Around This Place the Memories are Alive
On October 28th, 2011, the State Hermitage Museum presented the Around This Place the Memories are Alive exhibition, dedicated to the 300-year anniversary of the founding of the oldest stone palace in Saint Petersburg and the 30-year anniversary of the creation of an exhibition there dedicated to Russian Culture in the First Third of the 18th Century.
This exhibition includes over 200 pieces: painting, sculpture, graphics, weapons, costumes, books, figures and archeological finds from the collection of the State Hermitage Museum, the Moscow Kremlin State Museum Reserve, the State Russian Museum, the Military-Historical Museum of Artillery, Engineer and Signals Corps, the State Museum of the History of Saint Petersburg, and the State Memorial Museum of A.V. Suvorov.
The Menshikov Palace is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Saint
Petersburg, which had both a residential and administrative function.
The palace’s architectural style is unique; it came together during a
long, multistage construction process that lasted from 1710 to 1727. Western
European architects such as Francesco Fontana, Gottfried Johann Schädel,
Domenico Trezzini, Carlo Bartolomeo Rastrelli, Georg Johann Mattarnovi,
and Jean-Baptiste Alexandre Le Blond participating in its framing and
finishing. Their ideas were brought to life by Russian master
A large section of the exhibit is dedicated to His Serene Highness Prince A.D. Menshikov. A close associate of Peter the Great, the first governor of Saint Petersburg, Alexander Danilovich Menshikov (1673-1729), settled in the palace that had been built for him on October 1st, 1711 (according to the old dating system). From that moment on, the Menshikov Palace became one of the centres of cultural and business life, fulfilling the functions of government in Russia’s new capital.
The items presented at this exhibition include: portraits of His Serene Highness, swords decorated with his monogram and the crown, the stock of the three pound cannon with A.D. Menshikov’s coat of arms on the breech end, as well as works of art, produced to His Highness’ own specifications.
After the death of Peter the Great and A.D. Menshikov’s fall from grace, Anna Ivanovna turned a new page in the palace’s history; in 1731, the empress signed an order establishing the Cadet Corps and granting the Cadets permanent ownership of the land, palace and all the services and structures on Vasilyevsky Island. The Corps received its first pupils on February 17th, 1732. That date is considered the founding of the Corps.
The Cadet Corps was a new phenomenon in the upbringing and education of Russia’s youth. Here they spoke and taught in Russian and German, studied French and Latin, history, geography, mathematics, physics, rhetoric, jurisprudence, architecture, drawing, music, military science and many other fields. The level of education that the cadets received will be illustrated by schematics of fortifications, drawn up for educational purposes in the middle of the 18th century, from the collection of the State Russian Museum, which will be presented as part of the exhibition.
In the 1840s, an orthodox church was built in the central part of the palace, which transformed its southern fac,ade. Two floors of the central part of the fac,ade were faced with “large order” pilasters, and a segmental pediment with the emblem of the Corps appeared. In the 1830s, a “museum” already existed under the aegis of the Corps. In the 1880s, the newly restored “Menshikov Chambers” became part of that museum.
In 1918, the Commission for the Protection and Registration of Artistic and Historical Monuments recognized the “Menshikov Chambers” and the museum of the First Cadet Corps as having historical value, but these museums did not exist for long; they lost their official status in 1928.
The Menshikov Palace regained its status as a museum in the second half of the 20th century. The creation of a museum dedicated to the culture of the age of Peter the Great was initiated by the director of the State Hermitage Museum, Boris Borisovich Piotrovsky. On February 18th, 1981, the Russian Culture in the First Third of the 18th Century exhibition opened in the palace.
By 1986, the “Turnery”, “Sailor’s Room”, “Tapestry Room”, “Grand Hall” and “Guard Room” had been opened. By 1998, creation of the “Study with Paintings”, “Bedchamber of Darya Menshikova” and the “Western Reception Room” had been opened in the Western part of the Museum. Chinese silk wall hangings from the late 17th and early 18th centuries were the centrepiece of these rooms’ decor. Fragments of Dutch tile found in the space underneath the floor, provided a basis for outfitting the lower section of the walls was oak panels with tile decorations.
The work of the artists and architects who worked in the Menshikov Palace during its restoration and the creation of the museum exhibition will be on display at the Around This Place the Memories are Alive exhibition.
A full scale restoration and the creation of a museum exhibition by the State Hermitage Museum have returned one of Petersburg’s oldest buildings to its citizens.
The curators of this jubilee exhibition are Anatoly Alexeyevich Dutov, the Deputy Director of the Menshikov Palace Department of the State Hermitage Museum, and Olga Stanislasovna Andreyeva, the Senior Scientific Consultant of the Menshikov Palace Department.
A catalogue has been prepared for this exhibition (published by the State Hermitage Museum).