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The Petrine epoch | 1730-1917 | After 1917



In 1730, after a four-year lull, a new period of building activities began, lasting a decade. This period was associated with the work of Zemtsov, now the leading St Petersburg architect, and his assistants, Ivan Blank and Ivan Davydov. The layout of the Lower Park was greatly improved. Two more walks were added to the trident of vistas stretching from the parterre and the Great Cascade to the Gulf. The Maliebaan Alley was laid out from the Marly to the Monplaisir Palace, creating a second ray which crossed the park from west to east; the coastal terrace was linked to the Lower Gardens by two long ramps, and by stairways with balustrades; and a broad ramp was constructed in the Orangery area, leading down to the parterre in front of the Dragon Cascade. The Marly Cascade was also completed - in accordance with a new design - and four Triton fountains were placed in front of it. On the site of the uncompleted Ruin Cascade was built the Dragon Cascade adorned with figures of fantastic creatures, executed by the sculptor Hans Gonradt Ossner. The area in front of the cascade was laid out by Bernhard Fock, to designs of Blank and Davydov, as a parterre with two Roman Fountains. At the same time, in collaboration with Ossner, the architects also created the Whale Fountain, with fantastic figures of the Whale Fish of Russian folk tales, and of two fabulous Sea Bulls.

In 1735, to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the battle of Poltava, the most magnificent of all the Peterhof fountains was erected in the Great Cascade Pool and decorated with the monumental group of Samson Rending Open the Jaws of the Lion, executed by Bartolomeo Carlo Rastrelli, the sculptor.

Glorifying in allegorical form the victory of Russian arms, this group gave a special emphasis to the patriotic theme developed in the ornamentation of the Cascade. At the same time, twenty-two fountains were moved from the niches in the trellised screens which separated the zone of the Canal from the park, right up to the edge of the water, and in this way the magnificent Water Avenue was created, a long vista terminating in the Samson group.

In the 1730s, Blank and Davydov converted the modest, partially functional Upper Gardens into a formal approach to the residence from the side of the St. Petersburg road. The area covered by the garden was also broadened to match the length of the wings added by Zemtsov to the Upper Mansion. To the three existing rectangular basins they added two circular ones and in all of them built fountains with multi-figured sculptural compositions in gilded lead, executed from models by Bartolomeo Carlo Rastrelli, with the assistance of his talented Russian pupils Andrey Selivanov, Fiodor Medvedev, and Andrey Khreptikov.

An important contribution to the creation of Peterhof was made by Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli, an outstanding architect of the mid-eighteenth century, son of the sculptor. Rastrelli's most significant work in Peterhof was the extension of Peter's Upper Mansion, and its conversion into the Great Palace we know today, with its gleaming gilded cupolas and its suites of gorgeous halls and state rooms. Between 1745 and the mid-1760s, he constructed two trellis summerhouses by the Adam and the Eve Fountains, a brick building for the Empress Elizabeth close to Monplaisir (later associated with Catherine II, and known as the Catherine House), the new Roman Fountains, and the monumental railings of the Upper Gardens. Rastrelli greatly enhanced the monumental quality of the ensemble and gave to it an opulence and wealth of colour which lent it a truly regal magnificence.

The second half of the eighteenth century was marked by a change of style in architecture. The austere clarity characteristic of Russian Classicism replaced the lavish ornamentation of the preceding period. In interior decoration, Baroque extravagance gave way to stricter and simpler forms. In the 1770s, a pupil of Rastrelli's, Yury Velten, redecorated three large halls - the Throne Room, the White Banqueting Hall, and the Chesme Room, and a suite of drawing-rooms of the Great Palace in the Classical style. In cooperation with Ivan Yakovlev, he also built the revolving Sun Fountain in the Menagerie Pond. A third radial walk (the so-called Birch Walk) was laid out in the Lower Park, running from west to east, from Marly to the Dragon Gascade; and with it the whole composition of the Lower Park acquired a sense of unity.

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, a number of structures designed by Andrey Voronikhin, a brilliant exponent of Russian Classicism, were added to the ensemble of the Lower Park. In place of the wooden galleries facing the parterres in front of the Great Palace, he built two marble-lined pavilions with tazza-shaped fountains on their roofs, and water-jets topping the gilded cupolas. Reviving a project of Peter's time, he adorned the terraced slope near the Great Cascade with ten miniature cascades and twenty single-jet fountains in round basins. Voronikhin also designed the Hermitage Cascade and a new base for the Samson Fountain, and decorated the Marly Avenue, where the Marly Bridge crossed the canal, with large marble urns on pedestals of Pudost limestone. He also took part in the work of replacing the Baroque lead sculptures of the Great Cascade, which had become worn through age, with bronze statues. In 1799 and 1806, some of the best St Petersburg sculptors - Mikhail Kozlovsky, Fedot Shubin, Ivan Martos, Feodosy Shchedrin, Ivan Prokofyev, and Jean Dominique Rachette - created for this purpose a number of new works which, although typical of Russian Classicism, nevertheless had great dynamism and could be organically integrated into the general scheme of the Cascade. In this way they were able to preserve the artistic unity of this rare monument of the first quarter of the eighteenth century.

