Friday, May 7, 2010

Russia - The Summer Garden

Sent by Ksenia, a postcrosser from St. Petersburg in Russia. This postcard shows the Summer Gardens.

This is from Wikipedia : The Summer Garden (Russian: Ле́тний сад, Letniy Sad) occupies an island between the Fontanka, Moika, and the Swan Canal in Saint Petersburg and shares its name with the adjacent Summer Palace of Peter the Great.

The park, first conceived by Peter in 1704, was laid out by foreign garden planners between 1712 and 1725 in a Dutch Baroque style. Three years later, the walks were lined with a hundred allegorical marble sculptures, executed by Francesco Penso, Pietro Baratta, Marino Gropelli, Alvise Tagliapietra, and other Venetian sculptors. In the late 20th century, 90 surviving statues were moved indoors, while modern replicas took their place in the park.

The sequence of patterned parterres, originally more formal than the current landscape, were the site of Imperial assemblies, or lavish parties which often included balls, feasts, and fireworks. Apart from the statuary, a major park attraction were the fountains, the oldest in Russia, representing scenes from Aesop's fables. Some of these fell out of use and were demolished after the 1777 inundation which destroyed the fountain machinery acquired by Peter the Great in Britain.

A delicate iron-cast railing, separating the park from the public walk of the Palace Embankment, was installed between 1771 and 1784 to a design by Georg von Veldten. The grille is suspended between 36 granite columns crowned with urns and vases. The poet Anna Akhmatova, among others, considered the grille to be a pinnacle of art-casting and one of the symbols of St Petersburg.

In the 1820s, a grotto pavilion, attributed to Andreas Schlüter and Georg Johann Mattarnovy, was rebuilt into a coffee house. On the bank of the Carp Pond, a magnificent porphyry vase, a gift of Charles XIV of Sweden to the tsar, was installed in 1839. Fifteen years later, a famous monument to the children's writer Ivan Krylov was opened in the park. A sign of the progress of Romanticism in Russian official culture, it was the first monument to a poet erected in Eastern Europe.

On 4 April 1866 Dmitry Karakozov made the first attempt to assassinate the tsar when he walked out of the Summer Garden. As the attempt proved abortive, a ponderous memorial chapel in a Russian Revival style was built over the gate. This rather incongruous attachment was demolished by the Bolsheviks after the October Revolution.

The park, once chosen by Alexander Pushkin as a setting for childhood walks of the fictional character Eugene Onegin, remains one of the most romantic and evocative places in St Petersburg.

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