On 13 October 2016, the Hall of Italian Majolica in the New Hermitage was the settings for the presentation of a rock crystal lamp that has been restored with the support of the House of Cartier.
The joint project between the State Hermitage and the House of Cartier was carried out by the staff of the Laboratory for the Scientific Restoration of Precious Metals under the leadership of Ilya Malkiel.
The participants in the official presentation ceremony were: Svetlana Borisovna Adaksina, Deputy General Director of the State Hermitage and Chief Curator; Arkady Igorevich Izvekov, General Director of the Cartier Saint Petersburg salon; Natalya Victorovna Kozlova, head of the State Hermitage’s Department of the East; Anastasia Nikolayevna Tepliakova, researcher in the Department of the East; and Igor Karlovich Malkiel, head of the Laboratory for the Scientific Restoration of Precious Metals.
“The restoration of this unique rock crystal lamp is the first joint project between the Hermitage and the House of Cartier. The ties between Russia and Europe, St Petersburg and Paris, are very long-standing and go very deep. The presentation of today’s project is one more confirmation of this,” Svetlana Adaksina said. “Such collaborative works provide another opportunity to show that in our complicated time, in a difficult political situation, culture continues to remain a sphere that has no frontiers. We hope to strengthen these ties in the future as well.”
Among the almost 200 items made from rock crystal in the Hermitage collection that were created in the Middle East and are dated to the 10th and 11th centuries, this lamp is the only one of its kind. It shape is unique: parallels for it are hard to find, not only in rock crystal, but also in metal and ceramics. The high artistic standard of the craftsmanship, the elegance of the decoration and the excellent quality of the mineral itself all make it possible to suggest that the lamp was made in one of the best court workshops under the caliphs.
Like many other rock crystal articles, this lamp was taken to Europe in the Middle Ages. In the 16th century Italian craftsmen made a new base for it and mounted it in gold.
In the course of restoration, the lamp was completely dismantled, traces of a previous restoration were eliminated and the broken attachment of the joints was repaired. Oxidation and accumulations of dirt and grease were removed from the surface of the lamp using nanosecond pulsed fibre laser cleaning. Deformed gold elements in the mounting, gaps and cracks were made good using millisecond pulsed laser soldering (for which soldering wire was specially made). The restorers made good losses, cracks and chips on the surface of the enamel. After the lamp was reassembled, all the metal elements of the pieces were coated with polymer for protection against corrosion, as was the surface of the polychrome enamel.
Soon this unique item will take its place in the permanent display of the Department of the East on the top floor of the Winter Palace.