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The Partridge Reception Room

Two parallel sets of rooms unfold to the east of the Study of Peter the Great and the Chinese Lobby: the northern and the southern suites. The nine apartments of the northern suite face the Lower Park, and the five rooms of the southern suite look out on to the Upper Gardens. The last room in the northern set has a window in the end wall, through which the sky is visible; and if we look down the suite from the Picture Hall, a long vista opens which seems to lead the eye to infinity.

The Partridge Reception Room or Boudoir opens a suite of rooms making up the female apartments of the palace. Situated next to the bedroom, it was used for spending morning hours in conversations within a select circle. Decorated in the mid-eighteenth century by Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli, it was considerably altered by Velten between 1770 and 1773. The tone of the room's decor is set by the precious silk covering the walls. It depicts groups of three golden-brown partridges among tufts of tall grass, set against a silvery ground, in a pattern of floral wreaths linked by garlands of ripe corn. The silk was manufactured in the 1760s from the cartoons of the French designer Philippe de La Salle. In 1894 it was copied by Russian weavers at the Sapozhnikov Silk Factory in Moscow. During the recent restoration the weavers Vera Rybchcvskaya, Amalia Feigina, Galina Grachova (Evgrafova), and Nina Axianova, working on a hand-loom, copied a surviving specimen of the Sapozhnikov silk to supply the deficient pieces.

The graceful design and the noble colours of the upholstery lend the room an air of refined elegance, and harmonize beautifully with the rest of the decor, based on a contrasting combination of white and gold. The carved and moulded decorations, richly gilded, stand out sharply against their white backgrounds of stucco and painted wood. The leaves of the doors, as well as the panels in the lower part of the walls, are framed in strips of gilded moulding and adorned with scrolls, rocailles, figures of birds, and plant motifs. Rich gilt carving decorates the white partition wall opposite the windows, in which there is a recess for a settee. The arch of the recess is adorned with a gilt carved frame surmounted by a handsome cartouche above festoons. In the lighting apertures of the partition wall, over the doors, are vases with flower garlands. The doors are embellished with fanciful rocaille motifs, flowers, wreaths, acanthus scrolls, and Trophies of Love. Gilded strips of moulding accentuate the shape of the doors, panels, and piers in the partition, creating an overall impression of graceful regularity.

In the pier between the windows is a mirror in a Rococo frame, reflecting the room's sumptuous decor. Classical forms are given to the mouldings of the frieze and cornice: gilded palmettes and beading against a white ground. The band of fine grisaille, running along the perimeter of the ceiling, and two painted wreaths with gilded ribbons in the corners form a link between the white-and-gold cornice and the colourful painted plafond, Allegory of Dawn, enframed in gilt moulding and a band of most delicate grisaille, creating the illusion of sculptural decor. The plafond, the work of a French painter of the eighteenth century, comes from the St Peterburg Hermitage collections.

When redesigning the room, Velten embellished it with portraits of young girls, first graduates of the Smolny Institute for Girls of Noble Birth founded by Catherine the Great. The portraits were painted by the well-known Russian artist Dmitry Levitsky. Visitors can have some idea of the original decor of the room from its western wall bearing a 19th-century copy of Yekaterina Nelidova's portrait produced by the painter Schmidt. The paintings of girls' heads by the French Jean-Baptiste Greuze are on the opposite wall.

The furniture in the room consists mainly of 18th-century items. The harp in the centre was made in the London workshop of the famous craftsman Sebastian Erard.

The Partridge Reception Room, restored in 1964, is an exquisite and rare example of a Russian palace interior decorated in the style of a period of transition from the Rococo to Neo-classicism.




The Partridge Reception Room.


The Partridge Reception Room.
Jean-Boptiste Greuse.
"Girl at the table"
1760s.



The Partridge Reception Room.
original version of the decor
1750s.
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