MOSCOW, May 31. /TASS/. Exactly on this day fifteen years ago, the Catherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo [the town of Pushkin currently incorporated in St Petersburg] celebrated a landmark event - the opening of the replicated Amber Room in the majestic Catherine Palace.
The original Amber Room was made in Germany under the guidance of Andreas Schluter, Gottfried Wolfram, Ernst Schacht, and Gottfried Turau from 1701 through 1715. The customer was Friedrich I of Prussia who initially planned installing it in Charlottenburg Palace. Eventually, the amber panels were installed at Berlin City Palace.
The masters used amber in the facing panels, ornamental boards and decorations.
Friedrich Wilhelm I who ascended the throne in 1716 presented the Amber Room to Czar Peter I of Russia. In response, he received from Peter a group of 55 Russian grenadier soldiers and a cup Russian Czar had cut out personally of ivory.
The disassembled room was delivered to St Petersburg in 1717 and reassembled in the lower lounge of the Visiting Chambers [dismantled in 1801] in the Summer Garden where Peter I also kept his collections and the library.
Peter’s daughter, Empress Elizabeth ordered ‘ameliorations’ in the composition of the room by adding more decorations to it. She also moved it to the Winter Palace. Master Alessandro Martelli ‘ameliorated’ the room under the supervision of arch-architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli.
Since the amber parlor of the Winter Palace had a much bigger size than the similar parlors in German palaces, Rastrelli added new details - he separated the panels and put pilasters with mirrors in gilded frames between them.
The Amber Room was moved to the newly built Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo in 1755. Over there, Rastrelli placed into a bigger hall than in the Winter Palace. It had the floor space of 96 square meters. Wall height totaled 7.5 meters while the height of the amber boards did not exceed 4.75 meters.
Rastrelli added another six pilasters with mirrors to the composition and filled the remaining spaces with painted imitations of amber. Besides, he decorated the upper tier with gilded woodcarving.
Maria Theresia, the Empress of the Holy Roman Empire, presented Empress Elizabeth with Florentine mosaics by Giuseppe Zocchi showing the allegories of human senses Taste, Eyesight, Hearing, Touching and Scenting - which Rastrelli placed in the center of the four largest boards.
In 1763, the next Russian ruler, Catherine II ordered to replace the paintings with amber mosaics. The masters invited from Konigsberg and their Russian apprentices produced the supplementary details by 1770, using 450 kg of amber for the purpose. These elements united all the fragments of the decor into a single composition.
The decorative parquet in the room was made of fine woods. To make the premise still more impressive, the architects put there the plated commodes, also made of primary timber.
Amber proved to be a rather fragile material that responded erratically to the fluctuations of temperatures, stove heating and drafts. Its sensitiveness to these and other factors demanded small restoration works that took place in 1833, 1865, from 1893 through 1897, and in the post-revolutionary times from 1933 through 1935.
The directorate of the museum, which the Catherine Palace reported to after the Revolution of 1917, scheduled a major restoration for 1941. They had to scrap the plans, however, because of Nazi Germany’s invasion and the beginning of armed operations on the Soviet front that the Russians refer to as the Great Patriotic War.
The fragility of the material made it impossible to evacuate the Amber Room from the Catherine Palace in the first months of the war. The directorate decided to conserve the amber panels on the spot - to paste them up with paper and then with cheesecloth.
German troops seized the town of Pushkin on September 17, 1941. A commission for arts [Kunstkomission] that commanded the removal of the works of art to Germany was active on the occupied territories. It worked in compliance with the lists drawn up back at home in advance.
Nazi experts apparently were not overburdened by the problem of amber fragility. On October 14, 1941, they put the panels down and transported them to the Castle of Konigsberg [nowadays Kaliningrad, Russia] where these amber masterpieces stayed until 1944.
When the Nazi troops were pulling out of East Prussia, the Amber Room was disassembled once again. Bombing raids turned the Castle of Konigsberg into ruins. The subsequent place of keeping of the panels remains unclear to this day.
The Central Commission for the Storage of Exhibits at Leningrad’s Suburban Palaces said in 1951 that the Nazi occupation had led to a loss of 30,151 museum items in the Catherine Palace.
The search for the Amber Room that was in progress from 1967 through 1984 did not produce any results. One of the versions suggested that the Germans had packed the panels into wooden boxes and had taken them out of the Castle of Konigsberg to an unknown destination. The other version held it that the panels had vanished in a fire.
Dozens of various suppositions regarding the whereabouts of the amber treasure were made over years but none of them received confirmation.
The Council of Ministers of the then Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic passed a decision in July 1979 to start works for replicating the Amber Room. They took up a whole 24 years.
Architect Alexander Kedrinsky designed the reconstruction project. Experts from the specially organized Tsarskoye Selo Amber Workshop recreated the room’s composition on the basis of photos made at the very end of the 1939.
Efforts taken by various organizations made it possible to return two original elements of the decorations - the Touching and Scenting mosaic and a plated commode - to the palace in 2000. They had been found in Germany.
The workshop received 6 tonnes of amber from the largest deposit on the Baltic Sea, which is located in the Kaliningrad region of Russia.
The works cost $ 11.35 mln. The German corporation Ruhrgas provided $ 3.5 million of that amount.
On May 31, 2003, Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Federal Chancellor Gerhardt Schroder led the ceremony of the first public presentation of the reconstructed Amber Room.