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The Oak Study of Peter the Great

Among the vast halls and magnificent state apartments of the Palace, Peter the Great's modest study holds a place of honour both for artistic reasons and for the historic associations which it evokes.

This small room on the piano nobile of the eastern jutty of the southern facade is one of the most remarkable interiors of Peter's time. Four latticed windows with small square lights, so characteristic of the period, open on to the quiet Upper Gardens, completely still in Peter's day, undisturbed even by the sound of splashing waters. One of the room's three doors leads to a balcony, another to the interior of the house, and the third to a spiral staircase descending into the garden. Isolation was essential for this apartment, intended for study and often used by Peter for private interviews with high-ranking officials and foreign diplomats. The decoration of the study, simple, practical, and at the same time tasteful and refined, helped to create an atmosphere congenial to the purposes of the room.

Le Blond faced the walls and window reveals with wainscoting of light oak. The richly carved wall panels, the figured mirror frames, and the overdoors, are unsurpassed masterpieces of early eighteenth-century ornamental wood carving. They were made by Rust, Estienne (Etienne) Follet, Fordrain, Taconait, and Russian craftsmen after drawings and models by Nicolas Pineau, who also participated in the carving. Pineau, a descendant of the famous family of French woodcarvers, displayed great artistic tact and exquisite taste in decorating long panels with trophies of arms, globes, astronomical instruments, signs of the zodiac, musical attributes, palm fronds, flower garlands, scallop shells, foliate scrolls and other grotesque motifs, and naval and mural crowns. By varying the height of the relief, Pineau attained an amazing play of light and shade, accentuating the fine detail. The panels form a set of allegoric pieces glorifying the works of Peter the Great, his military victories, and the advances of sciences and arts in Russia. Of particular interest are two panels, one with an idealized profile of Peter himself wearing a victor's laurels, the other showing Catherine I in Minerva's helmet.

Among the personal relics of Peter the Great is a curious table clock in a rectangular case of gilt bronze, with the dial placed horizontally. It was made in the early years of the eighteenth century by Johannes Benner of Augsburg, the leading art centre of Bavaria.

During the War of 1941-45, eight of the fourteen wall panels, four door leaves, and two overdoors were rescued. As part of the restoration, several oak panels, window frames, and the inlaid floor have been remade, and the authentic eighteenth-century door panels and overdoors again mounted in their places. New panels have been carved by Boris Gerschelman after the models of Nadezhda Ode.

The Study of Peter the Great is one of the most perfect examples of Russian early eighteenth-century interior decoration.




The Oak Study.


Carved panel.
Oak



The table clock
of Peter the Great.
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