Press Tour of the East Wing
of the General Staff Building.
The State Hermitage Museum is continuing to report on the restoration of the East Wing of the General Staff Building, and is presenting the interim results of the restoration of the 2nd construction stage. This restoration involves the northern part of the building, which has an area of 7410 square meters.
Before the primary work could begin, the specialists required a further inspection and survey of the area. Structural inspections of the walls and floors of the building, as well as its basements, foundations, substructure, and frames; a geotechnical survey was also conducted. Trial cleaning of the walls and ceiling lights, boring and sounding, historical-archival research, and expert examination of the historical parquet flooring have all been completed.
The work involved in reinforcing the walls and foundations can be considered truly unique. The construction of new supporting buttresses is vital for this old building. The installation of skylights was just as complicated; each installation is unique and is constructed on site, with cast in-situ reinforced concrete. Most of these skylights are built in a two-tier fashion, each of which is shaped like a four-sided pyramid.
The main difference between the first and the second construction stages is the increased volume of restoration work required. The complex facades, distinguished by their richness and diversity of decorative elements, made from all sorts of materials, required corresponding types of restoration for stone, molding, plaster and gilding. The interior decoration also demands a great volume of work: panting, molding, gilding, art parquet, marble fireplaces, gilded wooden doors, elegant marble.
In the former reception and living areas of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the decoration completed in the first third of the 19th century according to the design of C.I. Rossi for the apartments of K.V. Nesselrode has been preserved. Practically every hall of this preserved enfilade is painted with a variety of techniques. The striking original paintings were made on a plaster base, and the large multi-figure compositions were produced in the workshops of Giovanni and Pietro Scotti by first class artists on fine linen (muslin). After they were decorated, the muslins were cut out according to outlines and attached to the ceiling lights; since then, they have not been comprehensively restored. Over two centuries, the cloth has aged significantly, sagged from repeated changes of temperature and humidity, gathered dirt and soot. It was decided to remove the cloth from the lights and work on it from both sides, and then restore it to its historical place.
A large volume of work will be awaiting the gold specialists. In practically
every hall, during the initial cleaning, complex gilding was discovered,
some on a special lacquer and some on a special clay base. On the clay
base, the gold shines - on the lacquer its lustre is dimmed, creating
an artistic contrast. Unfortunately, over many years much of it was lost.
Before starting the meticulous work of recreating and restoring it, the
gold specialists cleaned the area and recreated original version of the
golden decoration of these magnificent halls. The historic plaster decor
was also marred by later build-up:
In the General Staff Building, while cleaning was taking place in two areas on the 4th floor, a previously unknown painting was discovered on the ceiling. In both cases, the painting survived only in those areas where later barriers were erected, and therefore no more than 20% of the original was preserved. In one of the halls, images of green griffins were found, and in another one, a fragment of decorative patterns. Unfortunately, the remaining material is insufficient to fully restore the areaís de'cor. To preserve these unique finds, a decision was made to remove the surviving fragments from the ceiling, restore them and store them elsewhere in the museum. First the painting was reinforced, and then the old nails were filed down by hand, after which special metal plates were placed behind the edge of the painting, and were used to slowly remove it from the ceiling structure. This operation was a success: the griffins and the floral pattern are now located in a specialized workshop for restoration. These finds are very interesting from a historical as well as artistic point of view. They are untouched by the restorerís hand and make it possible to imagine what the original de'cor of the General Staff Building must have looked like.
The restored area will house about 100 exhibition areas of a total area of about 7000 square meters, a cafe', a restaurant, museum stores, three atriums, administrative, technical and storage facilities.