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Archive for July, 2010

The Academy of Arts

The building of the Academy of Arts on the Vasilyevsky Island Embankment, the construction of which began in 1765, was intended for the three main arts – painting, sculpture and architecture. Copies of the ancient statues of Hercules and Flora over the entrance and the shape of the building itself remind us of the two styles, Baroque and Classicism, predominant in St Petersburg architecture in that period. The project of the building was designed by Jean-Baptiste Vallin de La Mothe, invited from France in 1759, and the Russian architect Alexander Kokorinov (they are regarded as founders of Classicism in Russian architecture). A transition from one style to the other reflects the changes that took place in society.

The University Embankment. The Academy of Arts. 1764-88. Architects: Jean-Baptiste Vallin de la Mothe, Alexander Kokorinov

The Academy of Arts
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The Menshikov Palace

In 1709 Peter the Great presented Vasilyevsky Island to his favourite associate, the “Most Illustrious Prince” Alexander Menshikov, and soon a beautiful palace, the “Prince’s Home”, one of the earliest masonry building in St Petersburg, began to grace the area.

The University Embankment. The Menshikov Palace. 1710-21. Architects: Giovanni Mario Fontana, Johann Gottfried Schadel, Andreas Schluter, Bartolomeo Carlo Rastrelli and others (interiors). 1730s-1740s. Architect: Domenico Trezzini

The Menshikov Palace

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The Kunstkammer. The Custom-House

On return from his travel around Western Europe in 1698, where he saw Cabinets of Curios, Peter the Great took a decision to establish such a museum in Russia. He wanted to have a special building constructed for it, the house of learning and rarities or, as they said in those days, the “House of Solomon”, after the wise Israel king.

The University Embankment. The Kunstkammer.
Architect: Sawa Chevakinsky. Architects: Georg Mattarnovi, Nicholaus HArbel,
Gaetano Chiaveri, Mikhail Zemtsov

The Kunstkammer
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The Rostral Columns

There are two Rostral Columns on the square in front of the Stock Exchange. The 32-metre high red brick towers or lighthouses were used for their direct designation from 1727 until the middle of the nineteenth century, when a port was functioning at the Spit of Vasilyevsky Island. Inside the massive shafts of the rostral columns are winding staircases leading upstairs and there, on platforms, bowl-shaped lamps are fixed on metal tripods.

The Spit of Vasilyevsky Island. The Rostral Columns.
Architect: Jean-Francois Thomas de Thomon; sculptors: Joseph Camberlain, Philippe Thibault, stone carver Samson Sukhanov 

The Rostral Columns


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The Stock Exchange

The grand ensemble of the Spit of Vasilyevsky Island, one of the most spectacular in St Petersburg, forms the central link in the panoramic view of the Neva embankments. The smooth river surface between Hare Island and the left-hand bank of the Neva looks like a majestic water square framed with fine ensembles of the city’s central squares, but the Spit of Vasilyevsky Island had not always had its present-day appearance.

The Spit of Vasilyevsky Island. The Stock Exchange.
Architect: Jean Francois Thomas de Thomon

The east facade of the building is adorned with the sculptural groups
Neptune with Two Rivers and Navigation with Mercury and Two Rivers

The Stock Exchange
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Vasilyevsky Island

Enjoying the panoramic view of Vasilyevsky Island that has preserved its unique architectural legacy of the three centuries, one can hardly imagine that elks abounded in this locality and so the island was called Elk Island (“Hirvisaari in Finnish”) In the fifteenth century the Novgorod governor Vasily Selezen had his estate here. Having founded the citadel-city, Peter the Great placed an artillery battery under the command of Vasily Kormchin at the edge of the island and the Tsar used to begin his letters “To Vasily on the island.” It is unknown today,
to which of the two Vasilys the island owes its name. In the 1710s Peter the Great took a decision to make Vasilyevsky Island the centre of the developing capital and to arrange governmental establishments called collegia on it.
Panoramic view of Vasilyevsky Island

Panoramic view of Vasilyevsky
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