Raphael Loggias in the Hermitage are a copy of the famous Gallery created in the
16th century in the Vatican Palace by the architect Donato Bramante. Its walls
and vaults were painted by Raphael's pupils after his sketches and under his
supervision. The Hermitage gallery was created at Catherine II's wish.
Originally it was a separate construction (architect Giacomo Quarenghi), but in
the mid-19th century it was included into the New Hermitage designed as a museum
building by the architect Leo von Klenze. Copies of the Vatican frescoes were
produced in tempera on canvas by a group of artists under Christopher
Unterberger. The Raphael Loggias make up an integral ensemble displaying a
harmony of architecture, painting and sculpture. The gallery consists of
thirteen identical sections, each having its own vault. The arches of the vaults
together with the mighty supporting columns create a regular and precise rhythm.
The decoration of the gallery embodies a typical Renaissance tendency to reveal
connection between Classical Antiquity and Christianity. The vaults are
decorated with scenes from the Bible, each one showing four subjects. This cycle
of 52 compositions, including 48 themes from the Old Testament and four themes
from the New Testament, was called the Raphael's Bible. The events of the Old
Testament are presented successively: Adam and Eve, the Deluge and the acts of
the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses) and kings (David and Solomon).
Amongst the New Testament subjects are the Nativity, the Adoration of the Magi,
the Baptism of Christ and the Last Supper completing the cycle. The wall areas
below the mirrors are decorated with 10 Biblical scenes in a grisaille technique.
The Hermitage gallery also repeats in grisaille the small scenes in relief
located between the paintings in the Vatican gallery. Under the impression of
the decorative Classical ornamentation Raphael produced compositions combining
unusual images with motifs taken from real life. This type of design was called
grotesque. The word originates from the Italian grotta (grotto) that was
associated with interior painting of the Gold House of Emperor Nero the ruins of
which were excavated in the 15th century. The grotesque ornamentation produced
by Raphael's vivid imagination has no equal among the designs created throughout
the Renaissance era. By order of Catherine II a portrait of the 'divine Raphael'
was set up on the south wall of the gallery, while the wall in the Vatican
Loggias is decorated with the coat-of-arms of the Medici family, since the
commissioner of the gallery, Pope Leo X, was a member of this famous family.