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THE WINTER PALACE.
the Admiralty. The general effect of the building is impressive, but the details seem to awaken confused reminiscences of all the epochs. The interior of the palace is a marvel of splendour; Oriental luxury and Occidental taste are both apparent everywhere. Curtains and tapestries of silk, satin, and damask, vast mirrors, ornaments of amber, lapis-lazuli, marble, and malachite, statues, paintings, and bronzes, are all mingled in unimaginable profusion.
The galleries and State apartments of the palace are approached by a gigantic marble staircase, on the side facing the Neva. In the first gallery are portraits of four hundred
Russian generals by an English painter-George Dawe. In the throne-room is an image of St. George ; before it burns continually a lamp of massive gold, suspended by chains of precious stones. The numerous splendid rooms are crowded with historic and other paintings. The drawing-room of the Empress has gilded walls and ceiling. In one room are deposited the Crown jewels. Here, on the imperial sceptre of Russia, gleams the great Orloff diamond, said to have once formed the eye of an idol in an Indian temple, and to have passed through various vicissitudes, till Count Orloff purchased it, and presented it to his imperial mistress. It is the largest of the Crown diamonds of Europe, weighs 185 carats, and is valued at 2,399,410 rupees, or nearly £380,000. The imperial crown of All the Russias is adorned with splendid jewels, to his two assistants. Above rises the tall and graceful structure, over sixty feet in height, bending at the top to conform to the curve of the vaulted roof. The design is exceedingly elegant, and the execution marvellous. In the successive storeys are represented the scenes of the Passion, the Last Supper, the Agony, the Scourging, the Parting from the Mother, the Crown of Thorns, the Supreme Sacrifice, the Resurrection, the Peace of Heaven. The artist who accomplished this wonderful piece of work, in friendly rivalry
of Vischer’s master-piece in the Sebaldkirche already alluded to, died in deep distress at a great age, in a hospital in Schwalbach.
The Frauenkirche belongs to the Roman Catholics. Forty years ago there were not 3,000 in the town, but amongst the poorer class it is said that of late years they have increased in a greater ratio than the Protestants. For centuries they were not allowed to hold property in the town. The Frauenkirche was built by the Emperor Charles IV. in 1361, on the site of an ancient Jewish synagogue.
It abounds with relievos, pictures, tombs, altars, fine glass windows, and sculptured niches. Porch and vestibule are richly decorated, and in the interior are many monuments from old Nuremberg churches that have been destroyed.
We must pass over St. Claire and St. Margaret, St. Martha and others. The
When the evening came, Nicholas sat in his box at the theatre. Seeing that another piece was being played instead of “Le Père de la Débutante,” he ordered the manager to be sent to him.
“What is this mystery ?” said the Czar. “I met Vernet on the Perspektive, and he told me he should play this evening, and I don't even see his name on the programme.”
“Sire, we are at our wits' end to know what to do. Vernet has disappeared.” “How disappeared ?”
“We have sought for him everywhere-at his home, and at the houses of his friends. No one can give any tidings of him. It has therefore been necessary to alter the programme. I fear some misfortune has befallen our friend.”
"It is impossible!” said Nicholas. Then suddenly striking his forehead, he exclaimed, "I see it! They have arrested him, it is evident. It is I who am the cause of all this."
By order of the Emperor, two aides-de-camp were despatched immediately to the police head-quarters, and presently they reappeared in the imperial box, followed by the comedian.
“My dear Vernet, I am very grieved," said the Czar. « Pardon me for this little affair. Tell me how I can recompense you. Ask what you please.”
“ Sire," said Vernet, sighing, and kissing the hand which the Emperor extended to him, “I certainly wish to ask one favour of you : it is that you will deign not to speak to me when you meet me in the street.”
Separated from the Winter Palace by a narrow street, and at the same time connected with it by three covered galleries on the first floor, stands the Hermitage : at first a pavilion, built by Catherine II. as a retreat from the cares of State, to which a picture-gallery and theatre were subsequently added. Catherine was an infidel, utterly devoid of principle, cruel and implacable to her enemies, and her private life was a tissue of vice and sensuality. But she was a woman of taste and culture; distinguished authors flattered her, and many of the literati and philosophers of France delighted to attend her Court, in which painters, sculptors, and architects, philosophers, savants, and poets were treated with special distinction. In the saloons of the Hermitage, Catherine gathered all that was best in Russia, and strove to leaven it with the culture and refinement of her foreign visitors. The rigorous etiquette of courts was suspended, and an easy freedom tolerated. But this freedom was regulated by a remarkable code of rules, drawn up by Catherine herself, and in substance as follows:
“Leave title and rank, as well as the bat, and especially the sword, outside ; also all rights of precedence, pride, or any similar feeling. Be gay, but do not break or spoil anything. Sit, stand, or walk at pleasure, without reference to any one. Talk moderately, and not so loud as to make other people's heads or ears ache. Argue without anger or excitement. Avoid sighs or yawns, for fear of causing ennui in others. Let all join in innocent games, by whoever proposed. Eat gently, but with appetite; drink moderately, that each may find his legs on going away. Tell no tales out of school ; let what enters at one ear go out at the other before going outside.”
