INSIGHT INTO THE PAST
"... This beautiful room has the same oval shape as the Reception Hall under it on the ground floor. Ten high columns, parallel to the walls, support an entablature. On it there is a wide gallery linking different places on the top (second) floor, and a balustrade decorated with busts of wize ancient men. Somewhat lower, at half column height, is an oval passage, connected to the galleries of all other rooms..."
Imperial Public Library Guidebook. 1860
The Library interiors, designed by Sokolov, combines classic elegancy with lustre. The Oval Room stood out in particular. Its second floor was especially remarkable because of a colonnade of ten Ionic columns which supported a gallery. The room has a gently sloping dome ceiling, its central part was beautifully decorated by modeled elements. Artificial marble columns and statues of ancient gods were placed against a background of heavy red curtains. Wooden parquet floors were covered with red carpets.
In the room there were showcases with rarities, and portraits in bronze frames hung on the walls. Three doors led from the room to a balcony of the main facade. This balcony provides a picturesque view of Nevsky Prospekt and Sadovaya Street.
This room is where the inauguration of the Library took place on 2nd January 1814. The event was attended by more than 214 people, including high officials, writers and scholars, ladies, members of the clergy and the library staff. Nikolai Gnedich, the poet and translator of Homer's Iliad, gave a speech Why Morality is Important in the Education of Youth. The famous fabulist Ivan Krylov read his new fable Divers. Library Director Alexey Olenin welcomed all the participants. The guests were presented with Rules for the Library Visitors, printed in Russian, Latin, German and French.
Unfortunately, the appearance of this room has changed a lot since then. To reduce the risk of fire, the architect Vasily Sobolshchikov removed the tall columns that adorned the room; wooden balustrades were replaced by cast-iron ones.
Today the room houses the Russian Books Collection.
Artist G. Chernetsov. 1826
Engraving by A. Ukhtomsky after the drawing by I. Ivanov. 1812-1814
Photo by I. Boldyrev. 1879
Photographer K. Bulla. 1895
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