So we have come to place of our destination. We are leaving the bus right here. The bus will move out to a special parking place, so that if you need to take your very important belongings, take care of them now. Otherwise you will have to wait till the end of our tour. Please mind: large bags, backpacks or rucksacks you’d better leave in the bus otherwise you are to check them in the check-room. Before entering the palace I would like to mention some rules of behavior inside. All upper coats, rain-coats, umbrellas, big bags, backpacks, rucksacks, knapsack you should check in the cloak and check rooms, please. And please do not forget to take a token for your checked belongings there. Rest-room facilities are located in the neighborhood of the cloak room, visiting is free of charge. As well as taking pictures is not charged extra. You may take pictures in every room of the palace, but one, that is the famous Amber Room. No pictures, films shooting are allowed there. The curates say both flash and video camera’s light deteriorate the texture of glue. So please be so kind to follow all these requirements. First we see the rooms in the palace, if it is not urgent to pay a respect to WC-room, and after the palace tour you will have some 15 minutes to do a little shopping in these attractively looking with amber stuff shops. By the way, amber jewelry being sold here is made from the amber which was left after the reconstruction of that room in the palace.
We are going along the façade of the palace to the entrance. Though the building is very long, the façade is not monotonous. At first the entrance was in the South, and when they came into it they were invited to come along the gala suite of rooms. All the rooms were in one line, the so-called “Golden corridor suite of rooms”. This line goes along the western side of the palace.
Now we are entering the palace, after going through the detective metallic gate we have to put on over our shoes special protective slippers.
CENTRAL STAIRCASE. The Central Staircase takes all the width of the palace and looks over two sides. Three tiers of windows provide an abundance of light. The staircase was decorated to a design by Ipolito Monighetti (1861) in two colours – red and white. The steps are made of white marble. The walls and the ceiling are decorated with stucco moldings and sculptural figures imitating the Baroque style of the mid-18th century.
The ceiling is decorated with Italian paintings of the 17th and 18th centuries, taken from the Hermitage collections to replace the original ones which perished in the fire of 1944: “The Judgement of Paris” (in the centre), “Jupiter and Kalisto” and “Aeneas[i:'ni:qs, Ýíåé] and Venus [‘vi:nýs]”.
The decorative dishes and vases of Chinese and Japanese porcelain (18th century) are original. The clock and the barometer had to be made anew to imitate the originals which were gone during the war.
A nice view of the Catherine Park opens through the window. The park consists of two parts, each designed in its own style. For many centuries parks have been classified according to their various styles. Thus the French park, which is basically architectural, is noted for the geometrical precision of its layout with broad, straight paths down which its pavilions and statues can be seen from the distance, with trees clipped in various geometrical shapes. The English park, which is basically landscaped, is an attempt at imitating nature. It has little or no architecture or geometrically planned paths, and trees and shrubs are allowed to grow in a natural state. Finally, the Italian park is laid out in imitation of the undulating Italian gardens. All these types of park can be seen in the Catherine Park.
In front of us there is a very cute statue of an angel in the shell. His pose of stretching arms is not accidental. This section of the staircase overlooks its eastern side, where the sun rises up in the morning. So that the angel is represented awaken by the sun rays penetrating though the window.
EXHIBITION ROOM – HISTORY OF THE PALACE CONSTRUCTION. This area was part of the lands restored to Russia by Peter I in the course of the Northern War. At that time the future “town” was just a tiny farmstead consisting of a wooden house, a few barns, and a garden. This farmstead was given by Peter I to one of his favourites, Prince Alexander Menshikov, but being later displeased by some action of the Prince, Peter took back his gift and gave it instead to his wife, the future Empress Catherine I.
In 1718 Catherine I commissioned the architect Braunstein to build a two-storey stone palace on the site of the old farmstead. In August 1724 the palace was completed, and hundreds of guests were invited to celebrate the occasion. From that time on the estate began to be called Tsarskoe Selo (Tsar’s Village).
But fate was not kind to the Catherine Palace, for each new monarch thought it necessary to make alterations to the original building. In the diary which the future empress Catherine II kept (while she was still the wife of the heir to the throne) there is an entry which reads: “Today they knock down what they built yesterday. This building has been completely demolished and rebuilt six times.”
When Peter I’s daughter Elizabeth came to the throne, she did not like the small size of the palace, and in 1743 invited the Russian architect Kvasov to enlarge the building. Kvasov added two side wings linked with the main block by galleries with columns. The wooden model of the palace was made by Kvasov in 1744; so the Empress could see exactly what the new palace would look like, and make alterations in the design.
In 1746 the architect Chevakinsky built two more side wings – the chapel and the “hall” as it was called. Galleries were also added to these. In this way the building had been extended in various ways without following any integral planning.
The result did not satisfy Elizabeth and in 1752-1756 the palace was reconstructed by Rastrelli. A water-colour in the display case represents Rastrelli’s design of the palace. The three-storey palace now ran in an almost unbroken line for over 300 metres. 80 huge French windows were set in a row decorated with balconies and separated by giants supporting the columns. The building was painted in blue and white with mouldings and giants in gold. The facade was decorated with 217 different types of stucco moulding. Along the roofline ran a gilded ballustrade crowned by statuary. 100 kilos of gold were used to decorate the palace. Even Catherine II who reigned after Elizabeth found it impossible to maintain such splendor, and the gilt was eventually replaced by a sober bronze wash. But in Elizabeth’s time the effect must have been stunning. The building was completed on the western side by a white double staircase, so the visitors, in order to get into the palace, had to walk along the whole of its facade before entering it. A chapel was built into the other end of the palace, decorated with onion-shaped domes in gold. In front of the palace a typical French formal garden was laid out.
Other water-colours represent the park pavilions “The Hermitage” and “Mon Bijou” placed by Rastrelli at the two ends of the central park avenue.
