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The Winter Palace. Ages and Styles

The Age of Classicism
The architecture of the Winter Palace that is an embodyment of the spirit of the magnificent 18th century combines power of the Baroque style with solemn grandeur of Classical interiors.The style of Classicism with the civil ethos which was in tune with the social attitudes of the early 19th century defined motifs in the architecture of Saint Petersburg of that time. The Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan designed by Voronikhin, architectural ensembles of Carlo Rossi, huge St.Isaac Cathedral designed by Montferrand adorned the capital of theRussian Empire. The Winter Palace also became the monument of this time. Constant reconstructions and alterations in its interiors reflected the spirit of the time and aesthetic tastes of the Romanovs dynasty. The 19th century in Russia commenced with the reign of the favourite grand-son of Catherine the Great Alexander who accended to the throne in 1801 after Paul I was murdered. The main event during his reign was the war with France that required from the Emperor brought up in liberal traditions tough policy and resoluteness. Russia won in the greatest and most bloody war of the 19th century and Alexander I went down in history as the victorious Emperor.
Alexander restored the status of the royal residence to the Winter Palace and retained the atmosphere he was used to since his childhood. Only necessary repairs were done during his reign and the private rooms of the Emperor and Empress in the north-western projecture were newly decorated. Designed by Luigi Rusca they were notable for Classical restraint.
The beginning of 1817 in the Winter Palace was marked with preparations to the wedding of Grand Duke Nikolai Pavlovich (the future Emperor Nicholas I) and Princess of Prussia Charlotte (Alexandra Feodorovna). For her arrival one of the leading architects of Russian Classicism Carlo Rossi designed the living rooms in the southern part of the building in a refined and noble manner characteristic of his works. In commemoration of the victory of Russia over Napoleonic France Alexander I commissioned Carlo Rossi to make a design of the gallery in the official part of the palace. The portraits of the heroes of the Patriotic War were to be painted by the English portrait-painter George Dawe. Construction of the Gallery of 1812 that became a monument to the Russian military glory was completed in the reign of Nicholas I. Nicholas I ascended to the throne in 1825 after a sudden death of his elder brother. He thought it his duty to continue creating memorials in honour of the victory in the war that glorified not only Russia but his predecessor as well. The reign of Nicholas himself had never been marked with such glory. It started on the tragic day of the Decembrists' uprising and finished in 1855 during the heroic defence of Sebastopol in the ignominious Krimean War.
The opening ceremony of the Gallery of 1812 in the Winter Palace was officially held on December 25, 1826 to commemorate the 14th anniversary of the French fleeing from Russia. 332 portraits of the generals - participants of the campaign of 1812-1815- and four gala portraits of the Field Marshals are on display in the gallery.The equestrian portraits of Alexander I and his allies - King of Prussia Frederick William III and Emperor of Austria Francis I - were installed later. In 1827 Nicholas I invited Auguste Montferrand to take part in the decoration of the Winter Palace. This architect who designed the St.Isaac Cathedral replaced Carlo Rossi, relieved of his post, and started to decorate the rooms of the Empress Dowager Maria Feodorovna. Having demonstrated his mastership in the sphere of architecture and freedom of interpretation of Classical motifs Montferrand created smart palace interiors.
One of his beautifully designed interiors preserved till today is the staircase leading to the living quarters of the Empress. Today it is called the October staircase. Brilliant talent of the master of interiors were highly appraised by the Emperor and Montferrand was commissioned to decorate "private" rooms of the royal couple. Between the official and living suites of rooms Montferrand constructed "Rotunda" - a round hall giving access to the other rooms and resembling in its architectural composition an antique temple with sky-light window in the sloping cupola. In April 1833 the architect was commissioned to redecorate the Main official suite of rooms. Montferrand designed two halls: the Field Marshals' Hall and the Memorial Throne Room of Peter the Great. The Emperor requested that all the works were done in a short period of time during the summer which forced the architect to use wooden constructions. The Field Marshals' Hall intended to house the portraits of the Russian Field Marshals was designed in severe style with four-columned porticos at the doors on both sides of it. The hall was decorate with artificial white marble, inlaid parquet floor, plafond with geometrical pattern and stucco decor representing military attributes.
The decor of the other room in memoriam of Peter I was notable for solemn splendour. On the walls covered with crimson velvet a thousand of gilded bronze eagles were arranged in rythmical order. Later they were replaced with eagles embroidered with silver thread. Two battle scenes representing the "Battle at Poltava" and the "Battle at Lesnaya" and the picture "Peter the Great with Minerva" (Amiconi) glorified Peter the Great as the founder of the powerful empire. The silver throne executed by the English master Nicholas Klausen (1731) and siver floor and wall lamps were installed after the fire of 1837. During the reign of the two sons of Paul I the Winter Palace once again became the official royal residence and was decorated according to its status. The best Russian architects and talented masters created magnificent ensembles of the official halls and suites of private rooms. But a terrible fire in 1837 practically destroyed the palace to nothing leaving only the burnt framework.

The view of the Winter Palace from the west
Vasily Sadovnikov
Larger view

The study of Empress Elisaveta Alekseevna
V. Golovin
Larger view

The Gallery of 1812
Grigofy Chernetsov
Oil on canvas
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Edward Hau
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Throne Room of Peter the Great
Edward Hau
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