very fortunate that our group had been able to make the arrangements to visit while the museum was closed with our English-speaking guides.

 

The Malachite Room of the Winter Palace has columns, pilasters and mantelpieces lined with malachite in the technique known as the “Russian Mosaics”, The Winter Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

The Malachite Room of the Winter Palace has columns, pilasters and mantelpieces lined with malachite in the technique known as the “Russian Mosaics”, The Winter Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

The Malachite Room of the Winter Palace was decorated to the designs of A. Briullov in 1839.  The columns, pilasters and mantelpieces are lined with malachite in the technique known as the “Russian Mosaics”.  The room is associated with historical events: on the night of November 7, 1917, the last meeting of the counter-revolutionary Provisional Government took place here.  The ministers were arrested in the adjoining Private Dining Room.

 

The mirror reflects part of the Malachite Room behind the photographer, The Winter Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

The mirror reflects part of the Malachite Room behind the photographer, The Winter Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Detail of one of many gilded doors in the Malachite Room, The Winter Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

Detail of one of many gilded doors in the Malachite Room, The Winter Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

An elaborately gilded desk with a gold statue in front of a hanging tapestry, The Winter Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

An elaborately gilded desk with a gold statue in front of a hanging tapestry, The Winter Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

An extraordinarily elaborate large freestanding “bowl” in a gilded room typical of The Winter Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

An extraordinarily elaborate large freestanding “bowl” in a gilded room typical of The Winter Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Each room has parquet floors with different designs, The Winter Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

Each room has parquet floors with different designs, The Winter Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

A view of the city in the rain from a window in The Winter Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

A view of the city in the rain from a window in The Winter Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Eat, drink and dance local: Podvoyre (Dacha Terem) Restaurant, St. Petersburg, Russia

Every table had “bottomless” vodka bottles from a producer in St. Petersburg – in order to refill shot glasses for the numerous toasts all evening long, Podvoyre (Dacha Terem) Restaurant, St. Petersburg, Russia

Every table had “bottomless” vodka bottles from a producer in St. Petersburg – in order to refill shot glasses for the numerous toasts all evening long, Podvoyre (Dacha Terem) Restaurant, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Following our tours of Paul’s Palace and Cahterine’s Palace [see our two previous blog posts], we drove a short distance for a typical country-style dinner with music and dancing at Podvoyre (Dacha Terem) Restaurant.  The Podvoyre restaurant, whose name means “the court” is located halfway between the Tsarskoye Selo Palace (Catherine’s Palace) and Pavlosk.  [The Russian “terem” means “wooden palace”.]  Its wooden turrets are reminiscent of the typical architecture of ancient Russia.  Note that the vodka (and wine) flowed freely all evening (unlimited refills), and there were a lot of “wod-ka” toasts among our group of 90 from the ship.

 

An appetizer of Chicken roulette (sliced, stuffed chicken), Podvoyre (Dacha Terem) Restaurant, St. Petersburg, Russia

An appetizer of Chicken roulette (sliced, stuffed chicken), Podvoyre (Dacha Terem) Restaurant, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

An appetizer of beef in sour cream and garlic sauce and pickled vegetables with two kinds of local bread, Podvoyre (Dacha Terem) Restaurant, St. Petersburg, Russia

An appetizer of beef in sour cream and garlic sauce and pickled vegetables with two kinds of local bread, Podvoyre (Dacha Terem) Restaurant, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

An appetizer of fresh lettuce and vegetable salad, Podvoyre (Dacha Terem) Restaurant, St. Petersburg, Russia

An appetizer of fresh lettuce and vegetable salad, Podvoyre (Dacha Terem) Restaurant, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Over the course of the evening we were entertained by musicians and two groups of local dancers – performing folkloric melodies and dancing traditional dances, Podvoyre (Dacha Terem) Restaurant, St. Petersburg, Russia

Over the course of the evening we were entertained by musicians and two groups of local dancers – performing folkloric melodies and dancing traditional dances, Podvoyre (Dacha Terem) Restaurant, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

The restaurant is housed in a typical Russian log house and its interior is filled with wooden panels and bear skins hanging on the walls.  Inside, several rooms decorated with folk art works are intended to recreate the atmosphere of the old festive meal.  Often, a folk ensemble animates the atmosphere.  Among the diners are many tourists but also Russians who come for business or family meals.  This is a restaurant frequented by the country’s president (Putin) and foreign guests.  The restaurant boasts that it is considered “the most Russian of all Russian restaurants.”  With the musicians and dancers, vodka and wine, and typical Russian country-style dinner, it was a festive dinner that was a great way to end a long day of touring and “revisiting” Russia’s days of glory in the 18th and 19th centuries.

