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Academy of Arts Building

On the suggestion of Count Ivan Shuvalov, Empress Elizabeth issued an imperial decree for the foundation in St. Petersburg of an "academy of the three most noble arts" (painting, sculpture, and architecture) in 1757. The Academy was originally housed in Shuvalov's mansion on Sadovaya Ulitsa, but Catherine the Great decided that the institution deserved its own building, and a site was chosen next to the Neva River on Vasilevskiy Island.

The main architect for the project was Jean-Baptiste Vallin de la Mothe, whom Shuvalov invited from France to become the first professor of architecture at the Academy. De la Mothe was helped by Yury Felten and Alexander Kokorinov, who would become the first Russian professor to teach at the Academy.

  • Former Academy of Fine Arts Building (Repin Institute) in Saint-Petersburg, Russia as seen from the river
    Former Academy of Fine Arts Building (Repin Institute) as seen from the river
  • Bird's-eye view of the Academy of Fine Arts Building in St Petersburg, Russia
    Bird's-eye view of the Academy of Fine Arts Building

Catherine herself laid the foundation stone of the building in 1765, and also insisted that at the centre of the building there should be a circular courtyard matching the dimensions of the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral in Rome. One of the earliest neoclassical buildings in St. Petersburg, the Academy was only completed in 1788. As well as its elegant facades, the building boasts some superbly decorated interiors, particularly the entrance hall, the main staircase, the Raphael Hall and the Titian Hall.

In 1832, two Egyptian sphinxes dating from the reign of Amenhotep III (about 3,500 years ago) where brought to the Academy from France. A granite quay was built in front of the Academy by Konstantin Ton to become their permanent home and they are among the most famous statues in St. Petersburg.

In its 250-year history, the Academy of Arts has trained such renowned artists as Karl Bryullov, Valentin Serov, and Ilya Repin, as well as the architect Leonty Benois and the Ukrainian nationalist poet and painter Taras Shevchenko.

  • Egyptian Sphinx in front of the Academy of Fine Arts in St Petersburg, Russia
    Egyptian Sphinx from Thebes in front of the Academy of Fine Arts
  • Statue of Minerva on the dome of the Academy of Fine Arts in St Petersburg, Russia
    Statue of Minerva on the dome of Academy of Fine Arts
  • Figures of Hercules and Flora on the Academy of Fine Arts in St Petersburg, Russia
    Figures of Hercules and Flora on the Academy of Fine Arts

Today, the official name of the institution occupying the building is the I. E. Repin St. Petersburg State Academic Institute of Painting, Architecture and Sculpture, still considered to be among Russia's finest art colleges. The building has also long been home to the Museum of the Academy of Arts which displays works by many of the Academy's most illustrious alumni.

Address:17, Universitetskaya Naberezhnaya
Metro:Vasileostrovskaya, Admiralteyskaya
Getting there:From Vasileostrovskaya exit, turn right then right again onto 7-ya Liniya and walk straight down the street until you reach the river. Turn left along the embankment, and the Academy is just over 100m ahead.
What's nearby? Neva River, Menshikov Palace, Blagoveshensky (Annunciation) Bridge
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