The collection of Russian decorative bronzes at the State Hermitage numbers over 3,000 items: lamps, chandeliers and inkstands, decorative paper weights, table bells, small chamber sculptures, surtout-de-tables and utilitarian articles.
The collection is largely based on the exhibits transferred to the Hermitage in 1941 from the History and Everyday Life Department of the Russian Museum. In the 1970s and 80s, new bronze items were acquired via the Hermitage Expert Purchasing Commission.
The most important place in the collection belongs to the hanging lamps and chandeliers made in Russia. Many of these chandeliers adorn the state rooms of the Winter Palace, as well as the palaces of Peter I and Alexander Menshikov and the General Staff building. The earliest items in the collection are the bronze church chandeliers of the 16th-mid-18th centuries. A splendid early 18th century five-tier chandelier made of silvered bronze has been reconstructed and placed in the Winter Palace chapel. After restoration, lamps and chandeliers of the age of Empress Elizabeth with large crystal pendants and ornate gilded bronze branches will take their places in the permanent exhibition halls displaying Russian art of the early 18th century. The so-called Catherine chandeliers and lamps with crystal and coloured glass, the most valuable in the collection, can be seen in many Hermitage rooms. Most of them originally come from old St Petersburg private houses and palaces. Some of the Russian Empire chandeliers, made from designs by key Russian architects and draughtsmen such as C. Rossi, A. Montferrand, I. Galberg, are an integral part of the interior design of the Winter Palace. But many other Empire chandeliers were brought to the Hermitage from other St Petersburg palaces in the 1930s, replacing the original ones which had been transferred to other new Russian museums in the 1920s. The chandeliers of the Age of Historicism are extremely varied in shape. Most of them were custom-made for the rooms of the Winter Palace and the Hermitage under the supervision of architects V.P. Stasov, A.P. Briullov, A.I. Stackensneider, L.N. Benois.
The collection of oil, kerosene and electric lamps contains over 100 exhibits, mostly acquired from the Imperial Russian Technical Society.
The collection also holds over 700 table bells from the collection assembled by A.M. Kovanko, one of the first Russian aviators. The exhibits include well-established masterpieces. But the majority of bells remain anonymous, despite their intricate design and superb workmanship.
The inkstand collection contains rare, often memorial items which used to belong to Russian Emperors and their family members. Some of them were kept at the Treasure Gallery of the Imperial Hermitage in the 19th century.
There are also 40 chamber busts, mostly originating from old private collections like that of Count A.D. Sheremetev. The small chamber sculptures (around 200 items from private collections) were designed by sculptors and founders who worked in Russia in the 19th century.
Candelier for 30 Candles
Sculptural Group: 'Cab'