Opening of the Halls of the Art of Classical
Greece Following Restoration
On 15 March 2007, the State Hermitage is opening to the public the modernized halls of the Art of Classical Greece following restoration work.
The halls of Antique art are situated on the ground floor of the New Hermitage, which was built in 1851 according to a project by the famous Bavarian architect Leo von Klenze. The interiors and all elements of the finishing have been done in the Neo-Greek style. Each hall has an inimitable appearance made to harmonize with the works of art presented in it.
In the process of reconstructing the exhibition, a very important task was solved: to recreate and restore all elements of the finishing and to organically fit into the interiors a modern exhibition of Antique art. Replicas of display cases designed by von Klenze were made for these rooms.
The reconstruction project is unique from the standpoint of lighting design and there is nothing similar to it in the museum world. LEDs are used in the galleries for illumination. These satisfy the aesthetics of contemporary museum space and fit organically into the historic interiors.
The Hall of Athena
According to the project of Leo von Klenze, this hall was intended for the manuscript collection. Now it accommodates an exhibition of the art of Greece from the 5th century B.C. – Roman copies of Greek originals by the outstanding sculptors of the age of High Classicism: Phidias, Myron and Polyclitus. The name of the hall comes from the statue of Athena which was created following motifs of the statue of Athena by Phidias which decorated the Parthenon. Here there are genuine Greek funeral stelae, Attic painted vases and works of jewelry. The decoration and architecture of the hall were done in the Antique taste. Six monolithic columns of gray granite give magnificence to the hall. The ornamental paintings decorating the walls and metal joist ceiling decorated with caissons imitate the Antique. The floor is decorated with genuine Antique mosaics found in Khersones in 1853.
In the course of the work, all elements of the interior decoration were restored: granite columns, painted walls and metal painted ceiling, which is a genuine rarity.
The mild, diffuse light emphasizes the beauty of the ceiling and arches. Delicate spotlights are directed at each sculpture and help the spectator to see the beauty of the Antique shapes, filling the hall with an atmosphere of harmony and tranquility.
Hall of Heracles
This hall was intended to be a library. At present it accommodates an exhibition of sculptures – Roman copies of Greek originals from the 4th century B.C. These are works by celebrated masters of the age of Late Classicism: Skopas, Praxiteles and Lisippus. The name of the hall comes from the colossal statue of Heracles resting. Here there are depictions of Aphrodite, a satyr and Eros – all historical figures of Ancient Greece.
The spacious and light hall allows the spectator to imagine himself in a beautiful and bright Antique building. Inserts of rose and yellow artificial marble have been used in the decoration of the interior. The hall is enclosed by a vault with paintings in glued on paint. The panels are decorated with stylized vegetal ornaments.
A special feature of the hall is the large surface of artificial marble (stucco) used to cover the walls. This facing was done in the middle of the 19th century by masters who introduced a new method of preparing stucco based on cement, ground marble and pigment. The stucco which was used in the interiors of the New Hermitage imitates natural marble very well. The radiant colors are especially beautiful and their composition is difficult to imitate. The technology of restoration of this material is very complex and labor-intensive.
The hall was designed to be used as a library. At present it is used to exhibit works of art of Classical Greece – outstanding monuments of Ancient Greek vase painting and sculpture.
The collection of painted vases and the relief entitled the Death of the Niobides, which can be traced back to the original by the Greek sculptor Phidias, all deserve special attention. The architectural decoration of the hall is very elegant: the walls are finished in white plaster and artificial marble of rose and green colors. Two columns of rose-brown granite lend grandeur and severity to the hall. As in the neighboring hall, an interesting peculiarity of the decoration is the flat metal ceiling finished in caissons and ornamental painting.
A reconstruction of the exhibition of Antique vases has been carried out. Special radial cases styled after 19th century museum display cases were manufactured for the room. They are equipped with LED apparatus which provides a gentle, diffuse light. This technology ensures the best preservation of the exhibit items, since it supports the optimal temperature in the display case.
The project to restore the halls and reconstruct the exhibitions brought together specialists of the State Hermitage, employees of the Committee on State Control, Use and Protection of Monuments of History and Culture, as well as organizations which carried out the restoration work, lighting installations and technical engineering work.
Committee on State Control, Use and Protection of Monuments of History
Likeon – Museum Concepts and Projects Ltd: