The palace of Prince Alexander Menshikov, first governor - general of
St Petersburg, was founded on Vasilevsky Island in 1710. It is one of
the oldest surviving buildings in the city, and once combined both residential
and administrative functions.
The unique appearance of the building and its courtyard took shape over
the course of construction, which lasted many years and involved European
architects and artists: Giovanni Mario Fontana, Johann Gottfried Schadel,
Domenico Trezzini, Carlo Bartolommeo Rastrelli, Georg Johann Mattarnovi,
Jean-Baptiste Alexandre Le Blond. It was Russian craftsmen and artists,
however, who realized their ideas.
The palace combines both traditionally Russian and new, imported, methods
and forms, incorporating all the latest achievements in construction and
art of the era.
The interior decoration used marble and painting to imitate marble,
monumental decorative painting and moulding, antique and contemporary
Italian sculpture, as well
as Dutch cobalt painted tiles, Russian stove tiles, painted and stamped
leather, textiles and woollen
This ‘most spacious and splendid palace' (in the words of a foreign
traveller who visited Petersburg in 1721) housed collections of paintings,
sculpture, works of applied art, books, coins and medals, and was the
cultural center of the capital.
After Menshikov's fall from grace, all his property was confiscated
by the state. The palace on Vasilevsky Island was transferred to the First
Cadet Corps, the leading high school
in Russia, which produced many outstanding figures of the 18th and early
19th centuries: the military commanders Count Pyotr Rumyantsev-Zadunaysky,
Count Alexander Suvorov, the dramatist and poet Alexander Sumarokov, the
first Russian actor Fyodor Volkov and others.
In the 1880s a museum of the Cadet Corps was established in the palace,
which functioned until 1924.
The original appearance of the palace was re-created in the course of
restoration work undertaken in the 1970s on the initiative of the State
Inspectorate for the Preservation of Monuments, and the palace museum
opened its doors to visitors in 1981. As part of the Hermitage, the Menshikov
Palace was able to draw on the Museum's large collections incorporating
not only former imperial property but also the property of the Russian
nobility, including objects confiscated from Prince Menshikov.
If you enjoyed this collection, you might want to also visit the other
collections at the State Hermitage Museum.
Peter the Great: 18th Century
View from the Neva River