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Restoration of the Multitiered Church Chandelier from the Turnery of Peter I (First Stage)

Multitiered church chandelier. Ivory, ebony, gilded bronze. Technique: turning. 225 × 120 × 120 cm

This multitiered church chandelier (panakadilo) for 27 candles was created in the court turnery of Peter the Great in 1723–26 with the personal participation of the Tsar. There are good grounds for considering it the most important product of Peter’s turnery and one of the most outstanding examples of turned “art”.

The chandelier “was intended by the Sovereign for the Cathedral Church of Peter and Paul that he had built in the Saint Petersburg fortress” and was hung in the cathedral across from the Royal Gates of the iconostasis in 1733. Later the chandelier was transferred to the Kunstkammer along with the remaining items personally associated with Peter I and installed in a special “turnery room”. When the Hermitage’s Department of the History of Russian Culture was created, this item augmented its stocks as part of the Peter the Great memorial collection.

The design of the chandelier is in accordance with the standard construction of such lighting devices at that time. The central shaft is composed of variously shaped pieces of turned elephant ivory together with ebony disks mounted on a metal rod. The four tiers are made of turned ivory parts all of the same type: fluted semicircular rods and cross-shaped pieces that connect them. Between the second and third tiers on the shaft there is a sphere with four round apertures, set into which are four ebony medallions. Three of these reproduce medals produced to commemorate major events of Peter I’s era: the victory at Poltava (1709; medallist: Philipp Heinrich Müller), the naval victory at Gangut (1714; medallist: Philipp Heinrich Müller) and the death of Peter I (1725; medallist: Anton Schultz). The fourth medallion carries an inscription saying the same thing in both Russian and Latin: “The work of the industrious hands of Peter the Great, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias. 1723”.

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Inspection of the piece revealed general surface soiling, numerous places where glue had been used, losses of small ivory parts and cracks. There was noticeable deformation (sagging) of the arms and breakdown of the glue and the joints of the two halves of the bent arms around the metal core.

During the restoration the lost ivory parts will be recreated using mammoth tusks: elephants appear in the Red Book of Endangered Species and elephant ivory is a forbidden material, while mammoth tusk is available in Russia and has very similar properties to elephant ivory.

The project is being carried out in two stages.

The first stage entailed:

  • dismantling the chandelier into separate sections for safe transportation;
  • further separating all the sections into their individual parts: 830 ivory pieces and 26 made of ebony;
  • removing the failed adhesive;
  • regluing the breaks and gluing the cracks in the ebony and ivory pieces.

The main problem in removing the soiling of the ivory parts was dust ingrained in the cracks. The dust had to be removed before the sides of the cracks could be glued together. For high-quality removal of this type of soiling, a special method was developed using a type of medical device known as an irrigator.

The essence of the method is to first soften the soiling within the crack and then to wash it out using fine pulsed jets of pressurized distilled water provided by the irrigator. After drying and the application of alcohol, fish glue is inserted into the crack.

  • Washing the soiling out of the cracks
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  • During restoration
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A working group of State Hermitage staff for the restoration of the chandelier has been formed:

Grigory Yastrebinsky, scholarly supervisor, Keeper of the Department of the History of Russian Culture;

Vladimir Gradov, Head of the Laboratory for the Scientific Restoration of Furniture;

Yevgeny Feodorov, Head of the Project Development Department;

Agata Semionova and Yulia Selezneva – managers in the Project Development Department.

The project is carried out with the support of the PJSC Gazprom Neft