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Where Has the Amber Room Gone?
March 10, 2014 15:08


The Amber Room is a well-known 18th century stone-carving art masterpiece, which was lost track of during the Great Patriotic War.

The history of the Amber Room is really unique: it was completely studied, but nobody knows how it disappeared and whether it still exists. This famous dateas back to the 18th century, when the Prussian king Friedrich I decided to create an amazingly beautiful amber room in his residence Sharlottenburg. The best masters from all corners of the Prussian empire worked on creating it; however, the amber panels could cover only a little room. The decorated area was planned to take only about 70 sq m, however these plans of the king were not destined to come true: the work was interrupted by his death.

The glory of the Amber Room reached Russia as well: Peter I himself dreamed of gaining it for the cabinet of curiosities - the Kunstkamera Museum – and he made it. In 1716 parts of the Amber Room were presented to him by the new king of Prussia. However, in Peter's lifetime the Room was not restored: having seen that the gift was lacking lots of details, he lost interest in it. The Amber Room was revived by Empress Elizabeth, who after taking the throne decided to decorate her official residence at Tsarskoye Selo with this masterpiece. The well-known architect Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli was invited for this purpose and after masters’ work on it from 1743 to 1769 the Amber Room took its final shape.

At the beginning of World War II all exhibits of Catherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo were transported to Novosibirsk, away from the frontline. It was only the Amber Room that was left due to the fragility of its material and difficulties with transportation. However it was preserved: all its panels were carefully pasted with paper and gauze with cotton wool over it. Such care made the Amber Room an easy prey for the German invaders: it was taken away from Russia and from 1942 to 1944 was displayed in the Royal Castle of Konigsberg (now Kaliningrad). In 1944 an air assault raid by English troops caused a fire in the castle, however it is considered that the Amber Room did not suffer: its panels were packed and hidden in a cellar, where they were stored till the storm of Konigsberg by Soviet armies. Anyway, nobody has ever seen that stunning masterpiece since then.

The search for the Amber Room organized right after the end of the war had no effect.  Initially it was assumed that it burned away in ruins of the Royal Castle in Konigsberg, but after 1946 more and more suggestions that the Amber Room had survived the fire came to be expressed. 

In 1981 works on reconstruction of the Amber Room were started and were carried out till 1997.

Experts of the specially founded Tsarskoye Selo Amber Studio including art historians, chemists, criminalists, historians, and restorers worked on scientific reconstruction of the masterpiece of stone-carving art.

In 2000 fragments of the original Amber Room were found and transferred to Russia. It is the Florentine mosaic Smell and Touch, one of the four mosaics that were made by request of Catherine II in 1787, and the amber chest of drawers, which was made by Berlin handicraftsmen in 1711 and used to take one of the central places in the Room furnishing. In 1997 German authorities confiscated this mosaic from a certain notary, who had been given it by a German officer for temporary storage. The latter participated in taking the Amber Room away from Tsarskoye Selo.

In 2003 the Amber Room was completely reconstructed from Kaliningrad amber for the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg. Presently it can be visited in the Catherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo, St. Petersburg.


Author: Vera Ivanova

Tags: Amber Room Kaliningrad Tsarskoye Selo Konigsberg  

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