After the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 the palace was converted into a museum. The museum was opened in June 1918 and was visited by a million people every year.
During WWII the town was invaded by the Nazi. On the night of the first day of the war the museum staff started preparing art treasures for evacuation. Trains loaded with the treasures were sent to distant parts of the country. Thus many unique paintings, statues, objects of applied art, and documents were saved.
The Nazi occupied Pushkin in September 1941 (about two months after the WWII broke out for this country). The Catherine Palace was turned into the Army headquarters; part of it was used as soldiers’ barracks, and the chapel – as a garage for cars and motorcycles. A special committee was appointed by Hitler to take care of the art treasures on the occupied territories and export them to Germany. Thus they put an end to the spontaneous pillage which went on a large scale. From that moment on, the export of treasures was carried on in an organized fashion. Chinese silk, chandeliers, parquet floors, furniture, and gold and silver object d’art were dispatched to Germany. Only 20 per cent of the interior decoration has survived.
The town was liberated in 1944. More than half of the palace was destroyed by the fire though the architectural design was preserved. Only bare shells remained of what had once been a place of fantastic magnificence. Moreover, in order to blow up the palace, the Nazi left 11 air bombs of slow action with the capacity of one ton heavy each and 300 mines there when they were retreating.
In summer 1944 after the liberation of the town works were started in the ruins, fragments collected and sorted out. Now the restorers use them together with the pieces of decoration saved in evacuation.
The restoration works started in 1958 under the direction of the senior architect restorer Kedrinsky. Fortunately, some 20,000 items of the original art collection had been saved in evacuation. But the southern wing of the palace had been nearly gone. It was a little better with the northern part of the palace which had not been affected by the fire, so it was restored in the first place. But the restoration is still under way, since it is extremely expensive and time-consuming.
GREAT HALL (Grand hall). The room occupies the whole width of the palace and is the largest (about 1000 sq.m. or 100,000 sq. ft.). It used to be called the Light Gallery for its elongated form and numerous windows and glass doors. Between the windows there are mirrors in gilded frames, which make the room look “transparent”.
The room was decorated to a design by Rastrelli in the Russian Baroque style. It is part of a suite of rooms decorated by Rastrelli in Baroque. The doors of each room were covered with gilded woodcarving and, when opened, formed a “golden” corridor (woodcarving with gold leaf is a typical feature of the Russian Baroque style). Hence the name of the suite – the Golden Suite of Rooms.
The furniture, woodcarving (originally executed by 130 Russian craftsmen according to Rastrelli’s sketches), and parquet floor have been restored as well as the ceiling painting by the 18th century Italian artist G. Valeriani, “Triumph of Russia”. The painting glorifies Russia’s military victories and the flourishing of Russia’s science and art. The centre of the composition consisting of three parts is a female figure which personifies Russia.
In this hall solemn dinners, big masquerades as well as receptions always took place. During the receptions 696 candles were burned in the carved sconces in front of the mirrors. No crowned head ever visited the palace without being invited to a solemn dinner in this hall.
It took restorers 20 years to restore the Grand hall. The hall was open only in 1980. Nowadays it is a place of different solemn meetings, banquets, ball-parties, and concerts.
ANTE-ROOM. It is one of the five rooms under the same name as Ante-rooms to accommodate guests according to their ranks in the court just to wait for being introduced or to bow down to the tsar in the Grand or Throne Hall. This ante- room was meant for the higher rank courtiers. The room was restored just a year ago. New woodcarvings were gilded with 9kg of pure gold. The four stoves are faced with a good copy of Delft tiles made in the workshops of restorers. The huge ceiling picture has a lot of allegories glorifying Elizabeth reign. Her monogram is adjusted in the picture, the letter E and figure I, i.e. Elizabeth I.
We are back again in the Grand Hall. And from the doorway a splendid view opens to you. You can see a real gallery of Golden rooms designed by Rastrelli. A kind of the same effect you may see standing in front of any mirror. They say one can see at least 21 rooms in the reflected light of a mirror. It is a stunning effect created by Rastrelli.
CAVALIERS’ DINING ROOM. This room suffered badly during the Nazi occupation and had to be completely restored after the war. It is one of the rooms of the Golden, or Main Suite decorated by Rastrelli. In the mid-18th century these rooms were mainly intended for official ceremonies.
The dining room was used to receive holders of the highest state orders. The carved table shaped as the letter “E” for the Empress Elizabeth is laid out in the fashion of the time. The tableware are different pieces from the four “Order Services” commissioned by Catherine II from the Gardner Porcelain Factory in the 1770s. Each of these four dinner services was decorated with the colours of a high Russian order: St Andrew, St George, St Alexander or St Vladimir.
The walls are coloured in white and ornamented with gilt carving typical of Rastrelli’s style. The gilded chairs are also by Rastrelli. The chairs are placed along the walls copying the fashion of the 18th century. The walls are decorated with mirrors in gilded frames. In the corner there is a stove elegantly ornamented with recesses and columns, which is characteristic of Rastrelli’s interiors. The stove used to be faced with tiles executed at the Imperial porcelain factory in St.Petersburg. It was damaged during the war and had to be made anew and painted imitating tiles.
The ceiling is decorated with stucco moulding. In the centre there is a painting by an unknown 18th century Italian artist painted to the subject from Greek mythology. It represents the God of the Sun Helios, the Goddess of Dawn Eos['JOs], and figures personifying the seasons of the year. The painting was taken from the Hermitage collection.
In the left hand side corner near the exit door there is a picture of two levels, it shows up the interior before the occupation and low the destructed interior after the liberation.
