The Winter Palace (one of the five buildings of Hermitage Museum) was commissioned by Empress Elizabeth I to architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli. It was built in 1754-1762 in sumptuous Baroque style. The inside of the Palace has been reconstructed several times: during the 1780s and 1790s by Giacomo Quarenghi and Ivan Starov and in the 1830s by Carlo Rossi and Auguste Montferrand. In 1837 a fire broke out and burst for three days, only walls survived. Vasily Stasov and Alexander Bruillov completed the restoration work in the spring of 1839. The exterior was restored in the original, the majority of the interiors were redecorated in late Classical style.

 The Main Staircase

The Main Staircase was the official entrance into the Palace from Palace Embankment. Originally it was designed by Rastrelly in magnificent Baroque style. The idea was to overwhelm, that is why it is high, well lit, and sparkling with gold and mirrors. The eighteenth century ceiling portrays the gods on Olympus. The staircase was redesigned after the fire of 1837 by Vasily Stasov in keeping with Rastrelli’s plan but with certain alterations.

The Field Marshal Hall

It was designed by Montferrand and after the fire by Stasov. It opens the official part of the Palace, which was meant for receptions, balls, and parties. This is the perfect sample of Russian Imperial style or late Classicism. The idea of the style was to glorify Russia after the war with Napoleon. The main motive in the decoration is the military one: the walls, ceiling, chandeliers, vases are decorated with helmets, glory leaves, wreaths, swords. All niches around the perimeter of the hall were decorated with the portraits of the Russian field marshals.

The Memorial Room of Peter the Great or Small Throne Hall

It was decorated by Montferrand and after the fire was restored by Stasov. The hall is dedicated to the memory of the founder of the city Peter the Great. Above the throne of the Russian tsars there is a portrait of Peter I with Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom, painted by the eighteenth century Italian master Amiconi. Overhead on the side walls there are two battles from the Northern War -of Poltava and Lesnaya- illustrating Peter I’s victories over the Swedes. The walls are faced with the crimson velvet panels embroidered with silver threads with the representations of the double-headed eagle – the state coat of arms of Russia.

The Emblem Hall

It was decorated by Stasov after the fire. The pictures of the coats of arms of Russian provinces, attached to bronze chandeliers, gave the name to the hall. The decoration of the hall is impressive and typical for late Classicism: richly gilded columns, moldings, and balustrade.

The 1812 Gallery

It was designed by Carlo Rossi in 1826 and later restored by Stasov. It commemorates the victory of the Russian army over Napoleon. The gallery is decorated with 332 portraits of the Russian generals, who participated in the campaign against France in 1812 and who entered Paris in July 1814. English master George Dawe, who was assisted by two Russian painters Poliakov and Golike, painted the portraits. There are equestrian portraits of Alexander I and his two allies Frederick-William III of Prussia and the Austrian Emperor Francis I. There are full length portraits of the Field Marshals Kutuzov, Barclay de Tolly; Grand Duke Konstantin (the brother of Alexander I); and Duke Wellington who was a hero of Waterloo battle. There are thirteen empty frames, which are upholstered with green fabrics. The inscriptions on the frames give the names and ranks of those who fell in battle and whose portraits it was not possible to reproduce. At the time of the fire in 1837 the guardsmen saved the portraits.

The St George Hall or the Large Throne Hall

It was decorated by Quarenghi in 1795 and after the fire by Stasov and Efimov. It is one of the most elegant, stately, and solemn in the Winter Palace covering eight hundred square meters. The Hall is decorated with white Italian marble and gilded bronze. The inlaid floor, made from sixteen valuable kinds of wood, reflects the ceiling pattern. Opposite the entrance to the hall and above the throne is the marble bas-relief St George Slaying the Dragon, who is the patron saint of the Russian State and warriors.


Author: Ekaterina Chistyakova

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