The General Staff building in the museum's development programmes
Restoration and reconstruction of the Eastern Wing of the General Staff building is a key element in the Greater Hermitage project. The building will be turned into a multifunctional cultural and educational complex in which in addition to the museum displays there will be entertainment and commercial centres to meet the leisure-time interests of Petersburgers and visitors to the Northern Capital. Work is being carried out by the general contractor Beta-Kom company. Technical supervision is provided by the State Hermitage's Department of Major Construction.
In 1999 the restored rooms of the second floor of the new museum building were opened to the public for the exhibitions French Art of the 20th Century. Pierre Bonnard and Maurice Denis and Realms of the Eagle. The Art of Empire.
In 2000 the premises of the State Hermitage's Lecture Centre in the General Staff building underwent repairs and modern equipment was installed.
In 2001 an entrance zone through the carriage way No. 1 was opened. The work involved laying down granite slabs of paving, erecting an aluminium structure and putting in place stained-glass panels and doors, as well as installing a cloakroom facility and toilets. The entrance area of the ground floor and two rooms of the second floor were renovated to allow for an enlargement of the permanent display French Art of the 20th Century. Pierre Bonnard and Maurice Denis. Moreover, the premises of the former Customs Warehouse were also renovated.
At this time restoration work was completed on the building's Church of the Most Orthodox Prince St Alexander Nevsky and vestry: this involved installation of modern ventilation and air conditioning. The church was erected during the years 1827-1830 to a design by the architect Carlo Rossi and with the participation of the painter Antonio Vighi. Until 1917 it served as the in-house church of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. One can get an idea of the original interior decoration from an inventory made in 1829 which describes in detail the finishing in the style of Classicism: white artificial marble walls, blue Corinthian pilasters with silvered capitals and stucco decorative elements. The principal area of the interior was given over to a carved pine iconostasis which was made by the master craftsmen Vasily Bobkov and Nikolai Tarasov. Presently work is going on to restore the field iconostasis of Emperor Alexander I. This will be installed in the church until a reproduction is made of the original iconostasis which no longer exists.
Restoration has been carried out on the interiors of the Cabinet of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the adjacent premises of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which always stood apart from other parts of the building housing the civilian ministries in terms of the richness of their architectural and decorative finishing. The Cabinet of the Minister for Foreign Affairs was made to a design by the architect Carlo Rossi. Its ceiling was decorated by grisaille paintings. The blue-coloured walls had stucco decoration. Ceramic tile heating stoves, gilded light fixtures and decorative parquet floors made of precious varieties of wood harmoniously added to the overall artistic plan of the interior. In the course of the restoration work the original colour of the walls was recreated, the stucco ornamentation was restored, as were the decorative parquet and unique painted ceiling of the study.
Restoration was also carried out on the painted ceiling of the grand stairway in the Ministry of Finances which was originally executed in tempera and glue technique during the 1820s by artists from Giovanni-Battista Scotti's workshop. Allegorical subjects and ornamental compositions in grisaille painting imitating stucco were an essential part of the interior decoration in the designs prepared by Carlo Rossi.
During 2001 around 7,000 square metres of facade of the General Staff building along Bolshaya Morskaya Street underwent restoration work. The plaster decoration was replaced. The cornices and window frames were restored. Glass panes were replaced and wrought-iron grills were restored and, in places, replaced, as was the balustrade. The stucco of the facade was repaired and painted. All decorative metal elements needing urgent restoration were disassembled and taken down.
In 2002 repair work was completed on the Grand Stairway in the building of the General Staff. A full range of renovation and construction work was carried out in the premises of the ground and first floors in preparation for the opening of the exhibitions George Segal (1924-2000). A Retrospective and Claude Monet (1840-1926). The major part of the interiors of the first floor of the Ministry of Finances was restored. Moreover, paving in granite slabs was laid down, completing repair work to archway passage No. 2.
In 2003, in accordance with the architectural construction task set by the Committee for State Control of the Use and Preservation of Monuments, restoration work of various types was done to the facade of the General Staff building. The work was led by the Compagnie Meridionale, a French company specializing in repair and restoration of facades and buildings. The stucco work was restored and the walls were repainted. Windows, doors and gates were all repaired. The gilding of balcony and loggia balusters was restored, and all marble components were replaced. The cast-iron balusters on the balustrade were cleaned and painted.
The restoration work was financed by the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, the Committee for State Control of the Use and Preservation of Monuments and by the holding company Interros, which is the largest Russian partner of the State Hermitage. The Society of American Friends of the Hermitage also contributed substantially to achieving the project.
In May 2003 the Hermitage restaurant in the Eastern wing of the General Staff building was opened to the public. Its ten rooms, each of which is decorated in its own style, comprise a total surface area of 1,500 square metres. They are joined by a gallery which runs through the entire restaurant and which will be used to exhibit works by contemporary artists. The decoration of the interiors makes use of paintings, sculpture, light fixtures and other design elements making reference to rooms and halls in the Hermitage.