Now we are back to the staircase, this time to its western side. And on the western side of the Staircase there is another representation of the angel in the shell. He is falling asleep here because of the sun-set. Out of the windows you can see a spacious inner-court-yard surrounded by semicircular one-story buildings, formerly used as servants, guard rooms, and kitchen and laundry. Today they house a restaurant “Tsar’s Village Present” and Administration body of the palace. The wrought-iron gate with gilt was the main entrance to the palace from outside. Carriages with the royal family and courtiers used to ride in the court yard to disembark here.
The State Dining Room is the first after staircase in the western suite of rooms. The rooms between the staircase and the Picture Hall included two suites: the state apartments (overlooking the court yard) and the private chambers of the Empress Maria Fyodorovna, parallel to the state apartments (living rooms) and overlooking the park.
It appears, though, that the private rooms of Maria Fyodorovna were never used by her as she always lived in Pavlovsk or (once or twice) occupied the private rooms of Elizaveta Alexeyevna, wife of Alexander I.
STATE DINING ROOM. The walls are covered with white brocade with gilt Baroque carving and modeling. In the corner there is a big tiled stove.
The dinner service on the table was made by the Meissen porcelain factory (second half of the 18th century). The pattern of oriental flowers decorating its dishes makes the table look like an exotic flower bed.
The paintings on the walls are part of the collection of Johannes Groot’s works (his main subject was hunting).
The painted ceiling, “The Triumph of Apollo”, is a 19th century copy of a painting by the well-known 18th century artist Guido Reni.
The “snowball vases” of Meissen porcelain were meant for aromatic herbs. The composition on vases decoration is known as Boule de Neige. Every flower is assembled in the form of a snow ball. The vases were used as incense-burners to keep the fragrant atmosphere during dinners.
CRIMSON ROOM WITH PILLARS. The room is decorated with narrow panels of crimson foil under glass, the so-called “pillars”. At the end of the 18th century high society lovers of card games used to play here. On top of the table there is a chess-set made in coral and ivory. It was a present to Nicholas II from Chinese Emperor. The two figures in the set of King and Queen made in ivory have features resembling that of Chinese Emperor and Empress. The unique writing desk inlaid with 40 kinds of wood was made in Germany by the well-known craftsman Abraham Roentgen, father of the famous David Roentgen.
In the corner there is a stove of Delft tiles; the restored paintings on the stove represent people of different strata in the 18th century.
The ceiling painting by an unknown Italian artist of the late 17th century depicts Alexander the Great and the family of the Persian King Darius III.
GREEN ROOM WITH PILLARS. The walls are decorated with “pillars” in a similar fashion as the previous room, except that the foil is green.
The ceiling painting has been recreated after the original by the 18th century Italian artist Stefano Torelli, “The Military Leader at Rest Hears the Call of the Muses”. The picture gives the name to the room, as the room was used as a musical salon. There is a musical instrument of English make of the mid-18th century.
The walnut writing desk was made in Germany in the 18th century. There is a sofa reproduced after the second world war to the pattern of the original sofa created by Rastrelli. Because of the shortage of the time and insufficient men-power not many pieces of art were evacuated before the occupation. Just only 20,000 items were carried out of the palace to the Eastern part of the country. The curators took just one piece from every set of furniture in evacuation to get an example for the restoration. Thus, this sofa was made anew thanks to the original one. It took two years to carve the sofa from the linden tree to restorers.
PORTRAIT ROOM. The room got its name because of the portraits of the two empresses who owned the palace, Catherine I and Elizabeth I, which hang here.
During the war the furnishings of the Portrait Room which had been preserved for two centuries disappeared. However, the two sofas with carved backs and the gilt chairs in the style of Louis XV, which had once stood here, made from sketches by Rastrelli, were restored from drawings.
The portraits on the walls include (left-to-right) those of Elizabeth (by Heinrich Bucholtz), Natalia (Peter I’s sister), Catherine II, and Catherine I (by Ivan Adolsky).
The ceiling painting is a multi-figure composition which is an allegory of parts of the world, the gods of Olympus and nymphs. It is believed to be a work of the great Venetian artist and decorator of the 18th century Giovanni Tiepolo.
AMBER ROOM. This used to be the richest and the most famous room of the palace. As the story goes, early in the 18th century the Prussian King Friedrich I ordered an amber study for his Potsdam Palace. The architect Schluter and the jeweller Tusseau were called in to create it. The Amber Study was finished in 1709. Its walls were lined with panels, covering 550 sq. ft. in all. It looked magnificent. The King and the court were full of admiration and the masters expected a big reward. But the amber panels fell off the walls a few days later. The King was enraged. Tusseau was thrown into prison for high treason and Schluter was exiled. The Amber Study was taken apart and stored in boxes.
In 1716 Peter I visited Prussia and was presented with the Amber Study by Friedrich Wilghelm I, the son of Friedrich I. Peter greatly appreciated the gift, and gave in exchange for the 22 amber panels 248 sturdy soldiers for the Prussian King’s guard as well as a lathe and a wine cup which he had made himself. He intended to use the amber panels for the decoration of one of the rooms of the Winter Palace, but the idea never materialized.
After Peter’s death, the panels were brought to Tsarskoye Selo by the orders of Elizabeth. 76 strongest men of the royal guard transported the heavy boxes with great care from St Petersburg to Tsarskoe Selo, and it took them 6 days.
In 1755 Rastrelli began working on the decoration of the Amber Room. Since there were not enough amber panels to cover the whole wall-space, he inserted a number of mirrors, gilt woodcarvings, and mosaic panels of Ural jasper. The result was a fantastic Baroque interior. Numerous descriptions of the Amber Room in memoirs and historical literature refer to it as “the eightth wonder of the world”, “the amber poem”, and “the marvel of the reign of Elizabeth”.
