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Museum of the West Aviary

Leningrad region > Museum of the West Aviary

Museum of the West Aviary

Two pavilions-aviaries in the Lower Park of Peterhof- the East and the West Aviaries are ones of the few park undertakings of Peter I conceived from the very beginning of the foundation of the Tsar's residence and extant unchanged. The creation of the Aviaries at Peterhof was based on the combination of two traditions - the Russian one, dating back to the 16th - 17th centuries, when the Moscow gardens had had arranged ‘bird-houses', ‘dove-cotes', and "poultry-yards', and the West- European one, which arose in Italy, where first appeared richly decorated aviaries for breeding thrushes and other songbirds.

The earliest poultry-yard in Russia was in Izmailovo, the country residence of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich. Being a little boy, Peter spent lots of time there, as he liked to watch rare birds and animals. He also saw poultry-yards, when he was at Versailles, the residence of the French King. At Peterhof, the Emperor decided to arrange a menagerie near the Monplaisir Palace,his favorite seaside residence.

The Aviaries were built in 1721-1722 by architect Niccolo Michetti for keeping songbirds and exotic birds in summer, while in winter they were transferred to heated huts on the poultry-yard. The facades of the Aviaries were decorated with tufa,black dross (waste, resulting from cast-iron production) and oyster shells.

Pay attention to the magnificent plafond of the early 18th century, painted in tempera-oil paint on wood by the French artist Louis Caravaque. Allegorical figures, featured in the dome, are linked to the theme of the menagerie, poultry-yard, nature - it is Apollo, the god of the sun and patron of the arts, Diana, the goddess of the moon and hunting, Aurora, the goddess of the dawn, the young hunter Actaeon, and boys-putti, engaged in catching birds.

During World War II many buildings in the Lower Park were badly damaged, but the Aviaries miraculously survived.The new life of these unique wooden monuments began in the 2000s with their restoration, at first the West Aviary was restored, then the East one. In June 2004, the Museum of the West Aviary was opened for visitors.

 
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