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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hermitage Restoration In Jeopardy

ST. PETERSBURG -- After three years of intense restoration, the State Hermitage Museum has reopened the Spanish Skylight room to the public, but museum officials warned that further restoration could be stalled if the state refuses to come up with promised funding.

"Last year, we didn't receive one third of the promised funds from the government," said Vladimir Matveyev, Hermitage deputy director. "Our biggest problem is that our reconstruction program is now very badly financed."

According to figures released last week by officials, Russia's most internationally recognized museum received 58 billion rubles ($12.1 million) of the 91.3 million rubles promised by the government for 1995. Federal support accounted for 85 percent of its 1995 budget.

Located in the New Hermitage wing, the Spanish Skylight room, one of the museum's largest halls, is the first of dozens of other rooms to be restored to its pre-Revolution grandeur. During Soviet times, many rooms in the Winter Palace and adjoining buildings that comprise the Hermitage were turned into mere display rooms, gray with no frills.

One of two halls in the Hermitage housing Spanish art, the Skylight room now glows a crimson red, lit by two of the original eight gold and crystal torchi?res set in the center of the room. High above, a glass roof set in the ornate blue, gold and white domed ceiling lets natural light add its own brightness to the room. Rose and gray marble adorns the doorways and moldings.

"We did our best to restore the room to its original condition in the 19th century," said museum architect Vladimir Efimeyev. The New Hermitage was built in 1851 specifically as a museum and opened to the public the following year.

The 14 canvases in the room include works by Jose de Ribera, Diego Velazquez, Francisco de Goya and Bertolome Murillo.

Two adjoining rooms, which house Italian art, are still closed off for restoration work. "If the state comes through with funding, we should be able to complete them this year," Matveyev said. He would not disclose the amount spent on the Spanish Skylight room or the adjoining rooms.