During the nazi occupation the panels stayed in the palace. Soon after the invasion, the Nazi removed the room as a whole. What is known for a fact is that the amber panels were packed in boxes, put on a train and sent off to Köhnigsberg by the German commandment. What happened next is a mystery. All attempts to find traces of the Amber Room ended in failure. A special committee was formed in 1949 which included architects, engineers, some art critics and journalists, but all in vain. The search is still going on, though it is getting more complicated with every year.
That was why in 1979 the Russian Government adopted a decision to revive this unique room. The amber, of which more than 6 tons is needed, was delivered to Pushkin from the quarry in the Kaliningrad region. (Amber is petrified resin of ancient trees.) The restoration work is still under way. Just as in the 18th century, there is the frieze painted to look like amber, the restored gilded carved ornamentation on the walls and the newly-laid parquet floor of valuable kinds of wood. On display there are some objects d’art made of amber.
The painted ceiling “The Wedding of Cronos” has been recreated from a sketch by an unknown artist of the 18th century Italian school which is preserved in the Hermitage.
At the doorway out to the left there is a special memorial plaque emphasizing the contribution of the German Ruhr Gas company to the reconstruction costs of 30%, and the official opening day after 24 year-reconstruction, that is the 27th of May 2003, on that day our city celebrated the 300 anniversary of its foundation. And the revived anew Amber Room became a big present to the city. They say it cost 12 mln. American $.
PICTURE HALL. The room occupies the whole width of the palace. It is 1,800 sq. ft. in size. In the 18th century it was used for official receptions, banquets and concerts more than any of the other rooms.
The ceiling painting is a copy of the 18th century original by the Italian master Gasparo Diziani, depicting the gods on Olympus. The original canvas today decorates the main Staircase of the Winter Palace.
The hall was designed by Rastrelli and decorated with 130 paintings by West European artists. The collection was acquired abroad in 1745. The paintings were meant for decoration rather than for display. Almost any 18th century palace had a picture hall like this, where paintings were put up on the walls regardless of their national belonging, school of art, or time to produce a tapestry-like impression. They say that when a canvas was too big they cut it to fit into the frame.
All West-European schools are represented in the Picture Hall except for the Spanish and English. There are paintings by Ostade, Nattier, Luca Giordano etc. Though the room was badly damaged during the war, 114 paintings out of 130 have survived (in evacuation); the rest were replaced with paintings of the same size and school of art from the Hermitage collection. Besides, there are two interesting battle paintings depicting episodes from the Northern War, commissioned by Peter I from the French artist Pierre Martin. They represent the Battle at the Village of Lesnaya (1708) and the Battle of Poltava (1709).
Two ancient stoves of German tiles were destroyed during the war; now one has been assembled out of old fragments of the original Hamburg tiles, while the other one is a plaster copy of it.
The inlaid parquet floor is composed of nine sorts of wood from Latin America, India, Vietnam, and Egypt.
Adjacent to the Picture Hall are several rooms of the small suite which was furnished for Alexander I, Catherine II’s grandson.
SMALL DINING ROOM. According to the fashion of the period, the tables were brought in just for the meals and taken away afterwards. Here is one of the Empress Elizabeth’s dresses displayed in the room. Before she succeeded to the throne (as the legend has) she had given a promise to herself that she would wear a new dress every day, so she did, by changing dresses three times a day she collected 15000 dresses which were discovered in her wardrobe after her death. What’s more, besides dresses there were two chests of socks and stockings and only three rubles in the treasury left.
The landscape paintings on the walls are 18th century views of Tsarskoe Selo.
The ceiling painting which represents “Bathing Venus” is a copy of the 18th century original by Van Loo.
The roll-in-desk is made in the technique of inlaid wood. It shows a panoramic view of Moscow in the 18th century (the Moscow Kremlin) which is almost documentary. The two sideboards of the desk represent “Mon Bijou” and “Hermitage” pavilions of the Catherine Park. The inlay work was done by the Russian serf Nikifor Vasiliev so exquisitely that it resembles a jeweller’s creation.
RECEPTION ROOM. Alexander I used this room for official receptions.
The ceiling painting represents “Venus’ Chariot”.
The walls are hung with portraits of the Russian tsars. There are two ceremonial portraits of Alexander I (by G. Dawe) and Catherine II (copy of Lampi’s work). The small portraits represent Peter I, Catherine I, Anna I, Elizabeth I,Peter II, and Peter I’s daughter Anna.
There are some 18th-century Chinese and Japanese vases and two 18th-century English clocks.
PANTRY. It was originally used for keeping table linen and tableware. It was from here that meals were served in the Small Dining Room.
The still life paintings on the walls are by Johannes Groot.
The ceiling painting by an unknown 17th-century Italian master represents “Coral Hunters”.
The garden chairs displayed in this room belonged to the Hanging Garden which this palace used to have in the mid-18th century.
STANDARDS ROOM. This small room was used for keeping military banners of the royal regiments quartered in Tsarskoye Selo.
The next suite of rooms was designed by Cameron to replace Rastrelli’s hanging garden. The rooms were badly damaged during the war but have been restored to their original designs. The apartments belonged to Paul I’s wife Maria.
GREEN DINING ROOM. The room is typically Neo-Classic in design. Symmetrically placed reliefs include vases, pale pink medallions with dancing cupids, floral ornaments, male and female figures representing characters from Greek mythology (Themis ['TJmis], the goddess of law and justice; Poseidon[pOsaIdqn], the god of the sea and horses; Phaeton['feItn], son of Helios["hJlI'Os]– the god of the sun; Hermes ['hWmJz] – the god who served as herald and messenger of other gods). The moulded decoration in the room was created by the outstanding Russian sculptor Ivan Martos.
The marble fireplace was assembled out of fragments of the original marble which was found after the war scattered all over the grounds.
The mantelpiece screen was made of gilded bronze after Cameron’s design.
