The Hermitage Pavilion
by Galina D. Khodasevich, Curator
Text by Galina D. Khodasevich
St Petersburg, 2010
Number of printed copies: 3000
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The Hermitage pavilion graces the Catherine Park to the south-east from the central axis of the Palace. Pavilions like this, with functions determined by the name meaning “hermit’s abode” in French, were a common feature of regular gardens in the eighteenth century. They were intended to enable the owners of the estate to rest from their official duties and immerse themselves in arts and sciences.
In 1741 Empress Elizabeth Petrovna ordered to build a hermitage at Tsarskoye Selo where she could dine in the company of a select few. As construction began in 1744, architect Mikhail Zemtsov’s original design was developed by Andrei Kvasov and a year later by Savva Chevakinsky. Court architect Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli considerably changed the exterior and interior décors in 1748. Rastrelli called his design a “splendid big stone building” for its richly ornamented gold and white and sky-blue façade perfectly cohered with that of the Great Tsarskoye Selo (now Catherine) Palace.
The pavilion’s interior is dominated by a rectangular central hall connected by four galleries leading diagonally from it to four “cabinets”. The purpose of the hall was indicated by the subject of Giuseppe Valeriani’s ceiling painting – Jupiter and Juno invite the celestials to a table laid and set with luxurious tableware. Thanks to the wide windows that also served as doors to the balconies, and to the carved and gilded frame mirrors placed between them, the hall is transfused with light.
Owing to the latest innovations of the time, the hall’s floor panels could slide apart brining up five fully laid tables lifted from the basement by dozen-man-driven hoists.
The Hermitage pavilion was a place for formal and diplomatic dinners, as well as dance and entertainment parties, until the mid-19th century.
In 1918–41, the pavilion had a display of porcelain and cut-glassware set tables.
The Second World War did not spare the Hermitage. All its ceiling paintings, furniture and carved sconces were lost, except for fragments of the raising mechanisms at the basement. Restoration work took several decades and ended in June 2010 when the pavilion’s bygone magnificence stood anew for the Tsarskoye Selo Tercentenary.
This booklet will introduce the reader to the history and everyday life of the Hermitage, the most sumptuous and perfect baroque monument of the Catherine Park.