The Jewelers of Saint Petersburg. The Jewelry
Articles of the 18th and 19th Centuries from the State Hermitage Collections.
The Art of Modern Jewellers
Jewelry collection in Saint Petersburg was started by Peter the Great. European influence in different spheres of Russian life in the early 18th century touched upon jewelry art as well and manifested itself in the new types of jewelry articles, new artistic design, new symbolics. Jewelry objects created in Peter’s time are simple in shape and laconic in their design. The first Russian public museum, the Chamber of Curiosities, demonstrated not only natural science objects but chalices, bowls, silver sets and snuff-boxes.
One of the first registers of the court jewelery compiled after the death of Empress Catherine I (1727) included not only ceremonial jewelry and Crown’s Regalia but a lot of broches, bows and costume decorations as well.
Empress Anna Ioannovna loved luxury things and started the rich collection of the palace treasury rooms. The influence of German art in Saint Petersburg in the 1730-s manifested itself in the fact that German jewelers were invited to the Russian capital and that Russian court acquired jewelry articles preferably in Germany. Of the jewelry objects dating from this period sophisticated ornaments and variety of shapes decorated with diamonds are characteristic. The most widely spread decorative elements of the epoch were medals. The greatest popularity enjoyed works of the medalliers of the Imperial Mint Iohann Carl Gedlinger and Anton Schulz.
The Rococo style, characteristic of Elisabeth’s reign, was inspired by the art of French ornamentalists and revealed in decorative details and variety of shapes of snuff-boxes. Typical of the mid-18th century jewelry art was usage of precious stones. The exhibition features bouquets created by the greatest master of that time Jeremie Posier.
In the 1760-s appeared shuff-boxes of simple shapes with different decorations - from almost ascetic to splendidly chased plated ornaments, enamels and diamonds. Most part of the objects dating back to the mid18th century are not attributed. Following the manner of the predecessors, Elisabeth purchased a lot of jewelry abroad, mostly in France. A significant part of the Hermitage collection, the core of which by 1760 had already been formed, is dated by the 1740-60-s.
The new stage in collecting jewelry started after Catherine the Great had ascended the throne. In 1764 the Diamond Room, where the Crown’s Regalia and jewelry articles were kept together in glass cabinets, was arranged in the newly-built Winter Palace.
The second half of the 18th century can by right be called the flourishing period of jewelry art in Saint Petersburg. It is most comrehensively represented in the Hermitage collection. Creative careers of Jean Jacques Duc, Iohann Baltasar Gass, Georg Heinrich König are illustrated with only a few examples while the collections of works of Jean-Pierre Ador, Johann Gottlieb Scharf, Jean François Xavier Boudder give a chance to see not only items of different shapes but also to witness stylistic changes taking place in the work of these masters connected with the development of Neo-Classicism. The shapes of snuff-boxes became less sophisticated and more austere, their laconic ornamentation originated from antique or antiquelike patterns. Smooth surfaces framed with precious stones or enamels became dominating in the late 1770-80-s. Large diamonds are gradually replaced with these of a smaller size, precious stones are rarely used being replaced with the becoming more and more popular pearls.
A new Diamond Room was arranged in the Loggias of Raphael constructed in 1792. The Imperial Regalia were still kept in the old Diamond Room near the Throne Hall. One can read about the second Catherine’s collection of jewelry in the book of the famous traveller Johann Gottlieb Georgi (1792-1794).
The jewelry art of Saint Petersburg was developing within the framework of the Neo-Classicism traditions. The most significant representatives of the Petersburg school of that time were Hermann Friedrich Pomo, Paul Magnus Tenner and jewelers and goldsmiths of different generations from the families of Keibel and Barbe.
The replenishments of the Hermitage collection of jewelry in the reign of Alexander I (of those that survived till today) were mostly gift salt-cellars. In these articles, made most often by the best masters of Saint Petersburg, the main trends of Russian Classicism found their embodiment. The Historicism style decorative tendencies reflected in the jewelry art in the 1830-s. That time was notable for appearance in great numbers of decorations in which gold was used in alloys or was replaced with silver gilt while precious stones were set next to semiprecious stones.
In 1848 in the premises of the Small Hermitage the Jewelry Gallery was opened for the public. In 1910 it was transferred to the New Hermitage. At the same time the Crown’s treasures, gifts, decorations belonging to the Emperors and Empresses of the 18th-- and early 19th centuries were kept in the Winter Palace.
After the year 1917 the Hermitage collection was replenished from the private collections of the nobility including these of Dolgorukiy, Paskevich, Musin-Pushkin, Faberge, Rudonovsky, Yusupov, Shuvalov, Stroganov. In 1925 a new exhibition of the Special Hermitage Store-room was opened for the public. The State Hermitage Museum today possesses one of the largest collections of jewelry art items in the world, part of which is the world’s best collection of snuff-boxes. The basis for it was formed by the palace collection compiled of the best artistic items made for the Imperial Court and the nobility.
It is for the first time that the State Hermitage Museum presented works of contemporary jewelers of Saint Petersburg at its exhibition. The items demonstrate different trends in the development of modern art. Some artists tend to follow classical traditions and forms in their modern interpretations. Such are the works of Vladimir Aliushin and Dmitry Pasynkov. Others, as, for example, Gennady and Natalia Bykov and Vladimir Shestakov, make confident steps in experimenting with avant-garde tendencies. Works of Gennady Bykov are notable for their philosophic contents and various allusions while Natalia Bykova creates emotional and in a feminine way delicate objects. Refined in architectonics and colour are the items designed by Vera Chernova. Her latest work, the necklace “Kandinsky”, won the award of the “De Biers” company. Problematic for classification are the compositions by Leonid Zviagin and Mikhail Brestkin, but they definitely attract attention with their pithyness and masterly execution. The exhibition features articles made by Natalia Kalganova, Daria Klimina, Igor Malkiel. Well-known are the objects created by Andrei Ananov.
Almost all the jewelers are the members of the Union of Artists of Russia, participants of home and International exhibitions, prize winners at different artistic contests. Some are entrusted with the government commissions, others work in collaboration with foreign companies. These jewelers are the most outstanding representatives of the Saint Petersburg school of jewelry art.