The murals on the doors were restored after one door panel which had survived in the war and was used as a model.
The dinner service on the table is known as the “Moscow Private Service”. Its dishes are decorated with monograms of Paul I and his wife Maria who owned the service. They received it from Catherine II. The name of the service is due to the Gardner Porcelain Factory in Moscow which made it.
The inlaid floor was restored after an original drawing by Cameron (oak-wood, light maplewood, mahogany).
The ceiling painting perished in the fire during the war and has not been restored yet.
WAITERS’ ROOM. Originally it was exclusively for servants’ use and Cameron had it divided by a screen, so that there were no windows in the other section of the room which looked over the stairs. The style of the ornamentation dates from the late 18th century, though the room owes its present appearance to Stasov who re-decorated it after the fire of 1820. He removed the screen but carefully preserved the initial proportions and the chief motif of Cameron’s design: the pink walls decorated with dark brown wooden pilasters made to imitate marble (only the two in the corners are original).
The walls are hung with romantic landscapes typical of the Neo-Classical period, which depict the ruins of antique structures, by the late 18th century artists Alexei Belsky, Andrea Locatelli, and Hubert Robert.
The furniture is Dutch mahogany, in the style of the early 18th century, upholstered with white brocade. It also includes a few card-tables of inlaid wood of late 18th century work.
The parquet floor in this and the following rooms is original (rosewood, oak, ebony, and mahogany).
BLUE DRAWING ROOM. In the 19th century this room started the private suite of apartments of Elizaveta Alexeyevna, wife of Alexander I. It is the largest in the suite of rooms designed by Cameron to replace the hanging garden.
The walls are covered with white silk stuff with print blue flowers on it. The furniture (designed by Cameron) is gilt, upholstered with the same 18th century silk. The original silk has survived in the curtains and in the upholstery of the few furniture pieces exhibited in the room. As to the wall lining, it was restored in 1957 at the Research Silk Centre in Moscow.
The furniture is ornamented with rosettes, wreaths, and laurel garlands typical of the late 18th century Neo-Classical style.
The fireplaces of Carrara marble were executed to Cameron’s drawings. On the fireplaces are vases of Berlin china.
In the corners there are two big floor lamps made of blue glass and crystal and decorated with “biscuit” figures, produced at the Imperial Glass Works in St.Petersburg in the late 18th century.
Everything in the room – painting and gilding, woodcarving and stuccowork, mirrors and marble decorations – combines to create an impression of great harmony. The ceiling painting was restored after the war after Cameron’s original design based on motifs from Pompeian frescoes. The pink-and-brown colour scheme of the painted ceiling is exactly repeated in the parquet floor made of rosewood and palisander.
On the walls there are portraits of the owners of the palace (left-to-right): Elizabeth I (by Erikssen), Catherine II (by Rokotov), Peter I (by Nikitin), Catherine I (copy from Nattier’s original exhibited in the Hermitage), Paul I’s wife Maria Fyodorovna (copy from Vige Lebrun’s original), and Paul I (copy from Rosselin’s original).
CHINESE BLUE DRAWING ROOM. In the 18th century the exotic “Chinese style” came into fashion in European art, and Chinese motifs appeared in architecture and ornamentation. Chinese lacquered objects d’art, porcelain vases and other decorative items were in high regard. Chinese silk fabrics, embroidered or painted, were particularly popular.
The walls of this drawing room designed by Cameron were upholstered with Chinese blue silk with hunting scenes, landscapes, and scenes of everyday life painted on it with coloured Indian ink. The silk was restored after the war after a tiny piece of the original Chinese silk which had got stuck behind the mirror frame. The restored silk was painted by hand by the artist restorer Raisa Slepushkina after two years of intense studies of genuine Chinese panels.
The decoration of the room combines the elements of a typical Oriental interior with the clear-cut forms of Classical style.
The furniture is original, executed in Jacob’s style after Cameron’s drawings in the late 18th century.
The card-table with floral design in the marquetry technique was made in Russia in the 18th century.
The marble fireplace was restored after the war out of small fragments of the original marble.
The painted ceiling was restored from Cameron’s original drawing.
The parquet floor made of ebony, mahogany, rosewood, sandal wood and maple wood was also restored.
There is a portrait painting depicting the Empress Elizabeth as the goddess of spring and flowers, Flora, by the 18th century artist Johannes Groot, and a gouache[gu'RS] by the eminent Russian painter Shchedrin, “A View of the Imatra Waterfall”.
ANTECHOIR. The room owes its name to its location near the choir of the palace church. It was originally designed by Cameron, then, after the fire of 1820, decorated by Stasov, and later, remodeled a few times.
The walls are upholstered with decorative silk woven some 200 years ago with hand-operated looms by Russian men-serfs at the factory of the merchant Lazarev in the village of Fryanovo near Moscow, designed by the artist and weaver from Lyons Philippe de Lassalle. The silk from this room was plundered by the Nazi, but an extra roll of this silk was saved in evacuation.
The furniture was made by Russian masters from Rastrelli’s drawings in the middle of the 18th century, and upholstered with the same material; this furniture set is an interesting specimen of the Baroque style furniture.
There are portraits of Elizabeth I and Catherine II.
The painting on the wall represents the Coronation of Catherine II.
From this room a door leads into the choir gallery; another door leads into a private suite of living rooms which goes parallel to the state rooms and looks over the park.
The “Private Rooms” of Maria Fyodorovna, the wife of Paul I, include the Bed Chamber, the Painting Room and the Sculpture Room. The rooms were originally designed by Cameron, and re-decorated by Stasov after the fire of 1820.
The first two rooms without windows are the Fore room and the Passage room. (we usually pass these rooms without stopping there) They never used any particular ornaments in the decoration of these rooms, except for some English coloured prints of the 18th century with the views of landscape parks.
