Applied art exhibition in the State Russian Museum

It’s always nice to have little surprises. I was pleasantly surprised this week when visited the Russian Museum in St.Petersburg. I’ve been there for so many times that I thought I could walk through the rooms with my eyes shut. But unexpectedly I came across a new exhibition – devoted to the applied art from medieval times up to the beginning of the 20th century.

The exhibition must be new to the museum since there is no indication about it on the map you get at the information desk (near ticket office). Not to miss these marvelous twelve rooms of the best examples of Russian craftsmanship, go to the room 48 (ground floor) and instead of turning to Benois wing, go along the souvenir shop and enter bright white rooms of the collection.

I believe that this is a “must-visit” for all foreign tourists to St.Petersburg and Russia, in general, since it will give you the idea of what you would like to buy later in souvenir stores in the country to bring back to your family and friends.  The display showcases all the possible types of art you will meet in RussiaPalekh, Mstera, Gzhel, Dymkovo, Khokhloma, etc.

I personally liked less known (to be honest, unknown to me at all) gingerbread boards (used to have gingerbread dough put onto it to have a very complicated pattern on gingerbread once it is baked) and unorthodox carved sacred sculpture. You will probably like something else as well – just go and check it.

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St.Petersburg Kunstkammer

This week I started by visiting Kunstkammer aka Peter the Great’s Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography. It’s been 15 years since I have been there and needed to refresh my memory.

My impressions after the visit are still mixed. On one hand, the collection is quite diverse and covers nations far away from Russian (nearer nations are presented in the Russian Museum of Etnography) – Africa, India, Indonesia, Middle East, Northern America – with lots of everyday items, often curious for modern world.

On the other hand, part of the collections are still on display with outdated descriptions and pictures. It is especially visible in the hall of Japan where “modern” Japanese life is represented by 1950s photos. However, I need to say that this part is being improved and almost every room in the Chamber has an electronic display with thorough information on the collections.

Another negative thing is that the displays which have recently received “facelifts” with new description boards are very inconvenient to use. The display usually holds up to 20-40 different items with only numbers below them whereas the description is located at about half a meter from the display itself. This means that most of the unusual items will be lost for a visitor since I can not imagine 90% of visitors being so stubborn and consistent to look up what each piece on display actually meant in life.

For first-time visitors a room with the natural science collection will be of major interest. It is here that Peter the Great collected rarities and curiousities brought from all over Russia. Two-headed babies and four-armed lamb usually attract visitors to the museum and therefore I believe Kunstkammer is worth a visit at least once.

St.Petersburg Russian Museum Exhibitions: unorthodox icons, Makovsky artists and neoclassism

I have just got back from the exhibitions in the State Russian Museum. The museum itself houses an excellent collection of the Russian fine arts starting from icons and going up to the painting of the first part of the 20th century.

The current exhibitions are devoted to the works of the artists Makovsky, unorthodox Russian icons and Russian neoclassicism in the beginning of the 20th century.

The Makovsky family is a rare yet fascinating example of the inherited talent. The father and his four children all became distinguished artists both in the times contemporary to them and to us in the 21st century. I personally adore Konstantin Makovsky but need to admit that no one of his family drew worse than he did. It is just these abundant colors and positive subjects of his works that always attract my eye.

The exhibition on icons and objects of worship by unorthodox Russian believers was a surprise to me. Of course, I knew that the old rite survived after the reforms of Nikon in the 17th century. However it never occurred to me that there should have been something these followers kept in their churches. It turned out that they had quite a lot of interesting icons, unorthodox in their interpretation of the Holy Cross, spelling of Jesus name and usage of two fingers in blessing (instead of three fingers as it is a rule in the Russian Orthodox Church). Most of the secular stuff they used to have was expropriated in mid 19th century and was stored in local museums and private collections.

Neoclassism in Russia is represented by well-known Russian artists of the beginning of the 20th century and certainly is must-visit exhibition for everyone interested in this period of the Russian history. I personally do not like this style and therefore have to confess that these displays left me almost indifferent.

Anyway, these three exhibitions are a good combination of the versatile Russian artistic heritage and are worth a visit while visiting the Russian Museum itself (they share the same ticket). Oh, and the Russian Museum is one of the few in St.Petersburg which is open on Mondays.

St.Petersburg Hermitage Treasure Gallery

Unexpectedly for myself, I visited today the  Gold Treasure Gallery of the State Hermitage. Although I have been living in St.Petersburg all my life and visited teh Hermitage numerous times, it was my first time to the gallery.

The regular daily excursions are in Russian but you can book the excursion in advance and have it in alsmost any language.

I was lucky today to be the only one at the excursion. Probably it is due to the end of endless New Year/Christmas holidays in Russian.  Seemed like everyone thought finally of visiting their offices, not museums.

Anyway, there are two treasure galleries in the Hermitage. One is Gold Treasure Gallery (or Gold Rooms) which contains the gold from Scythian trives, Sarmates, Greeks from the Crimea as well as the gifts to the Russian Emperor family from Iran, India, Uzbekistan and China. There is also a small display of objects brought from precolumbian American lands.

The second treasure gallery called Diamond Rooms houses the objects from gold and precios stones from Western Europe and is also worth a visit.

Today I was in the Gold Rooms and was amazed to see such exquisite works of art by Greeks, such sophisticated jewelry by Scythians and such abundance of precios stones in the works of Iran and Indian masters.

For all, who has already visited the Hermitage once, I suggest visiting the Gold Rooms next time you’re in St.Petersburg.