Opening of the Antechamber in the Western Apartment
of the Menshikov Palace Following Completion of Restoration Work
A quarter of a century ago, then Director of the State Hermitage Boris Piotrovsky opened the first indoor exhibition rooms in the Menshikov Palace dedicated to the culture of Russia during the first third of the 18th century. Prior to that event there was extensive research-based restoration work carried out, and this has continued right up to the present day.
On 16 June 2006, work was completed on the creation of an exhibition of architecture and decoration entitled the "Reception Room of Darya Mikhailovna Menshikova," the spouse of the first Governor of St Petersburg. The work was carried out by the scientific restoration company OJSC Art Expert.
In the Eastern part of the Menshikov Palace, several interiors with unique decorative finishing dating back to the time of Peter the Great (paneled rooms and the Walnut Room) have been preserved to the present day. The original interior decoration was not preserved, however, in the Western premises. Over the course of many years, staff in the Menshikov Palace department conducted a major investigation and on the basis of archival documents and similar rooms elsewhere created typical interiors from the time of Peter the Great. Silk wall coverings dating from the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th centuries which underwent a 12-year-long process of restoration and reproduction served as the basis for the interior decoration of three of the rooms.
The restored Reception Room reflects the characteristic features of interior decoration at the beginning of the 18th century and the personal taste of members of the Menshikov family. At that time it was fashionable and common in wealthy homes to cover the walls with fabrics of silk, velvet and broadcloth. The textiles shown in the "Reception Room of Darya Mikhailovna" exhibition were made by the Old Textiles (Starinnye Tkani) Atelier in Moscow, which for more than a half-century remains the only producer in Russia making decorative textiles according to old samples of material using hand looms. The Atelier proceeds with production only after carrying out serious scientific research and making a technical reconstruction of the texture and pattern of the original material. The process of weaving on hand looms is as labor-intensive as it was in the 18th century: during an entire work day only 10 cm of fabric is produced. The master-weavers in Moscow have made fabrics for the palace museums of St Petersburg, Moscow and their suburbs. For the Reception Room of the Menshikov Palace, the Old Textiles Atelier produced a fabric with complex imaginary vegetal design and a great number of different colored threads, following a sample of French fabric dating from the 18th century. The choice of the material sample was not accidental - it is well known that French silks with vegetal design were especially purchased for the palace. The quarters of Darya Mikhailovna have been decorated with numerous pieces of expensive imported furniture, objects made of silver and Chinese pieces, in which interest grew especially strong at the start of the 18th century.
One can get an idea of what the Menshikov Palace looked like in 1725 by studying the scale model (1:125) made according to the traditions of 19th century models by restorers in the Special Scientific Restoration Workshops of the State Hermitage V.V. Kashcheev, V.A. Gradov and A.V. Kashcheev. The model is made from hard varieties of wood and is painted in historically true colors in accordance with reconstruction drawings by the architect V.K. Galochkin.
On the oak stairway leading to the state rooms of the palace, guests are met by a formal portrait of the owner of the house. The bronze bust of the Most Serene Prince A.D. Menshikov was executed in the years 1716-1717. This sculptural portrait, just like the bust of Peter the Great, was done by Rastrelli and is one of the most outstanding works of portraiture in sculpture dating from the first quarter of the 18th century in the collection of the State Hermitage's Department of the History of Russian Culture. It is possible that Menshikov posed for the sculptor in his own home.
For the anniversary of the Menshikov Palace department, there will be a distribution of award souvenir commemorative medals with depiction of the Most Serene Prince A.D. Menshikov made in the Petersburg Mint at the behest of the State Hermitage.