During the reigns of Anna Ivanovna (1730-1740) and Elizabeth Petrovna (1741-1761) the Baroque style prevailed in the arts as it had during the first years of the century. Its development reached its high point between 1730 and 1750, for the splendour and solemnity of the style corresponded to the growing power of the Russian monarchy. Many foreign artists and architects were invited to work in Russia. Others came themselves, hearing of great opportunities to be found. Most of them lived and worked in Russia to the end of their lives, and they had an enormous influence overall on the development of the arts.
Official portraiture was still the most important genre in Russian art. Russian and foreign artists created numerous sculptures, paintings, prints, and drawings of the Empresses Anna Ivanovna and Elizabeth Petrovna. These formal portraits were intended to decorate the palaces, state institutions, and mansions of the Russian nobility. Most prominent of these artists were Louis Tocque, Georg Grooth, and Bartolomeo Rastrelli, but it was the engraved Portrait of Anna Ivanovna (1740) by Christian Albrecht Wortman and I. Sokolov's etched Portrait of Elizabeth Petrovna (1746) that were regarded as the standard portraits, recommended as models to other artists.
There are magnificent formal portraits of the Russian nobility, military leaders, and courtiers, which emphasized the individual features of the subjects. Such are the portraits of the notable Russian scientist Mikhail Lomonosov and Privy Chancellor I. Ushakhov by anonymous authors; Elizabeth Petrovna's confessor F. Dubensky by ?. Rokhotov; and the wife of the merchant Yakovlev by Ivan Vishnyakhov.
As St Petersburg grew, painters and graphic artists proceeded to depict the city's avenues, embankments and notable architectural constructions in oils and watercolours, in numerous sketches and engravings.
During this period the scope of construction in the city reached great heights. One of the most prominent architects then working in St Petersburg was Bartolomeo Rastrelli, creator of the Winter Palace - main residence of the Russian tsars, of the Smolny Cathedral, the Stroganov Palace and the Summer Palace of Elizabeth Petrovna (all but the latter still standing). The Hermitage has an etched portrait of Rastrelli by Mikhail Makhayev.
Icons now combined the canonic features of Russian icon painting with the solemnity and splendour of Baroque art: such are the icons created by Ivan Belsky for the iconostasis of the church in the Winter Palace (The Virgin Enthroned and others) and the serf painter M. Funtusov (The Resurrection of Christ, 1761).
Very few museums today have any examples of once popular objects known as 'obmanki' or 'deceptions' - figures painted in oil on wood and representing ladies, gentlemen, children and servants. The Hermitage's excellent collection is thus all the more rare. Of particular interest are the Elderly Peasant Woman Spinning Yarn and Bearded Peasant Making Bast Shoes.
At the other end of the scale is the magnificent silver tomb of Alexander Nevsky, one of the masterpieces of Elizabeth's reign, made at the Petersburg mint between 1747 and 1752. A number of celebrated painters, sculptors and craftsmen participated in its creation. Over a tonne and a half of silver from the Urals was required to make this memorial ensemble.
The collection of silver objects of the period is numerous and diverse; it includes dishes, goblets, services, ladles, desk-sets and church plate. In keeping with the dominant Baroque style, all are of complex shape and bear a variety of geometric and floral ornament.
This was also an age of discovery - discovery of new techniques, rediscovery of the old. One major achievement was the establishment of glass manufacturing by outstanding Russian scientist Mikhail Lomonosov, and it was he who rediscovered the forgotten secrets of the art of mosaic production. From Lomonosov's workshop came numerous remarkable mosaic portraits of Russian statesmen and apostles.
In the 1840s Dmitry Vinogradov invented Russian porcelain, and the museum possesses objects made by Vinogradov himself, such as the famous Sobstveny (Private) Service of Elizabeth Petrovna, decorated with relief figures and trellis painting.
As we have seen, celebrated artists and architects also turned their hands to the design of works of applied art, and the characteristic features of the Baroque thus were repeated in objects as various as the surviving standard lamps from the Large Church of the Winter Palace (made to a design by Bartolomeo Rastrelli), the formal sleigh of Elizabeth Petrovna, a fanciful masquerade sleigh with a figure of a dragon, a group of allegorical gilded wooden figures of the seasons and many other objects carved in wood.
Mention must be made of a craft which is very special to Russia, growing partly out of the folk traditions of Northern Russia, where local craftsmen had for centuries carved objects from walrus ivory. By the middle of the 18th century, the level of skill and refinement of these and other craftsmen was so high as to permit them to make the incredibly intricate openwork ivory caskets, goblets and numerous other decorative objects which were used to adorn the interiors of imperial palaces and rich mansions.
Portrait of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna
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