These rules were enforced by penalties—drinking a glass of cold water, or reading aloud from an unpopular Russian poet. An offence against the last rule resulted in exclusion from the assemblies. Catherine herself set the example of urbanity and affable grace. Of course the reader will see that some of her rules were for the purpose of educating her semi-savage nobles; others were intended as hints to her foreign guests. Nothing was wanting for the entertainment of the company. The palace was decorated in French style, and was replete with all the minutiæ of elegance that Madame de Pompadour
had made so fashionable. Porcelain of the finest description was manufactured expressly for Catherine at the Sèvres manufactory. But when the architects and gilders and furnishers had done their work, Catherine perceived that her palace still lacked a very important refining influence, and that was pictures.
But, from Finland to the Crimea, there was not a picture in Russia worth having, and Catherine meant to have only the masterpieces of great painters. She set her emissaries to work in all the capitals of Europe, regardless of expense, and with such success, that when she died, in 1796, she left at the Hermitage 1,383 valuable paintings.
PETER THE GREAT'S COTTAGE.
Her successors have added to the museum as opportunity offered. In 1814, Alexander I. bought thirty-eight paintings, previously in the gallery of Josephine at Malmaison. In 1819, Nicholas became the possessor of the collection of Queen Hortense. Entire cabinets and museums have thus from time to time been bought up to enrich the Hermitage.
It would be foreign to our purpose to take the reader in detail through the rooms and galleries of the Hermitage. There are now in the collection about 1,740 pictures, selected from about 4,000, of which the remainder are in the various palaces. Of the Italian schools there are 333 pictures; of the Spanish, 115; of the Flemish, Dutch, and German, 914; of the English, 8; of the French, 172; of the Russian, 65. The great masters are well represented, Murillo by 20 pictures, Rubens by 60, Teniers by 40, and so on.
On the Court Quay stands the Marble Palace, or Orloff Palace, erected by Catherine, between 1770 and 1783, as a residence for Prince Gregory Orloff. It is a sombre building of massive granite (in spite of its name); the roof of sheet-copper is supported by iron beams, and gilded copper is used for the window-frames. The Taurida Palace was another construction of Catherine's, presented by her to Field-Marshal Potemkin after the conquest of the Crimea. He made it renowned by his magnificent entertainments. It was inhabited for a time by Louisa the Beautiful, Queen of Prussia, so beloved by her people, who visited Napoleon at Tilsit, and strove in vain to procure favourable terms for her bleeding country. It was afterwards inhabited by Khozra Mirza, the Persian envoy; and lastly, in 1830, by Oscar, the Crown Prince of Sweden. The Emperor Paul turned the palace into a barrack for his guards; but it became once more a royal residence under his successor. It is now a sort of Russian Hampton Court, inhabited by superannuated ladies of the Imperial Court. The Anatch koff Palace, the residence of the Heir Presumptive; the Summer Palace, on the island of Iclagin, and one or two others, call for no special remark.
There is one royal residence in St. Petersburg which, though decidedly not a palace, is well worthy of notice. Peter the Great's cottage was the first house built by him on the banks of the Neva, in 1703. “There is one sight,” says D. Mackenzie Wallace, “ which must have a deep interest for those who are sensitive to the influence of historical association. I mean the little wooden house in which Peter the Great lived while his future capital was being built. In its style and arrangement it looks more like the hut of a navvy than the residence of a Czar, but it was quite in keeping with the character of the illustrious man who occupied it. Peter could, and did occasionally, work like a navvy,
, without feeling that his imperial dignity was thereby diminished. When he determined to build a new capital on a Finnish marsh, inhabited chiefly by wild fowl, he did not content himself with exercising his autocratic power in a comfortable arm-chair. Like the old Greek gods, he went down from his Olympus, and took his place in the ranks of ordinary mortals, superintending his work with his own eyes, and taking part in it with his own hands. If he was as arbitrary and oppressive as any of the pyramid-building Pharaohs, he could at least say in self-justification that he did not spare himself any more than his people, but exposed himself freely to the discomforts and dangers under which thousands of his fellow-labourers succumbed."
The cottage stands not far from the citadel already described, and is a diminutive dwelling-place, measuring some fifty-five feet by twenty. The accommodation consists of two