The Mosaic Magic of St Isaacs Cathedral – St. Petersburg
(4 min read) St. Petersburg is home to some of the biggest Christian Orthodox churches in Eastern Europe, housing a glittering array of lustrous artwork, incredible architecture and biblical scenes depictions.
St Isaacs Cathedral is by far the largest and most world-renowned for its stunning mosaic décor. The gorgeous, classic, decorative wall art that envelopes the interior of St Isaacs actually inspired the revival of mosaic art in Russia in the 19th Century, adding up to 62 separate masterpieces in total, covering 500 square meters!
The bottom level of St Isaacs is adorned with mosaics based on sketches by T. A Neff; depicting linen-robed saints and famous, dramatic biblical scenes among its grand gold pillars and marble walls.
The second tier of the cathedral focuses on the “Passions of Christ” and the four evangelists.
The mosaic replacements were an ingenious way to re-imagine classic church art, the holy scenes could be reconceptualized. Placing tile and smelt where oil paint used to reside protected the mural art from fading, water damage and surged the interior with a unique style.
A beautiful example of this mosaic replacement is the portrayal of “The Last Supper”; referenced with sketches from mosaic artists I.P Kudrin, the decorative wall art is gorgeously renaissance, echoing towards Leonardo Da Vinci’s own conceptualization of the biblical scene.
To achieve the wonderfully rich color palate; a complex series of techniques were used; small pieces of colored smalti in over 12 000 colors were used to achieve the rich color gradients in skin and metallic tones, creases in clothing and lighting effects, meticulously placed to achieve a perfect effect when viewed from afar. A similar effect can be seen in more complex pixelated art which comes together to form a gradient when viewed at a distance, regardless of its individual tiles.
The decorative wall art in St Isaac’s is renowned for its perfection, the quality of craftsmanship involved granted it high praise in the 1862 World Exhibition; London; where it was noted that the Russians “reached perfection in the making of smalti unmatched elsewhere in Europe”.
When we look at the incredibly intricate portrayal of biblical mosaic fresco, we see blood under sheer skin, glistening eyes, deep textures in fine robes; the work of true mosaic mastery.
Are you feeling inspired to enrich your soul with the decorative wall art of orthodox Eastern Europe?
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