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Project for the restoration of large-format paintings stored on rollers

The Hermitage collection of paintings formed over three centuries, beginning with the gallery founded by Catherine II. By the end of that Empress’s reign, the collection already contained more than 2,000 works of painting. In addition, Catherine the Great and all her successors on the throne commissioned paintings for the decoration of their residences. Mainly those were large-format portraits and huge paintings on battle subjects, reflecting the victories of the Russian army and navy.

During the First World War, and again during the Great Patriotic War, the paintings were evacuated. The large-format paintings, with a height and width of several meters were put onto rollers and not always returned afterwards to their original place of storage.

During the Soviet period, for well-known reasons, portraits of members of the House of Romanov were not exhibited and some of them had been damaged during the revolution.

The storage of canvases on rollers was for the most part a forced, temporary measure due to the needs of transportation and lack of conditions, in particular lack of space to store the paintings in a different way.

In the late 1940s and 1950s many large-format paintings accumulated in the stores of the State Hermitage and, unfortunately, their restoration remained impossible for a long time.

The Creation of the Staraya Derevnya Restoration and Storage Centre

In 2003, a branch of the Laboratory for Scientific Restoration of Easel Painting was opened at the State Hermitage’s new Restoration and Storage Center of the State Hermitage in Staraya Derevnya. The restorers had the opportunity to begin working on the large-format paintings kept on rollers in the museum’s storerooms for many years. The total area of the laboratory is 540 square metres, making it possible to work on canvases measuring up to five by ten metres. After removing paintings from the rollers, the specialists carry out the necessary restoration measures using state-of-the-art equipment. The result of this complex work will be the appearance in the halls of the Hermitage of paintings which are as yet unknown to the wider public.

With the financial support of patrons, the State Hermitage has embarked on a project to check the state of preservation of paintings stored on rollers.

With the support of the Royal Bank of Scotland, a portrait of Countess Tatyana V. Yusupova (1841) by the Scottish painter Christina Robertson (1796–1854) measuring 231.2 by 148.3 cm, was restored and presented on 23 November 2009.

The support of the Bank of America permitted the restoration of three paintings by the Danish artist Vigilius Eriksen (1722-1782): a Portrait of Catherine II in Her Coronation Robes,  a Portrait of Grigory Grigoryevich Orlov in Roman Costume, and a Portrait of Alexei Grigoryevich Orlov in Turkish Costume.

These paintings were removed from their rollers and restored in the new laboratory.

  • Portrait of T. Yusupova before restoration
  • Portrait of T. Yusupova after restoration
  • Portrait of Catherine II in Her Coronation Robes before restoration
  • Portrait of Catherine II in Her Coronation Robes after restoration
  • Portrait of Grigory Grigoryevich Orlov in Roman Costume before restoration
  • Portrait of Grigory Grigoryevich Orlov in Roman Costume after restoration
  • Portrait of Alexei Grigoryevich Orlov in Turkish Costume before restoration
  • Portrait of Alexei Grigoryevich Orlov in Turkish Costume after restoration
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Currently, the list of Hermitage paintings still stored on rollers numbers 83 items.

The programme for unrolling and restoring paintings is being carried out with the support of our Friends and patrons.

The project does not have a fixed deadline for completion, since the work is being carried out gradually as sponsorship funds become available.

Contact:

Fedorov Evgeny
 
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