The furniture and the bronze chandeliers are of the early 19th century Russian work.
LADIES’ OF THE BEDCHAMBER ROOM. The walls are hung with pictures by Dutch and Flemish masters.
The gilt stucco frieze and the arabesque design of the door-paintings date back to Cameron’s days.
The porcelain stove was made in the early 19th century to a design by Stasov. The mahogany furniture was made in Russia in the late 19th century. The chandelier is of the early 19th century Russian work.
BED CHAMBER. The room is one of the best interiors designed by Cameron. The chief motif was borrowed from Pompeian frescoes. The walls are ornamented in the antique style with white medallions by the Russian sculptor Martos: those above the doors are the allegories of the four seasons; others are symbols of happiness, well-being, health and gaiety.
The eight doors of the room (some are purely decorative) are also decorated with antique designs and arabesque ornaments.
The main decoration of the room are 50 slim porcelain columns with garlands of leaves and flowers wound round them (only two are original). The group of columns in the centre used to divide off the alcove.
The crystal chandelier with blue stained glass in the middle is of 18th century Russian work.
The carved marble fireplace is decorated with the figures of Sleeping Venus and cupids.
The fire grate made of blue steel with bronze ornaments was made by famous craftsmen from the town of Tula in the 18th century (it comes from the Bedroom of Catherine II which is still under restoration).
The furniture from an original Jacob’s set is provisional here (it belongs with the Arabesque Room).
The little table of blue and white glass was made in St Petersburg from Cameron’s sketches. It will be transferred to the private suite of Catherine II’s rooms where it belongs when the restoration is completed.
The toilet table made of stainless steel with bronze trimming, encrusted with pieces of faceted steel, shimmering like real diamonds, was a gift of the Tula masters to Catherine II.
The table for needle-work made of inlaid wood, with the monogram of M.F., is the work of the Okhta craftsmen, the Naskovs, as the inscription on it reads. In the 1720s the Okhta settlement on the Neva was famous for its carpenters and cabinet-makers, and later for its mosaic and parquet masters.
Craftsmen of some 20 professions participated in the restoration of this room, including chemists who discovered the recipe of the synthetic resin for the restoration of the porcelain columns.
PAINTING ROOM. The room was named after the character of its decoration. The walls were originally covered with frescoes, later destroyed by the fire of 1820. In the early 19th century the frescoes on the friezes and on the vaulted ceiling were painted by Antonelli from Stasov’s drawings.
The furniture consists of a round table of Karelian birch made in the 1820s to Stasov’s drawings, and a couple of chairs and an armchair. On the table there is a magnificent candelabrum with mother-of-pearl ornamentation.
SCULPTURE ROOM. This room used to be a small library; it is now called the Sculpture Room because of its decoration. The walls are ornamented with stucco bas-reliefs in the frieze; the painted medallions on the doors are framed with carved wooden ornaments; the ceiling is painted to imitate sculptured reliefs in the grisaille technique.
The furniture includes a few chairs and armchairs made of walnut wood to Stasov’s drawings in the early 19th century; a table of inlaid wood made in the late 18th century; a mahogany desk with a clock of gilt bronze which dates from the early 19th century.
The next Passage Room served as a corridor. In the glass showcase there is a bronze clock shaped like a basket with flowers and two bronze candle-holders.
(Then we come back to the Blue Drawing Room, after which we go back to the Waiters’ room and proceeding through the Green Dining Room finally come to the Vaulted Room to start our way along the Eastern suite[swJt] of rooms in the palace)
VAULTED ROOM. The room, situated before the Study of Alexander I, was meant for officers on duty. The Study and the adjoining rooms were designed by Stasov who used artificial marble (a popular material at the time) for the walls and vaults of the interiors.
The original parquet floor made of walnut, ebony, oak-tree and birch-tree has been restored.
The furniture from this room perished during the war and was replaced with similar pieces of the early 19th century.
The vases of semi-precious stones as well as the clock were made in Russia in the first half of the 19th century.
MAIN STUDY OF ALEXANDER I. The interior decoration is related to the Russian-French War of 1812. Motifs of military glory are used in the design of the furnishings. There is an open-work bronze chandelier designed by Stasov in the first quarter of the 19th century, decorated with the figure of the goddess of victory in the middle; a Russian porcelain vase executed in 1818 to Stasov’s drawings, which depicts the Russian army entering the suburbs of Paris in 1814; the clock on the mantelpiece (presumably French work) with the figure of the Roman military leader Julius Caesar.
The malachite writing set was made by Urals craftsmen in the late 18th century.
The furniture was restored to replace the original walnut furniture set made to Stasov’s drawings, which perished in the war.
The parquet floor was made anew after pre-war pictures (mahogany, ebony, amaranth etc.)
OVAL ROOM. The room owes its name to its oval shape and was meant for officers on duty.
The doors are made of oak-tree; two out of the four doors have mirrors inserted in them. The parquet floor was made anew (rosewood, mahogany, palisander etc.).
The next two rooms now serve as exhibition rooms which house a display dealing with the decoration of the palace interiors in Classical style in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
EXHIBITION ROOM – ROOMS DESIGNED BY STASOV. Strictly speaking, it is possible to distinguish three periods in the interior works at the palace. The first one is associated with Rastrelli who decorated some palace interiors in the mid-18th century when the Baroque style was the ruling fashion. The rule of Catherine II brought in a new architectural style – Classicism. The main characteristic features of the new style were strict symmetry, harmonious proportions, large wall-planes not covered with ornaments, niche statuary etc. Classicism has no Russian background at all; yet it is in Russia rather than elsewhere that it found its best representation. It is known in world literature as Russian Classicism, and it had a strong impact on the world architecture.
