Thursday, February 3, 2011

Summer Garden...

The Summer Garden in St Petersburg is located where the Fontanka River flows out of the Neva River. It was founded in 1704 by order of Peter the Great, who was personally involved in planning it, and is laid out according to strict geometrical principles.
The Summer Garden is home to marble statues acquired from Europe especially for Russia's new capital, and also to rare flowers and plants, as well as fountains. It was a traditional location for courtly life outside the palace, and balls were held here by the nobility, who also enjoyed simply taking the air in the Garden

Above: The Muse Euterpe "Giver of Delight"
In 1777 the Summer Garden was severely damaged by flooding: Several statues were destroyed and fountains broken. However, it was soon restored to its original regular plan. Today its avenues are adorned by 79 sculptures by Italian sculptors of the 17th and 18th centuries, including Boratta, Bozzazza, and many others - the oldest collection of garden statues in Russia. And the selection of mythological themes in the statues is no accident, as the images of the gods and heroes of Antiquity reflected the ideas underpinning Peter the Great's state and the city's metamorphosis.

Above: Ceres, goddess of grain and the harvest

Below: The goddess Athena

Above: Architectura (muse of architecture)

Below: Apollo Belvedere

Above: Julius Caesar

The Summer Garden is also the location of Peter the Great's first Summer Palace, built by the great Italian architect Domenico Trezzini and still there today.
This Summer Palace - a two storey Dutch-styled building with a high roof and comparatively modest interior - was one of St. Petersburg's first stone palaces. Its original interiors have been preserve to this day.
I was reminded of the Summer Garden and all of its statues when we bought our first statue for Willowbrook. It is a statue of Bacchus. We chose it because of the deity's mythological connection to the countryside and to the harvest. Here is a (rather poor) photo of it taken last Winter...
Bacchus or Dionysus, was the god of the grape harvest, of wine and wine making, of ritual madness and parties (bacchanalia), and was also the driving force behind Greek theatre. He was worshipped from c. 1500—1100 BC by Mycenean Greeks. Other traces of Dionysian-type cult have been found in ancient Minoan crete.
Above: Bacchus, satyrs, a goat and a maenad: a pretty typical party really!
His origins are uncertain, and his cults took many forms; some are described by ancient sources as Thracian, others as Greek. In some cults, he arrives from the east, as an Asiatic foreigner; and in others, fromEthiopia in the South. He is a major, popular figure of Greek mythology and religious life, being one of the twelve Olympians.
Above: Nymphs offering the young Bacchus wine, by van Everdingen
Below: A Bacchinale by Nicolas Poussin
The earliest cult images of Dionysus show a mature, bearded and robed male. He holds a fennel staff, tipped with a pine-cone and known as a thyrsus. Later images show him as a beardless, sensuous, naked or half-naked youth: the literature describes him as womanly.
Above: The Feast of Bacchus by Peter Paul Reubens
In its fully developed form, his central cult imagery shows his triumphant, disorderly arrival or return, as if from some place beyond the borders of the known and civilized. His procession is made up of wild female followers, maenads and bearded satyrs. Some are armed with the thyrsus, some dance or play music.
Above: The Triumphe of Bacchus by Annibale Carracci
The god himself is drawn in a chariot, usually by exotic beasts such as lions or tigers. This procession is presumed to be the cult model for the human followers of his Dionysian Mysteries / Bacchanalia. In his Thracian mysteries, he wears the bassaris or fox-skin, symbolizing a new life.

Above: Another bacchinale (I think also by Poussin)

Below: Midas and Bacchus by Nicolas Poussin

Below: A bacchanale ? Artist

One of my favourite composers is Camille Saint-Saens. His opera Samson and Dalila is sublime and features one of my most cherished arias, the arrestingly beautiful Mon cœur s'ouvre à ta voix (Dalila's love song to Samson). The opera also contains a wonderful orchestral poem/dance of a ritual Bacchanale which has overtones of Greece, Egypt and the East...Saint-Saens' Bacchanale from "Samson et Dalila"...


  1. I think the summer gardens are gorgeous and must have been very well used. But summer is a fairly shortish season in St Petersburg, so what did they do for the other 10 months of the year? Could gardeners tend the vast garden spaces in winter? Could rare flowers and plants survive the harsh cold inside glass houses?

  2. I have been through most of Russia, The summer palace was breathtaking.

    I hope you are O.K. with the earth quake . ,

  3. I'm sorry if my English is so bad that I do not understand.

    This Summer Palace project 1740h Rastrelli's was wooden boards painted with a marble. Because of disrepair it was demolished and built St. Michael's Castle, designed by Brenna at the end of 1790h.
    A summer garden after a flood in 1774 no longer cut and made an English park

  4. Dear Yvonne,

    Thank you for your comment:

    "Just saw the news on Earthquake.
    Thought of you and lovely home. I pray all is well with you. My thoughts are with you".

    Luckily we are well away from the site of the quake, but NZ is reeling from the shock and devastation.

    There has been a lot of support and kind wishes. Thank you to every one.

    David Lord Cowell


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...