In the middle of the XVIII century. baroque art in Russia reached its peak. Architects increasingly turned to European artistic heritage. Lush Baroque architecture spread throughout Russia, but the brightest architectural creations were concentrated in the new capital of the Russian state – St. Petersburg.
A significant contribution to the development of architecture in Russia was made by Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli (1700-1771) – the son of the sculptor B. K. Rastrelli, Italian by origin, who was born in France. Having received his education abroad, he then worked only in Russia, which became his second homeland. Everything that he built in Russia aroused admiration and enthusiastic assessments of his contemporaries. The poet and diplomat A.D. Kantemir (1708-1744) wrote about the works of the outstanding architect:
“Count Rastrelli … is a skilled architect. His inventions in decoration are magnificent, the look of his building is kazist, in a word, the eye can have fun in what he built. “
The architect’s creations, which shaped the image of palace Petersburg and the royal country residences of the Elizabethan baroque era, are enthusiastic odes to the glory of the power and prosperity of the Russian statehood. The characteristic techniques of F.B. Rastrelli’s style were: contrasting juxtaposition of shapes and volumes, the rhythm of verticals, the effect of visual oscillation of the wall plane, the use of plasticity of double columns, retreating and retracting projections (part of the building protruding beyond the main line of the facade), the use of statues, flowerpots, gaps of huge windows, volutes, oval windows. The originality of the architect’s style is the combination of elements of rococo and European classicism in the baroque ensemble. At the same time, he creatively embodied the centuries-old traditions of ancient Russian architecture and folk art (five-glauces in temple architecture, polychrome,abundance of gilding, floral ornament, decorativeness).
Rastrelli’s architectural masterpieces include the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg (1754-1762), country residences – the Grand Palace in Peterhof (1745-1755) and the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoe Selo (1752-1757), the private city palaces of MI Vorontsov (1749- 1757) and the Stroganovs (1752-1754), as well as churches and monasteries – St. Andrew’s Church in Kiev (1748-1762) and the Smolny Monastery in St. Petersburg (1748-1754).
The most brilliant creation of Rastrelli that adorns the city center on the Neva is the Winter Palace, which now houses the world famous art museum, the State Hermitage.
The structure, complex in its outlines, according to the author’s plan, approached the shape of a rectangle with a closed courtyard (block-square). The total length of the facades, which was 210 m, emphasized the colossal scale of the building. But how can you avoid boring monotony and monotony in their design? Meanwhile, none of the facades repeated the other, in certain angles (from a distance or at close range) each was perceived in its own way, since it was decorated in a special way with columns, sculptural masks, vases and statues. The facade overlooking the embankment of the Neva was designed for viewing from a distance, while the opposite, essentially the most important, was oriented towards the front Palace Square, facing the city. It consisted of three risalits, the middle of which was cut through by arched entrances leading to a huge front yard.The main entrance was located in the northern building: the carriages of the Empress and her guests solemnly drove up to it. Through a huge gallery they climbed the Ambassadorial Staircase, from the upper platform of which the entrance to the ceremonial halls of the palace opened.
I could not help but admire the general aspiration of the building upward. In addition to the fact that the palace was one of the tallest structures, the architect visually increased this effect. On the facade of the building, he placed the columns in groups, then in pairs, then alone, and always in two tiers, strictly above each other. Moreover, at the level of the roof, there was a balustrade with stone sculptures and vases, placed so that they visually continued the vertical of the columns. The varied rhythm of the columns, the torn pediments, the fusion of the decor of the lower tier with the upper tier imparted the effect of incessant movement to the facade.
An important emotional factor influencing the audience was the elegant color scheme of the facade, based on the comparison of the pale terracotta tone of the walls, white trunks of columns and pilasters, golden capitals, various decorative sculptures and gilding of metal lace of balcony gratings. The most important places in the decoration of the building were occupied by symbols of the imperial power and Russian statehood. Striking is the drawing of the frames of the huge windows (22 types!), In the design of which the imagination of the architect-decorator seemed to know no boundaries.
The palace buildings were striking in their size and splendor of the interior decoration. The palace had more than 1050 separate rooms and rooms, 1886 doors, 1945 windows and 177 staircases. The ceremonial interiors had an abundance of color, stucco and pattern; they are full of movement created by the glare of sunlight and reflections from many mirrors. Everything here sparkled and shimmered, creating dazzling luxury and solemn grandeur.
Rastrelli’s remarkable creation was not completed by the master himself. The construction of the Winter Palace required a lot of money, which was often not in the Russian treasury. Other architects continued to complete and decorate the palace.
The Cathedral of the Smolny Monastery was commissioned to the master by Empress Elizaveta Petrovna. The traditional Russian five-domed, embodied in the pretentious forms of the Baroque, here organically merged with the main volume of the building. The middle head of the cathedral is a high two-height dome, topped with an onion head on a light drum. Four high two-story towers, almost closely pressed against the central dome, give the five-domed an amazing solidity and power.
The decoration of the cathedral is striking in its elegance. Clear ledges of the walls, decorated with beams of columns, pediments of various shapes, softly rounded volutes, overhanging cornices, create an expressive play of light and shadow. White details on a blue, azure background of the walls, an abundance of gilding on domes and domes, capitals, garlands and cartouches emphasize the magnificently found ratio of forms and proportions of the building. The cathedral, which has an equal-pointed cross plan, looks equally good from all sides.
The construction of the cathedral, like the entire ensemble of the monastery, was not completed by Rastrelli. Catherine II, who ascended the throne, was carried away by other plans. The baroque ceased to meet the requirements of the latest fashion, the preferences and tastes of the court and the empress herself. In Russia, a new architectural style began its triumphant march – classicism. The great architect was out of work. In 1763 he resigned and left Petersburg.