I recently took a trip to St. Petersburg and Moscow with a friend who is an expert on the decorative arts in Russia (as well as France). Although I had already been to the former Soviet Union in the 80’s, and again in the 90’s, it was not until this trip that I could even begin to comprehend the vastness of the talent of the Russians in this field. We all know that Peter the Great turned his country westward, with a special regard for Italy and France, both for their architecture and the decorative arts. But while these leaders in the world of design were the source of inspiration and the reference for much that was created, there is something uniquely Russia in what I saw. I shall be writing about various aspects of Russian decor later on ( I saw soooo much and want to share it with you) My first impression was this. I think one of the most striking things I noticed was the Russian use of color. While France, Italy, England, the Austrian Empire had a lovely sophisticated sense of color, their use was more subtle. The vividness and mix of Russian colors was something I found very inspiring. I suppose their color sense seems to me to be more closely aligned with the great architect and designer Robert Adam, another favorite of mine. But the Russian palate is more vivid and more daring. Traditionally, particularly in fashion, but to a degree in interiors, bright colorings were found in more southern climates but I suppose the long frozen winters of Russia demanded color to help bring some light and gaiety into months of bleakness. The pictures below are just a few examples of color combinations that I found different.
The bright almost primary colors of red and blue coupled with a strong mint green is not a combination I have seen in either French, Italian, English or Swedish painted furniture. In those countries one sees celadon, pale blue, soft yellows and many shades of gray and white. Yes there are exceptions that one sees in Italy in particular the strong siennas, ochers and laspis blues in combination, but nothing like the color shown above.
Not even in Italy, the inventor and home of scagliola, have I ever seen such a clear lavender used in decor. That coupled with the color of the birch wood furniture is so strong and fresh. Look in the gallery below to see other combinations of colors I found fabulous.
My friend who exposed me to all this beauty is Emmanuel Ducamp and he has just publish the most beautiful book I have ever seen on St. Petersburg—a marvelous source for information and inspiration. May I suggest anyone who is looking for the most erudite and charming guide for France and Russia please feel free to contact us.