CATHERINE PALACE

 

The Catherine

was the Rococo summer residence of the Russian tsars, located in the town of Pushkin, 25 km south-east of St. Petersburg, Russia.

The residence originated in 1717, when Catherine I of Russia engaged the German architect Johann-Friedrich Braunstein to construct a summer palace for her pleasure. Construction lasted for four years and on 30 July 1756 the architect presented the brand-new 325-meter-long palace to the Empress, her dazed courtiers, and stupefied foreign ambassadors.

During Elizabeth’s lifetime, the palace was famed for its lavish exterior More than 100 kilograms of gold were used to gild the sophisticated stucco fa├žade and numerous statues erected on the roof. It was even rumoured that the palace’s roof was constructed entirely of gold.

 

In front of the palace a great formal garden was laid out. It centres on the azure-and-white Hermitage Pavilion near the lake, designed by Zemtsov in 1744, overhauled by Rastrelli in 1749 and formerly crowned by a grand gilded sculpture representing The Rape of Persephone.

The interior of the pavilion featured dining tables with dumbwaiter mechanisms. The grand entrance to the palace is flanked by two massive “circumferences”, also in the Rococo style. A delicate iron-cast grille separates the complex from the town of Tsarskoe Selo.

 

Upon Catherine’s death in 1796, the palace was abandoned in favour of the Pavlovsk Palace. Subsequent monarchs preferred to reside in the nearby Alexander Palace and, with only two exceptions, refrained from making new additions to the Catherine Palace, regarding it as a splendid monument to Elizabeth’s wealth and Catherine II’s glory

Although Stasov’s and Cameron’s Neoclassical interiors are superb manifestations of the late 18th-century and early 19th-century taste, the palace is best known for Rastrelli’s grand suit of formal rooms known as the Golden Enfilade. It starts at the spacious airy ballroom, the “Grand Hall” or the “Hall of Lights”, with a spectacular painted ceiling, and comprises numerous distinctively decorated smaller rooms, including the reproduced Amber Room.

The Cameron Gallery in the 18th century.The Great Hall, or the Light Gallery as it was called in the 18th century, is a formal apartment in the Russian baroque style designed by Bartolomeo Rastrelli between 1752 and 1756. The Great Hall was intended for more important receptions such as balls, formal dinners, and masquerades. The hall was painted in two colors and covers an area of approximately 1,000 square meters. Occupying the entire width of the palace, the windows on the eastern side look out onto the park while the windows of the western side look out to the palace plaza. In the evening, 696 lamps are lit on 12-15 chandeliers located near the mirrors. The halls sculptural and gilded carvings and ornimantation were created according to sketches by Rastrelli and models by Johann Franz Dunker.

The Agate Rooms of Catherine II.Beyond the Great Hall is the dining room for the courtiers in attendance (the Courtiers-in-Attendance Dining Room). The room was designed by Rastrelli in the mid-18th century. The small room is lit by four windows which look out into the formal courtyard. The architect placed false windows with mirrors and mirrored glass on the opposite wall, making the hall more spacious and bright. Decorated in the typical baroque interior style, the hall is filled with gilded wall-carvings, complex gilded pieces on the doors, and ornamental patterns of stylized flowers. The ceiling mural was painted by a well known student of the Russian School from the mid-18th century. It is based on the Greek myth of the sun god Helios and the goddess of the dawn, Eos.

 

Across from the Courtiers-in-Attendance Dining Room, on the other side of the Main Staircase, is the White Formal Dining Room.

The hall was used for the empresses’ formal dinners or “evening meals”. The walls of the dining hall were decorated with the utmost extravagance with gilded carvings. The furnishings consist of gilded carvings on the consoles. The painted mural, The Triumph of Apollo is a copy of a painting completed in the 16th century by Italian artist, Guido Reni.

 

The Portrait Hall is a formal apartment that covers 100 square meters of space. The room’s walls boast large formal portraits of Empress Catherine I, Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, as well as paintings of Natalya Alexeyevna, sister of Peter the Great, and Empress Catherine II. The inlaid floors of the hall contain precious woods. The Drawing Room of Alexander I was designed between 1752 and 1756 and belonged to the Emperor’s private suite. The drawing room stood out from the rest of the formal rooms in the palace due to the fact that the walls were covered in Chinese silk. Other decor in the room was typical for the palace’s formal rooms, a ceiling mural, gilded carvings. The elegant card-tables and inlaid wood commode display Japanese, Chinese, and Berlin porcelain.

 

The Green Dining Room, which replaced Rastrelli’s “Hanging Garden” in 1773, is the first of the rooms in the northern wing of the Catherine Palace, designed by Cameron for the future Emperor Paul and his wife. The pistachio-coloured walls of the room are lined with stucco figures by Ivan Martos. During the great fire of 1820 the room was seriously damaged, thus sharing the fate of other Cameron’s interiors. It was subsequently restored under Stasov’s direction.