 

The accordion player was quite a character, Podvoyre (Dacha Terem) Restaurant, St. Petersburg, Russia

The accordion player was quite a character, Podvoyre (Dacha Terem) Restaurant, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Our table afforded us an excellent view of the folklore musicians and dancers, Podvoyre (Dacha Terem) Restaurant, St. Petersburg, Russia

Our table afforded us an excellent view of the folklore musicians and dancers, Podvoyre (Dacha Terem) Restaurant, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

The soup course was a nice vegetarian (heavily beets) borsch, shown here after some sour cream was stirred in, Podvoyre (Dacha Terem) Restaurant, St. Petersburg, Russia

The soup course was a nice vegetarian (heavily beets) borsch, shown here after some sour cream was stirred in, Podvoyre (Dacha Terem) Restaurant, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

An entrée of cabbage rolls (stuffed with beef), Podvoyre (Dacha Terem) Restaurant, St. Petersburg, Russia

An entrée of cabbage rolls (stuffed with beef), Podvoyre (Dacha Terem) Restaurant, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

An entrée of lightly fried pike perch and home style fried potatoes, Podvoyre (Dacha Terem) Restaurant, St. Petersburg, Russia

An entrée of lightly fried pike perch and home style fried potatoes, Podvoyre (Dacha Terem) Restaurant, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Our entertainment continued throughout much of the evening, Podvoyre (Dacha Terem) Restaurant, St. Petersburg, Russia

Our entertainment continued throughout much of the evening, Podvoyre (Dacha Terem) Restaurant, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Dessert of honey cake with each slice having its own marzipan honey bee, Podvoyre (Dacha Terem) Restaurant, St. Petersburg, Russia

Dessert of honey cake with each slice having its own marzipan honey bee, Podvoyre (Dacha Terem) Restaurant, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Catherine’s Palace at Tsarskoe Selo (Pushkin), St. Petersburg, Russia

Gilded Russian onion domes and façade of Catherine’s Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia -- In Elizabeth's reign it took over 100 kg of gold to decorate the palace exteriors, an excess that was later deplored by Catherine the Great

Gilded Russian onion domes and façade of Catherine’s Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia — In Elizabeth’s reign it took over 100 kg of gold to decorate the palace exteriors, an excess that was later deplored by Catherine the Great

 

“If any proof is needed for the extravagance of Russia’s Imperial rulers, then it can be found in the fact that, in less than two centuries, the Romanov Tsars established not one but two suburban estates – at Tsarskoe Selo and Pushkin – that, in terms of grandeur and excess, outstrip even Versailles.  What is more, at Tsarskoe Selo, the 18th century saw the construction of two vast and truly exceptional palaces, both surrounded by extensive landscaped gardens with diverse and fascinating decorative architecture.  Built for Empress Elizabeth by Bartolomeo Rastrelli, the architect of St. Petersburg’s Winter Palace, the Catherine Palace is undoubtedly Tsarskoe Selo’s top attraction, particularly renowned for the extraordinary Amber Room.  Less well known, and currently much more dilapidated, the Alexander Palace is nonetheless a neoclassical masterpiece, and has a particularly poignant connection with the family of the last Tsar, Nicholas II.  The town of Pushkin, which surrounds the Tsarskoe Selo estates, is St. Petersburg’s most charming suburb.  Renamed in Soviet times to honour Russia’s greatest poet, the town has numerous sights connected to Alexander Sergeevich.” – www.saint-petersburg.com

 

Tsar Peter I (“Peter the Great”) and his second wife, Martha Skavronskaya, mistress between 1702 and 1704, who converted to the Russian Orthodox Church and took the name Catherine (I), Catherine’s Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

Tsar Peter I (“Peter the Great”) and his second wife, Martha Skavronskaya, mistress between 1702 and 1704, who converted to the Russian Orthodox Church and took the name Catherine (I), Catherine’s Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

“The Catherine Palace is named after Catherine I, the wife of Peter the Great, who ruled Russia for two years after her husband’s death.  Originally a modest two-story building commissioned by Peter for Catherine in 1717, the Catherine Palace owes its awesome grandeur to their daughter, Empress Elizabeth, who chose Tsarskoe Selo as her chief summer residence.  Starting in 1743, the building was reconstructed by four different architects, before Bartholomeo Rastrelli, Chief Architect of the Imperial Court, was instructed to completely redesign the building on a scale to rival Versailles.

