Peterhof - Great Cascade
The Great Cascade, the focal point in the impressive system of Peterhof fountains, was planned by Peter the Great himself. In its dimensions, abundance of water, rich sculpture, variety of jet patterns and remarkable overall unity this splendid specimen of Baroque art is one of the finest fountain ensembles in the world. Forming a single whole with the Great Palace, the Cascade, the bowl at its feet and the Marine Canal also constitute the north-south axis of the Lower Park. The sculpture reflects the main idea behind the Peterhof ensemble as a whole, the glorification of Russia’s victories in her struggle for access to the Baltic.
The formal opening of the cascade took place in Peter’s presence on July 13, 1721. As yet it had no sculptural ornament. English masters undertook to make and deliver some ornament to St Petersburg by the end of the summer. This consisted mainly of bas-reliefs, corbels, pilasters, mascarons and other decorative elements, together with the figures of tritons, naiads, dolphins, Neptune and Amphitrite, and two toads.
Eighteen months later figures of the twelve months and twelve vases were cast in Holland from designs by Niccolo Michetti on Peter’s orders. Some sculptures, mascarons, bas-reliefs and vases were cast in Saint Petersburg by Bartolomeo Rastrelli and Francois Vasse. By August 1723 all the pieces of sculpture had been gilded, and the Great Cascade began to play.
But work did not stop. Shortly afterwards the figures of Perseus, Actaeon, Galatea and Mercury appeared, with new mascarons of Bacchus and Neptune. Part of Peter’s design did not take shape until after his death. In 1738 a group of two tritons blowing into a shell by Rastrelli was set up in the Lower Grotto.
In 1799 it was decided to replace the cascade’s lead sculptures with bronze sculpture, retaining as much as possible the original forms of the figures. This work, in which many eminent sculptors of the day took part, was completed by July 1806. The result was a unique ensemble which not only served the patriotic aim of the Petrine monument, to glorify Russia’s victory in the Northern war (1700-1721), but did so on a very high artistic level.
Fourteen statues were made from plaster casts of Greek originals in the Academy of Arts. The figure of Bacchus was a replicae of the famous original by Michelangelo.