The display in this room illustrates the third period in the interior decoration of the palace, associated with the name of the Russian architect Vassili Stasov who worked in the palace in the early 19th century. He designed a number of interiors in the style known as late Classicism; he also supervised the restoration of the palace after the fire of 1820, carefully reviving the Rastrelli and Cameron rooms which had suffered badly during the fire.
The display contains furniture and works of applied art of the early 19th century, designed by Stasov. Furnishings from the interiors of that time are distinguished by their simple design and precise details. Most of the furniture is made of mahogany and Karelian birch. It was typical of Stasov to never overcrowd his furniture pieces with ornaments, as the least ornamentation helps to bring up the natural colour and texture of the wood; he often employed bronze plates to trim the furniture with rosettes, antique figurines, or emblems of military glory. The mahogany chest of drawers ornamented with bronze and mahogany armchairs are typical.
The military spirit of the early 19th century (it was the time of the Russian-French War) is reflected in the decoration of the massive French candelabrum, which includes an ornamental motif common at that time – wreaths, helmets, spears, and shields.
EXHIBITION ROOM – ROOMS DESIGNED BY CAMERON. One of the best exponents of Classicism was Charles Cameron. He was a political refugee from Scotland; he had spent 20 years in Italy and France, and came to Russia in 1779. He stayed in Russia for 27 years and created many architectural ensembles. His first commission in Russia was to re-decorate three suites in the Catherine Palace. By the turn of the 18th century, there had been some 20 rooms redesigned by Cameron in the Neo-Classical style.
The room contains furniture, pictures and statues from the Cameron rooms of the palace, which are now under restoration. They were collected from the Lyons Room and the Arabesque Room.
The unique suite of gilt furniture from the workshop of the famous French cabinet-maker George Jacob (the 1780s, from Arabesque Room) is characteristic of Classicism. This kind of furniture which is distinguished for the strictness of its proportions and the preciseness of its forms was popular in Europe for a long time, right up to the 1830s.
The influence of antiquity characteristic of Classicism is revealed in the shape and decoration of the two floor lamps shaped as stained glass columns with Doric capitals, made at the St Petersburg Imperial Glass factory in the second half of the 18th century.
The marble fireplaces designed by Cameron were assembled after the war out of small fragments of the original marble found under the ruins of the Cameron rooms.
The writing desk of inlaid wood was made by two 18th-century serf masters, the Veretennikov brothers. It shows Catherine II at the wall of Constantinople – an allegory of Russia’s victory in the Russo-Turkish war of 1768-1774.
The chandelier and the vases were made in Russia in the second half of the 18th century after Cameron’s sketches.
The Cameron rooms of the palace used to be decorated with paintings by Hubert Robert depicting decorative ruins and a panel with a view of Rome.
(Then we come to the Picture Hall but on Eastern side to proceed through the rooms which are open for a temporary Exhibition “The Romanovs in the Tsar’s Village” today)
The other rooms after the Picture Hall are used for temporary exhibitions occasionally held in this palace. These days they have displayed an exhibition “The Romanovs in Tsarskoe Selo”.
By passing one room after another you will see pictures, some specific objects of art which once belonged to their owners. You can see some state portraits of: Catherine II, her only one legitimately born son Paul I, his wife Mary Fyodorovna, Nicholas I, his 7 children: 4boys, 3 daughters, the boys’ uniforms, the portraits of Alexander III and Nicholas II, father and son on the horsebacks, and in the last room as a final of the Romanovs’ dynasty the state portrait of Nicholas II, Alexandra Fyodorovna, his wife, their children, their son Alexey.
Now we are going down by the same staircase. Then in the slippers room we will take off slippers. And after 15-20 minutes we will meet at the exit door which is in the end of the ground floor ga1ary, almost near the cloak room area. Then we will have a walking tour in the garden for some minutes. Have a good time doing your little shopping here in this book-store or in some other stalls along the gallery.
THE CATHERINE PARK
The section of the park in front of the palace is a French formal park. It is decorated with original Italian park sculptures of the 18th century and with different pavilions of the same period.
The Upper Bath (arch. Ilya Neyolov, 1777-1779) served as a bathhouse for the royal family. There was a pool and some baths inside; the interior decor was based on the Golden House of the Emperor Nero, which had been discovered during excavations in Rome. Besides, there was a sitting room there, ornamented with decorative painting.
There is an amusing story connected with the Upper Bath. In 1780 the Austrian Emperor Joseph II came to Tsarskoye Selo travelling under an assumed name. His identity was soon revealed, but everyone continued to pretend they did not know who he was. It was known that he preferred to stay at inns, so Catherine II had the baths of the Upper Bath closed, and ordered to furnish the whole pavilion as an inn. The head gardener was brought in as an innkeeper. Joseph II never suspected the truth and was quite satisfied with the rooms he rented at Tsarskoye Selo.
The building was badly damaged during WWII, but has been restored since.
The Lower Bath (arch. Ilya Neyolov, 1779) was originally called the Cavaliers’ Wash-House as it was used by the courtiers. There was the central circular room and six round cabins around it. The interior decor has not been preserved since the war.
On the way to the Hermitage Pavilion you have to cross the Fish Canal, which was dug to breed fish for the royal table. However, it proved impossible because the water was not pure enough.
The Hermitage Pavilion (arch. Zemtsov, Kvasov, Chevakinsky and Rastrelli, 1744-1756) was meant for private dinners and parties without servants. In Elizabeth’s time, it was surrounded by a moat with drawbridges. There were no stairs, and the guests came up in chair-lifts. The ground floor was occupied by the kitchen and pantry, and the first floor was the dining room itself. Five tables could be raised mechanically from the ground floor. There were slates on the tables, on which the guests could write their orders to the servants below. Among the dishes which were served at the dinner parties there were some extremely exotic ones such as nightingales’ tongues. If the guests wished to dance, the tables could be lowered back to the ground floor and the dining room was converted into a ball-room.