“The resultant palace, completed in 1756, is nearly 1km in circumference, with elaborately decorated blue-and-white facades featuring gilded atlantes, caryatids and pilasters designed by German sculptor Johann Franz Dunker, who also worked with Rastrelli on the palace’s original interiors.  In Elizabeth’s reign it took over 100 kg of gold to decorate the palace exteriors, an excess that was deplored by Catherine the Great when she discovered the state and private funds that had been lavished on the building.” – www.saint-petersburg.com

 

Grand Hall in Catherine’s Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia; yes, it is possible to out-Versailles Versailles!

 

“The interiors of the Catherine Palace are no less spectacular.  The so-called Golden Enfilade of state rooms, designed by Rastrelli, is particularly renowned and forms the focus of the palace tour.  Guests enter via the State Staircase which, although it blends effortlessly with the rococo grandeur of Rastrelli’s interiors, in fact dates from the 1860s.  With its ornate banisters and reclining marble cupids, it gives a taste of what is to come.  The Great Hall, also known as the Hall of Light, measures nearly 1,000 square meters, and occupies the full width of the palace so that there are superb views on either side.  The large arched windows provide enough light to relieve the vast quantity of gilded stucco decorating the walls, and the entire ceiling is covered by a monumental fresco entitled The Triumph of Russia.  Using similar techniques but on a smaller scale, the White Dining Room is equally luxurious but, like many of the rooms in the palace, its grandeur is softened by the presence of a beautiful traditional blue-and-white tiled stove in the corner.” – www.saint-petersburg.com

 

Detail of gilding in the Grand Hall, Catherine’s Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Delft tiles on fireplace in the formal dining room [see next photograph] – “The White Dining Room” -- Catherine’s Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

Delft tiles on fireplace in the formal dining room [see next photograph] – “The White Dining Room” — Catherine’s Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

The formal dining room – “The White Dining Room” -- Catherine’s Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

The formal dining room – “The White Dining Room” — Catherine’s Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Amber Room, Catherine’s Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia, completely reconstructed after World War II following the German Nazis’ theft in 1941 of all of the wall decorations, including the amber mosaic wall panels

Amber Room, Catherine’s Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia, completely reconstructed after World War II following the German Nazis’ theft in 1941 of all of the wall decorations, including the amber mosaic wall panels

 

“To create the [Amber Room — an extraordinary chamber that is one of Saint Petersburg’s most visited sites — ], Rastrelli used the panels of amber mosaic originally destined for an Amber Cabinet at Konigsberg Castle and presented to Peter the Great by Friedrich-Wilhelm I of Prussia, and surrounded them with gilded carving, mirrors, more amber panels created by Florentine and Russian craftsman (comprising a total of 450 kg of amber), and further mosaics of Ural and Caucasus gemstones.  The room was completed in 1770.  Due to the fragility of the materials used, a caretaker was employed constantly to maintain and repair the decorations, and major restoration was undertaken three times in the 19th century.  The room was used to house a substantial collection of amber-work and Chinese porcelain. In 1941, when German troops took Tsarskoe Selo, the Amber Room was dismantled in 36 hours, and shipped to Konigsberg in a tawdry pretense at historical fidelity.  As the Nazi war machine crumbled, the panels were crated up and moved out of danger, but their eventual fate is unknown.  In 1982, the order was given to begin the recreation of the Amber Room, a process that took over 20 years and cost more than $12 million.  Opened in 2003 by President Vladimir Putin and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, the restored Amber Room is a truly unique monument, and a testament to the painstaking care of the craftsmen who worked on it.” – www.saint-petersburg.com

 

Detail of wall decorations [see previous photograph], Amber Room, Catherine’s Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

Detail of wall decorations [see previous photograph], Amber Room, Catherine’s Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Catherine II of Russia (“Catherine the Great”), born Sophia Augusta Fredericka in Germany, became Empress after she ordered her husband, Tsar Peter III, murdered in a coup, while he was on a holiday; Catherine’s Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

Catherine II of Russia (“Catherine the Great”), born Sophia Augusta Fredericka in Germany, became Empress after she ordered her husband, Tsar Peter III, murdered in a coup, while he was on a holiday; Catherine’s Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Family dining room, Catherine’s Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

Family dining room, Catherine’s Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Formal garden and woods, Catherine’s Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia

Formal garden and woods, Catherine’s Palace, St. Petersburg, Russia