Third lazurite portal to be installed in the Lyons Hall of the Catherine Palace

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Boris Iğdalov, Head of the Lyons Hall restoration project

The reconstruction of the third lazurite portal has been completed, and will soon be installed in the Lyons Hall of the Catherine Palace. For its construction, it took more than 200 kilograms of lapis lazuli, and dozens of people, eight months to complete. The portal was made in the famous Amber Workshop at Tsarskoye Selo, where the Amber and Agate rooms were recreated by a team of experts and artists.

The Lyons Hall was created by the architect Charles Cameron in 1781 – 1783 and was named after the elegant walls, which were made with silk, manufactured in Lyon, France. The room was one of the private apartments of the Empress Catherine II, along with the Arabesque and Chinese halls, the Silver and the Blue rooms.

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The reconstruction of the third lazurite portal is presented at a press conference 

The Lyons Hall featured bright Lyon gold silk, and rich blue lapis lazuli – creating a combination of luxury and impeccable taste. The blue lapis lazuli is mined in the Baikal region of Siberia, as well as from the north-east provinces of Afghanistan.

The Lyons Hall was lost during the Second World War. The legendary art historian Anatoly Mikhailovich Kuchumov (1912-1993) was here on April 27, 1944. He wandered among the ruins of the Catherine Palace and found pieces of charred lapis lazuli on the floor of the former Lyons Hall. He recovered 25 pieces of lapis lazuli and a chandelier. Three gilded bronze and lapis lazuli portals, as well as the Lyons silk, perished in the shelling and subsequent fire.

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The Lyons Hall as it looked at the end of the Great Patriotic War

The Nazis had stolen the parquet floor of the Lyons Hall “made from twelve varieties of rare woods”, inlaid with mother of pearl. It was discovered in 1947 in Berlin and returned to Tsarskoye Selo. The original parquet floors are currently being restored, and once completed, will be reinstalled in the hall. 

The Lyons Hall was recreated when the Catherine Palace was rebuilt after the Great Patriotic War. The interior restoration project of the Lyon Hall was prepared in 1983 under the guidance of the unique architect-restorer, the chief architect of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve Alexander Kedrinsky, who also initiated the project for the reconstruction of the Amber Room. Sadly, however, the restoration of the Lyons Hall sat idle for many years. The museum required three and a half tons of lapis lazuli, and genuine Lyon silk – made be the same manufacturer, using the same technology, in order to recreate the golden shining, weaving garlands and branches, pheasants, peacocks and swans. In 2013, the Trans-soyuz Charitable Foundation provided the museum with the necessary funding. 

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A gilded element of the lazurite portal

The walls of the hall will once again be decorated with Lyons silk. “It is made for us as a gift in Lyon. According to the texture and color, the material fully corresponds to the historical one. We still have fragments of the original. Now we are waiting for delivery, then we will start cutting and sewing,” said artist and restorer Alexander Soloviev.

In the Tsarskoye Selo Amber Workshop panels and elements of the portal are spread on a large table. Boris Iğdalov, the head of the restoration workshop, says that the reconstruction of the portals: “Is complicated, each element went through a long process of creation and coordinating.” First you need to draw, then sculpt, then create a cast, then consult with the museum experts advice, and finally, we can create the finished element from metal and then gild. When asked about the complexities and peculiarities of the work, Igdalov notes that the most difficult is keeping the workshop together. The average age of restorers – who became famous throughout the world, for the recreation of the Amber Room – are now approaching their sixties.

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Panels and elements of the lazurite portal are spread on a large table in the Amber Worshop

“Lapis lazuli is a complex material with many inclusions. You need to first select the raw materials, and then also cut it correctly to reveal the most beautiful areas. All work is done manually, using only a small mechanization. Architects, art historians, metalworkers, jewelers, stone cutters work on the portals – our teamwork, “said Igdalov.

The Lyons Hall is scheduled to open to visitors in June 2019.

Click HERE (includes VIDEO) to read more about the restoration of the Lyons Hall, and HERE to read about the installation of another lazurite portal in the in the Lyons Hall in March 2017.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 31 August 2018