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[Tidbits] Amber Mask

Imagine, if you will, a room. It is a yellow room. From ceiling to
floor the walls are of a color intermediate between green and orange.
They are made of a translucent fossil resin. Over there… in the
upper part of one of the panels… is a mask. Be attentive. Be aware.
You are about to take an irreversible leap into the Amber Room of The
Hermitage in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Rod Serling anyone? The Twilight Zone? Ah… the remembrance of
things past… with many thanks to Mr. Proust. As to stone cutters
and lapidaries… and to the rest of us in this industry that
requires more knowledge to make a product than most others, to you
I say raise your fists to the heavens in a victory stance for the
Amber Room is considered by some to be not only the eighth wonder of
the world… but also the culminating achievement of our collective
art from the beginning of time to today. Astro-physicists can’t hold
a candle to what those of our trade can do. As to Michelangelo and
DaVinci and Rodin and the rest of them… pish-posh I say. Moderate
accomplishments at best when compared to what our tradesmen can do.

The Amber Room was a gift… from King Frederick William I of Prussia
to Peter the Great of Russia. In return Freddy got a small ship… 55
grenadiers… a lathe… and an ivory goblet. That’s one heck of an
exchange for a room manufactured with such magnificence as to be
considered among the world’s great wonders. Pete got the deal of the
century. He gave Freddy some soldiers which now Freddy had to feed
and clothe while nothing is mentioned of arms and ammunition. A
soldier without a saber and a rifle is like a jeweler without a
file… or a torch … or a pretty young thing waiting in the wings
oohing and ahhing over every bit of work flowing from said jeweler’s
hands. We all have one of those… do we not? What kind of
compensatory gift on Petey’s part was that, I ask you?

Gottfried Wolfram–amber cutter supreme–took six years to finish one
wall and prepare another. We’re talking from 1701 to 1706… when
equipment available wasn’t up to the snuff of today’s techie world.
Then constructing stopped. Death in the family and all that. No
boring details here. Suffice it to say… finishing panels… storing
panels … moving panels hither and thither and yon (A quick
parenthetical aside… which is further away: Hither? Thither?..or
Yon? Get back to me on this. I’m dyin’ to know.)…a revolution
here… a revolt there… I do not know when the whole room was
finished… but I’m guessing 1171 for that is when the over-door
decorations were done. My instincts tell me that when one is working
on a room… one leaves the over-door decorations for last.

Wealth–especially the obscene kind–is not always easy to define.
But being the brave adventurous soul I am easily recognized by most
to be… I shall give it a shot. So Benjamin… how much amber went
into the making of this room… hmmm? The answer is I have no clue.
However … I can tell you this. 450 kilograms of amber went into the
decoration of the amber pedestals supporting the mirror pilasters.
So… if one kilogram equals roughly 2.2 pounds and you take the
square root of the distance to the mood and back and multiply it by
pi… well… anyway… you get the idea. It’s a lot of amber.

As to the mask of which I speak… it is only a small portion of a
vast array of sculptures inhabiting this great chamber… and I show
it to you as a minute example of an amazing accomplishment. Hope you
like it.

For those of you who are new to this thing called Tidbits…may I
direct you to my home page at where you
will scroll down the left side menu till you get to the area that
says Current Tidbits… click it… and you will see represented on
our pages an image of an Amber Mask that defies verbal description.

And there ya have it.
That’s it for this week folks.
Catch you all next week.
Benjamin Mark


The mask is amazing! It is amazing that someone, some group, was able
to create the mask and the room and preserve both. And, your writing
is amazing! Thank you, Benjamin.


Benjamin, thank you for all your tidbits articles. Your interest in
beautiful things and the people who made them shines through every
article. Thank you for your time devoted to sharing with your
friends. The mask is truly stupendous. I am currently taking apart an
amber necklace that belonged to my aunt and remaking it into many
bracelets, one for each of the women who descended from her mother
(since she had no offspring of her own). The amber is warm to work
with in my hands, and is a favourite media of mine. And the beads
are like the honey amber of the mask. Thank you again for helping
make history live for us.

Barbara on the Island where it seems an un-named tropical storm is
moving through with winds of 90kmph right now!

The Amber Room has fascinated me since I first heard of it. Is the
mask a relief type of work or an actual wearable mask separable from
the background carvings? In either case, does anyone know its

It seems to me that there was another amber room someplace that the
Germans dismantled during World War II and stored someplace…and it
hasn’t been found since. Maybe it’s hiding in an old salt mine.
Anybody know about that?

Rose Alene

The mask is not removable, and is probably no more than 4 or five
inches in height. A docent at the Catherine Palace told me its rich
glow came from the gold leaf that lines the walls beneath the
panels. The room is every bit as spectacular as you can imagine;
alas, they don’t allow visitors to take photographs. The room is a
welcome relief (pun intended) from the wretched excess of gilt at the
palace. I couldn’t help but think of all the peasants who died from
mercury toxicity doing this in service to the Queen.

The amber room was in Catherine’s Palace in Tsarkoe Selo outside St.
Petersburg, Russia. It was dismantled during the war by the invading
Germans (the original creators, who presented it to Russia), shipped
to Germany, and never seen again. For years, artisans have been
slowly reconstructing it in the palace. Quite remarkable!


That is exactly what I thought of also… The peasants who died for
the corrupt elitist who didn’t give a smack about them.

I visited an English tea house recently with a number of friends and
all the’ proper’ etiquette rules made us laugh. Then we realized all
these ‘proper rules’ were just thought up by a group of wealthy
elitist who had nothing better to do with their time than sit around
and create rules with their useless lives. Looking at the 1%, what
has changed?

Now back to the studio- where I choose what I do with my time…

Peace for all.