"The bone Life-Giving Cross with the apostles'
faces on the Ark"
(Medallions: center - the Crucifix, top - St. Andrew,
Left - St. Paul, right - St. Peter, low - St. Catherine.)
1725. A.Nartov, M.Zemtsov, B.-K.Rastrelli, Peter the Great.
Reconstruction 1994-95. V.Mokeeva, G.Mikhailov, I.Burkovskaya,
V.Kazcheev, A.Kazcheev, V.Gradov, A.Korshikov.
82,6'' x 39,3'', mammoth tusk, wood, gilded bronze
"The ivory Life-Giving Cross"
Illustration from A.K.Nartov's manuscript "Theatrum Machinarum",
(on the reconstruction of "The bone Life-Giving Cross with the Representation
of Apostolic Faces on the Ark" as an old piece of decorative art)
Reconstructed by St. Petersburg artists,
the altar "Life-Giving Cross" is memorable for the national
The Cross was made in the early eighteenth century,
with the direct participation of Peter the Great, who was skilful in both
turning and carving. This magnificent piece, 2 metres 10 centimetres high,
harmoniously combined the Russian tradition of bone carving and European
ornamental turning, according to Peter the Great's design. The loss of
the Cross later in the eighteenth century disinherited our culture of
one of the most wonderful artefacts associated with the name and personality
of Peter the Great.
It is only the revival of Peter's active medallic-copier
lathe in the Petropol gallery in 1993 that
allowed to implement the unprecedented academic reconstruction of Peter's
"Life-Giving Cross" and to return the masterpiece to Russian
culture in 1994-1995. The reconstruction was based on the sketches in
the manuscript of A. K. Nartov, Peter's private turner, and the authentic
copies of Peter times from the Hermitage collection. A group of most efficient
researchers, architects, restorers, sculptors and bone carvers from Petropol
gallery, Hermitage and Academy of Arts worked on the reconstruction of
From both artistic and historical points of view, the
reconstructed "Life-Giving Cross" is practically invaluable.
Yet the utmost complexity, uniqueness of techniques and cost of materials
used in the course of reconstruction let evaluate it at about US$ 250,000-270,000.
I. N. Ukhanova, Ph.D. (History)
Head of the Applied Art Sector,
Russian Culture Department,
State Hermitage Museum
Currently, the Cross and the machine
tool are exposed to the public in St. Peter and Paul's Cathedral, Peter
and Paul's Fortress, St. Petersburg.