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Card tables come home

A PROJECT REALISED ON THE BASIS OF INCOME GENERATED IN 2014 BY THE HERMITAGE ENDOWMENT FUND.

A pair of superb card tables, masterpieces of their kind dating from the 1760-1770s, have been acquired and restored by the Hermitage before taking their rightful place in the new permanent exhibition of "Russian Culture of the Second Half of the 18th century". This happy, but sadly rare, example of the homecoming of ’s artistic heritage was made possible thanks to the joint sponsorship of BP and the ‘Special Endowment Fund Management for the Development of the State Hermitage Museum’.

Before the Revolution, the tables were located in the Yusupov Palace on the Moika river, and were then transferred to the Hermitage along with other valuables. The 1920s saw the massive sale of artworks abroad from Soviet museums and these tables were among the treasures sold from the Hermitage. A Swiss collector found the two tables and reunited them. The Hermitage was able to buy them from him and return them to their homeland. Now visitors can admire these rare examples of the art of furniture making in theWinter palace. Eighteenth century card tables of this kind, with retractable legs, are rare.

The surface of the tables has rich marquetry decoration characteristic of Early Classicism. But the historic value of these examples of 18th century cabinetmaking, while confirming the extraordinary skill of Russian masters, is also a new source of information on the lifestyle of the Russian capital during the reign of Empress Catherine II (1762-1796). For example, almost nothing has been known about the production of cards in in the 18th century or what they looked like. The design of the marquetry table’s tops is a pattern of "scattered" cards. On one of them, a Queen of Clubs, the legend is engraved: "B.RAMBOIS & .. RA STPEHT..RSBOURG". Bertrand Rambois (Ramboa) was a "card manufacturer" working in St. Petersburg at this time. This card type, the so-called "French pattern", made its appearance in France in the 17th century. Each card with figures had its historical and mythological name. The picturesque layout of cards on the table-top, made in the "Trompe L‘oeil" style popular in the 18th century, may suggest that , first became fashionable at the Imperial Court of Catherine II. This seems to be the earliest use of "French pattern" cards recorded in Russian museums. This fact adds special value to the Hermitage‘s acquisitions.





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Card tables come home

A pair of superb card tables, masterpieces of their kind dating from the 1760-1770s, have been acquired and restored by the Hermitage..

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