Mathilde HK at the expert talks – HK Museum of History: Restoration of the Tsarskoye Selo: the Project and Its Significance

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View of Katerina’s Palace and Park,Tsarskoye Selo, Pushkin

On Monday November 24th, Ms Bardovskaya Larisa (Head Curator, sarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve ) gave a public lecture on the ‘Restoration of the Tsarskoye Selo: the Project and Its Significance‘ at the Hong Kong Museum of History lecture Theater. That lecture was part of the Expert Talk programmes launched by the Museum.

Ms Bardovskaya Larisa is at the head of the curating teams of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve, in the town of Pushkin, next to St. Petersburg. She decided to give a detailed lecture on the works accomplished in the Tzars’ summer residences after WWII. The talk was divided in two parts: The layout of the rooms before 1941 and the destruction caused by both bombing and German soldiers during WWII. The restorations and methods of reconstruction from 1946 until nowadays: The rebirth of Tsarskoye Selo.

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The Golden Corridor, newly restored, Tsarskoye Selo

At the beginning,  Ms Bardovskaya came back on the origins of the palaces of Tsarskoye Selo and the determining role of Peter the Great’s daughter: the Tsarina Elisabeth, who created the baroque palaces known nowadays as Catherine’s palace. She described the key rooms of the palace, such as the Amber Chamber, offered by Frederik the Great of Prussia to Peter The Great in the XVIII th century, the Golden corridor linking the 54 reception rooms and anti-chambers of Katerina’s palace, the Painting room housing 300 Flemish, Italian and French canvases, The Chinese Boudoir furnished with porcelain and precious silk, and the Thrown or Reception Hall, displaying thousand of carved gilded figures and candles.

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The Painting Room, Tsarskoye Selo

The curator explained  that after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the Tzars city of Tsarskoye Selo became a national Museum, until 1941 and the invasion of German troupes. Although the Museum staff packed and removed the most precious items in August 1941, before the German’s arrival, they ran out of packaging material very soon and couldn’t remove the architectural decorations nor the huge pieces. The German troupes looted the place as they arrived in Tsarskoye Selo in September 1941 and dismantled the Amber chamber in order to send it to Austria for Hitler. They gathered the most precious works of Art in 5 carriages on a train which never arrived in Germany and is still missing today.

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Picture of Tsarskoye Selo in 1945

Many works were stolen and lost forever but the most damaging elements were the bombing over what was named Leningrad at that time. Some bombs touched Tsarskoye Selo and completely destroyed the Chinese boudoir, the second floor of the palace and its beautiful XVIII th century Reception Hall.

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Pictures of Tsarskoye Selo, second, floor after bombing.

Right after 1945, the museum staff went back to Tsarskoye Selo and discovered with horror what had happen to it.They first worked on closing back the many windows and roofs with temporary ceilings. A Cadet military school was also settled within the walls of the palace in 1954 and the cadets helped the staff in the gardens and rooms. The task was immense.
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About 3000 persons worked on cleaning Tsarskoye Selo in the 1950’s. Since 1946, a team of 53 experts and top quality artisans restored the place. 11 men were the key of such hard and difficult works. Local people also volunteered to clean it and send photos of the original rooms and facades to the curators for restoration purposes. It was very moving to follow the rebuilding of the place, especially the Reception hall, and to understand how they managed to find pieces of the rooms decorations, even 20 km away from the palace. Ms Bardovskaya also shared some nice stories with us. She mentioned two old German men who came back to Tsarskoye Selo taking some art pieces back to the collections.

The German government also donated 3.5 millions euros to Tsarskoye Selo in order to rebuild the Amber Chamber you can see today, identical to the original setting.

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The new Amber Chamber, Tsarskoye Selo

On Tsarskoye Selo at the Hong Kong Museum of History

Expert talk programmes for December 2014

10/12/2014 – Wed 15:00 – 16:00 Programmes for the Special Exhibition:
Decoupage Art: The Porcelain Plate in Tsarskoye Selo – in Cantonese
14/12/2014 – Sun 11:00 – 12:00Programmes for the Special Exhibition:
Story-telling Tour: The Imperial Life in Tsarskoye Selo – in Cantonese
07/12/2014 -Sun15:00-17:00
HKUST Public Humanities Lectures :Sonic Dialogues through
Time: How Debussy and Ravel Re-imagined Nineteenth Century Romanticism – in English
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