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This monumental three-storey building in classical style was built for the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts. Today, it houses the St.Petersburg State Academic Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture named after Ilya Repin.
The building foundation ceremony was held in 1765 in front of Catherine the Great who had already approved the Charter of the Higher School of Fine Arts. Study in it was long and profound. The full academic period was nine years. The Academy graduates obtained the degree of artist and graduates with honors besides that had the right to internship abroad.
The bloom of the Russian painting graduated from this institute. The institute keeps the traditions of the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts. Each summer its staterooms exhibit diploma paintings of graduates and during the autumns – students’ summer paintings.
The Egyptian sphinxes unemotionally face each other from high pedestals at the quay in front of the Academy of Arts. The sphinxes are sculptured from pink granite of the Aswan rocks.
These are the most ancient sculptures in St.Petersburg. Three and a half thousand years ago they guarded the temple of Amenhotep III in Thebes, the capital of ancient Egypt. Then for many centuries they remained buried under sand.
To be dug out only at the beginning of the C19th, put on vast palm floats and rafted down the Nile to Alexandria. The English Consul in Egypt, who financed the diggings, inspected the granite sculptures and decided to sell them. At that time Andrey Muraviev, a Russian historian and traveler, who was on pilgrimage, arrived in Alexandria. Being greatly impressed by the sight of the mysterious sculptures, he wrote a letter to Nikolay I with proposal to buy the Sphinxes for Russia. The emperor thought the sculptures worth buying and gave 64 thousand rubles. It took one year to deliver the sphinxes to St.Petersburg by sea round Europe and two years more to select the decent place for them. Finally, they were set up on University Embankment.
Similar to any other sight of St.Petersburg, the Sphinxes have their legend. They say that expression of their faces changes as the day progresses. In the morning and during the day the Sphinxes look calm and tranquil, in the evening their faces become aggressive and ominous. Some people come to see them before the sunset, hoping to catch the moment when their faces transfer from the tranquility to aggression. However, most people prefer to avoid this scene, especially when it comes to impressive ones. Those who have seen how sphinxes change their expression may go mad.
At the same time, students of the St.Petersburg University, the Institute of Painting, and the Mineral Resources University located downstream on the Neva embankment are benevolent to them. There is a belief that if you smack a sphinx on the ass, it guarantees the excellent mark for your exam.
Vasilievsky Island is a historical district in St. Petersburg, located in the delta of the Neva River. It is bordered by the Bolshaya Neva and Malaya Neva Rivers in the south and northeast, and by the Gulf of Finland in the west. Two of the most famous St. Petersburg bridges, Palace Bridge and Blagoveshchensky Bridge, connect it with the mainland to the south. Exchange Bridge and Tuchkov Bridge across the Malaya Neva connect it with Petrogradsky Island.
In 1715-25 Peter the Great planned this island to become a city center but those plans were not destined to be fulfilled. There are lots of legends connected with Vasilievsky Island and its buildings. For example, the name of the island Vasilievsky people usually associate with a certain man called Vassily or Basil. The legend says that was the name of one Peter’s foremost gunner officers and military engineers, Vassily Korchmin, who had his artillery battery to ward off the Swedish navy at the spit of the island and got the tsar's letters addressed "To Vassily in the Island".
During the tour you will hear some legends of the island and see all its landmarks. It is better to start the tour from the easternmost tip of the island, called Strelka (or the Spit, literally Arrow) which features a number of museums, including the Old Saint Petersburg Stock Exchange as well as two Rostral columns. The Spit is a place popular for wedding processions and tourists. Nice postcard views on the city are open from here.
The edifices lining the Universitetskaya Embankment along the Bolshaya Neva include the Kunstkamera, The Palace of Peter II, the Twelve Colleges Building, the Menshikov Palace, the Imperial Academy of Sciences, and St. Andrew's Cathedral – all dating from the 18th century.
Museums, State University and the Imperial Academy of Sciences with library tell us the island has been for the recent centuries home to academic life. There is even the House of Academicians.
The island is a very romantic place with many cafes and restaurants, and panoramic views from the embankments. Just download the application “Your Audio Guide” (free) and the excursion. And walk as much as you want. Enjoy the unforgettable views of the northern capital.