The continuity to be seen in the work of sculptors and architects at Peterhof throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries made it possible to preserve and develop the basic artistic solutions adopted for the ensemble in Peter's time. The works undertaken between 1850 and 1860 were conducted along the same lines. The Voronikhin Colonnades, the steps and headpieces of the Terrace Cascades, the basins of the Terrace Fountains, and the bowls, pedestals, and surrounds of the Great Fountains, the basins for the water-jets in the Water Avenue, and two new fountains, those of the Marble Benches, were all faced with Carrara marble, according to the designs of Andrey Stakenschneider. In place of the dilapidated Hermitage Cascade, Stakenschneider erected a monumental gallery with granite columns, the Lion Cascade. At the same time, another architect, Nikolay Benois, strengthened the construction of the Great Gascade and faced the Pool and the piers of the Great Canal with granite. Over the course of 150 years, at a time when fountain-making flourished, and was thought of as a separate art, some of the best examples in Russia were created at Peterhof. During the first half of the eighteenth century these were typically Baroque fountains, distinguished by a picturesque pattern of powerful jets, graceful sprays, and foaming streams, and organically linked with sculptural and architectural decoration. Side by side with these are fountains dating from the second half of the eighteenth and first half of the nineteenth centuries. Here the water merely adds to the effect of the architectural composition which, whether conceived on a monumental or a small scale, invariably remains dominant.

In the second half of the eighteenth and the first half of the nineteenth century, the architects Giacomo Quarenghi, Adam Menelas, Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Andrey Stakenschneider, Joseph Charlemagne, Harald Bosse, and Antony Tomishko; the hydraulic engineer Mieczyslaw Pilsudski; and the garden designers and master-gardeners James Meders, Danila Gavrilov, Terenty Timofeyev, Friedrich Wendelsdorf, Piotr Rodionov, Piotr Arkhipov, and Wilhelm Ehrler created eleven new landscape parks by the coast or on lakes near the formal parks of Peterhof. These included palaces, pavilions, bridges, and decorative buildings, covering a total area of more than 2,500 acres. The best complexes of this period are the English Park and Palace, built by Quarenghi, and Alexandria, with the "Cottage" summer palace, by Menelas; the Dairy by Menelas and Stakenschneider, the Lower Palace by Tomishko, and the Gothic Chapel by Schinkel. The Lower Park and the Upper Gardens retained until 1917 their official status as the grounds of the emperors' summer residence, forming the site for the most important public occasions and for the reception of foreign sovereigns. These occasions were accompanied by sumptuous masquerades, firework displays and magnificent illuminations. Thousands of little lanterns and oil lamps shone in the trees bordering the walks and on the palace facades, or edged the banks of the pools, the basins of the fountains, and the cascade steps. Ballets (in which the best dancers performed) were staged in the open air amongst the greenery of the gardens, with palaces and fountains as a backdrop. Well-known architects and decorators worked on the preparation of the pageantry. In the middle of the nineteenth century these Peterhof events acquired a reputation throughout Europe, but it was only in the second half of the nineteenth century that public holidays known as Peterhof Festivals began to be held every summer in the Lower Park, with illumination, firework displays, and lotteries. Most of the Peterhof parks, however, remained, as before, the property of the imperial family, carefully protected by regiments of guards and by the police.

The Dragon or
Chessboard Cascade
V.I. Bajenov, 1796

The Great Palace
and the Great Cascade
I.K. Aivazovsky, 1837

Carriages ready for departure
on the terrace of
the Great Palace
V.S. Sadovnikov, c.1850

View of the Pool of Samson.
Engraving by Chesky from a drawing of Shatoshnikov.
Early 19-th century.

View of the Golden Hill from the Parnassus.
Engraving by galaktionov from his own drawing.
Early 19-th century.

The shores of the
Gulf of Finland,
below the Cottage
S.M. Vorobiov, 1853

The Tsaritsyn Island
and Pavilion in the Columns Park
J.J. Meier, c.1845
t o p   o f   p a g e  
The official homepage of the Peterhof:
Complete playbill of all St. Petersburg,Russia theatres, shows, concerts, etcComplete playbill of all St. Petersburg,Russia theatres, shows, concerts, etc. !
World-known music festival "The Stars of the White Nights". Artistic director - Valery Gergiev (Mariinky (Kirov) Opera and Ballet)World-known music festival "The Stars of the White Nights".
Artistic director - Valery Gergiev (Mariinky (Kirov) Opera and Ballet)

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