The exhibition "Imperial St Petersburg from Peter the Great to Catherine II" opens in the Principality of Monaco's famous Grimaldi Forum on Saturday, July 17. The exhibition spans the city's history from its foundation by Tsar Peter the Great in 1703 to Empress Catherine II's death in 1796.
The icebound Neva river and a high wall of the Peter and Paul Fortress with its golden spire towering in the dim background - this image of the Northern Palmira, a name coined for the Russian Empire's capital city a long time ago, has been chosen as a highlight first drawing the eye of a visitor entering the exhibition.
Explaining his concept of the exposition, Francois Paillet, the exhibition's chief artistic designer, says that it is impossible to convey all the beauty and grandeur of St Petersburg by the means of a regular exhibition, so he "sought to primarily express the spirit of the epoch of great architectural accomplishments" when one of the world's largest cultural centres was emerging amidst faraway marshlands defying the forces of nature and attitudes of the public. The glory of this unique creation quickly transcended beyond Russia's borders.
The exhibition's artistic designer has laid special emphasis on using the contrast of dark and light spaces in the exposition to highlight his general concept. The public walks along dimly-lit passages before entering brightly illuminated exhibition halls displaying the best treasures of the famous Hermitage Museum. The unique exhibits reflect the very nature of the epoch selected for this insight into St Petersburg's past. As a result, the visitor's attention is wholly focused on the sumptuous antiques on display: paintings, sculptures, sets of tableware, tapestry, arms, furniture and jewellery.
In all, the 4,000 square meters of the exhibition features more than 600 unique exhibits. Moving from one display case to another, the visitor will suddenly be thrilled by the sight of a "window", lit up from within, breathtakingly opening on the Neva embankment - the effect is designed to immerse him/her yet further into the period's environment.
The halls of the exhibition are thematically arranged and dedicated respectively to Holy Russia, Peter the Great, Catherine II, St Petersburg, the Royal Court, scientific research, and artistic collections. It is like a miniature Hermitage.
"We sought to highlight the most important aspects so that the people who have never been to the magnificent city could get a vivid insight into its nature," the exhibition's commissioner, Brigitte de Monclaud, says. "I am sure the exhibits will encourage some visitors to go and see with their own eyes the Russian capital of the epoch of Peter the Great and Catherine II."
Madame de Monclaud shows such a profound knowledge of Russian history and Russian art in describing each of the exposition's exhibits that one feels absolutely convinced of the ultimate success of the exhibition to the benefit of its organizer, the Grimaldi Forum.
The exhibition is the highlight of an impressive festival of Russian culture scheduled to be held in the Principality of Monaco from July 17 to September 12, during the peak tourist season in this famous Mediterranean resort and gambling centre. Two bookstores in Monte Carlo are currently holding two exhibitions of Russia-related photographs: Russian photographer Mikhail Litvinov's works representing the Mariinsky (formerly Kirov) Theatre's ballets and his French colleague Ferrante Firranti's photographic streetscapes of St Petersburg.
On Friday, the Mariinsky Theatre presented the first of its three scheduled performances of "The Swan Lake" ballet on the stage of the Prince's Palace. In addition, the festival's program features performances by Russian rock and electro-pop groups as well as tellers of Russian folk fairy tales.
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