|| "I am passionately keen on books about architecture.
My whole room is full of them and it is still not enough for me,"
Catherine II wrote to Melchior Grimm in August 1776. Volpato's tinted
engravings of the murals in the Vatican Palace held a particular fascination
for the Empress. She formed a desire to have a copy of the Raphael
Loggias frescoes in her own palace and entrusted the realization
of the idea to Johann Friedrich Reifenstein, commissioner at the Russian
court in Rome. The actual copying was done by Christoph Unterberger,
an artist known for his murals in the Vatican library. The work was
completed in 1782 and the following year the architect Giacomo Quarenghi
began the construction of a separate building in St Petersburg. It
was finished in 1785. The Hermitage loggias reproduce the gallery
in the Vatican down to the last detail. The only liberties Unterberger
permitted himself were to replace the heraldic spheres of the Medici
with an ornament featuring a medallion of Raphael and the coat of
arms of Pope Leo X with the Russian eagle and Catherine's monogramme.