During the war the unique mechanism for lowering and raising the tables was smashed to pieces, and the whole pavilion suffered a great deal. Restoration work is still under way.
The Grotto Pavilion (arch. Rastrelli, 1753-1757) was originally ornamented with coloured sea-shells. There were about 200,000 large shells and about 300 kiloes of small shells, so the original Grotto Pavilion looked like a fairy-tale cave. When Catherine II succeeded to the throne, however, she ordered to remove the shells as the architectural fashion had changed by that time. Catherine II used the pavilion to store antique works of art including statues and mouldings.
The Grand Pond is the compositional centre of the Catherine Park, which connects its geometrical and landscaped sections. Its area is 16 hectars (39.5 acres) and it is 2.5 metres deep.
The Admiralty (arch. Vassili Neyolov, 1773-1777) was designed in Gothic style. Originally its ground floor was used to house a collection of boats including Indian canoes, Turkish kayaks, Venetian gondolas and other rowing and sailing boats. The guests could choose boats of any kind for the boating parties, which were held on the Great Pond. The hall of the upper floor housed a giant globe which was made in the mid-18th century as an imitation of the famous globe which Karl Friedrich, the Duke of Holstein in Prussia, had given to Peter I. (That globe, which was 3.4 m = 11 ft in diameter, was made in the mid-17th century and presented to Peter I in 1713. On the outside, the globe represented the Earth surface, and on the inside, the constellations of the sky. Inside the globe there was a table and benches for 10 to 12 people. A simple mechanism was used to revolve the globe while the table and benches remained motionless. It was the first Russian Planetarium. But in 1747 the globe perished during a fire in the Chamber of Curiosities, where it was kept, so a second globe was built to replace it and it was this globe that was put into the Admiralty in 1901.) During the war this second globe was plundered by the Nazi, but was later found in Germany and brought back. At present it is displayed in the building of the Chamber of Curiosities.
The Hall on the Island was where the orchestra sat and played for the guests during the boating parties on the Great Pond.
The Turkish Bathhouse (arch. Monighetti, 1852) was built to mark Russia’s victory in the Russian-Turkish War of 1828-1829. The building, which actually did function as a Turkish bath, resembles a mosque.
The Chesma Column (arch. Rinaldi, 1771-1778) was put up to commemorate the victory of the Russian fleet in the Chesma Bay of the Aegean Sea in the Russian-Turkish War of 1768-1774. The column is 25 m (82.5 ft) high. It is crowned by a bronze eagle, the symbol of Russia, crushing a half-moon, the Moslem symbol.
The Pyramid (arch. Cameron, 1774) was built of brick and faced with granite. At the foot of the Pyramid, on the opposite side of the entrance, three of Catherine II's favourite lap-dogs are buried: Tom Anderson, Zemira and Duchesse. The burial spots were marked with slabs of white marble bearing inscribed epitaphs.
The Pyramid is an interesting park pavilion. Its surface, which has taken on a green tint and become weathered over the years, evokes associations with an ancient mausoleum. At the turn of the 19th century, the Pyramid served as an example for a number of other similar constructions.
The Cameron Gallery was named after the architect Charles Cameron who designed it. It was decorated with Italian and Russian copies of antique statues and busts of ancient philosophers, politicians and military leaders. The staircase is decorated with the statues of Flora (goddess of spring and flowers) and Hercules, made by sculptor Gordeyev. The royal family and their guests used to walk on the upper floor of the gallery, while the living rooms of the ground floor were occupied by courtiers.
The Agate Rooms is another pavilion designed by Cameron as a bathhouse. Its interior was faced with agate. There was a bathing pool on the ground floor, and the rooms of the first floor were elaborately decorated with different semi-precious stones.
The Hanging Gardens next to the Cameron Gallery rest on a platform supported by thick stone columns. The platform is covered with sheets of lead, on which there is a layer of earth thick enough for flowers, shrubs and even trees to grow.
The Granite Terrace faces the Large Pond. It was built in 1808-1810 by Luigi Rusca from pink and gray granite. 50 years later it was ornamented with galvanized copies of ancient sculptures, "Venus of Medici," "Fawn with Goat Kid," "Apoxyomena" and Diana were placed on the bases of the balustrades. This collection, which was made of copper using the technique of galvanization invented in 1838 by the Russian physicist B. S. Jacobi, was gathered from the foundry of the Imperial Academy of the Arts. The sculptures have been preserved and today occupy their historical spots.
At the same time the Granite Terrace was under construction, Luigi Rusca built the Large Granite Pier on the bank of the Large Pond. It is a very simple platform with steps, four round granite blocks and bars. The pier was decorated in the 1850s by galvanized statues of the Borghese Wrestler and the Disk Thrower. The statues have survived to this day.
At the turn of the 20th century, there were flowers planted on the slope. The idea of creating a decorative parterre and flower-beds before the Granite Terrace was recently revived and flowers have been replanted.
In 1792, Empress Catherine II wished to have an additional descent to the Catherine Park directly from the Hanging Garden. When embarking on the new design, Charles Cameron proposed that a gently sloping ramp should be built. Later the ramp was called the Pandus. Translated from the French, the word "pandus" means "gentle slide."
The Pandus was built with seven transverse archways and three non-arched pylons (low walls) which gradually decreased in size. Masks of ancient gods and goddesses (Zeus, Hera, Diana, Mars, Mercury, Minerva, Dionysus) and other mythological characters were carved into the capstones of the archways.
The Milkmaid Fountain represents a girl sitting sadly on the rocks, holding a fragment of a broken milk jug which lies by her feet. A stream of water pours from the cracked neck of the jug. The fountain was built in 1816 and is the only spring in the park.