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The Chinese Lobbies

The Western and Eastern Chinese Lobbies, a tribute to the fashion for Oriental art, are located symmetrically to the central axis of the Great Palace. These two small rooms were redecorated in the 1760s in a manner probably suggested to Vallin de la Mothe by the Chinese Room in the Palace of Monplaisir. Their walls were faced with painted black-lacquer panels, leaves from a screen originally brought from China. In addition to the authentic Chinese panels, of which there were five in each room, Fiodor Vlasov, Antonio Battista Peresinotti and their assistants made some stylized ones to serve as insets for the wall panelling, doors, and window reveals, and also painted the ceilings. The decor was completed by wall coverings of damask, panelling coated with coloured lacquers, gilt carved ornaments, inlaid floors, and glazed tiles (the designs on the modern stove tiles have been re-created by Boris Mickiewicz from a few surviving specimens).

The original decor of the two lobbies, based on the authentic Chinese panels, thus included stylizations by Russian artists. The Russian restorers who re-created these interiors followed the same principle as their eighteenth-century predecessors, and reproduced their work with astonishing skill. Leonid Liubimov made the designs for the wall panels, medallions, and insets, as well as the ceiling paintings; they were executed by Anatoly Burenin, Vasily Zverev, Alexander Moroshkin, Hector Olshevsky, and Edward Schramm, with amazing fidelity to the originals. To achieve this, it was necessary to rediscover the long-forgotten secret of the technique of painting on lacquer, and to learn the artistic language both of the Chinese work and of the Russian imitations of the style.

The floors of the Chinese Lobbies were reproduced by Ivan Antonov's team of parquet-makers from drawings of Savkov. They are inlaid with some two thousand pieces of thirteen different kinds of wood, including rosewood, amaranth, mahogany, birch, maple, ebony, and sandalwood, forming a rich colour range excellently suited to the polychrome decoration of the walls and the ceilings. The damask for the wall coverings was made by Svetlana Punga, Zinaida Biriukova, and Amalia Feigina. The carved and sculptural decoration was reproduced by Nikolay Bazanov, Anatoly Kemnits, and Anatoly Semionov after models by Mikhailova and Maslennikov. In 1974, four Chinese lanterns of octagonal shape were made for the west Lobby. The lanterns consist of a framework of gilt bronze and eight panels of frosted glass, each an individual composition painted in transparent glazes mixed with silicon resin lacquer. The ornaments, created by Liubimov, include such motifs as phoenixes, dragons, peacocks, ducks, orchids, lotus flowers, peonies, chrysanthemums, flowering cherry and plum branches, interspersed with Chinese symbols of learning.

Decorated like jewellery caskets, the Chinese Lobbies were intended to provide a background for the display of Palace collections of precious Oriental porcelains, bronzes, lacquers, ivory carvings, and furniture. Though the basic principle of their decor is the same, each of the Lobbies has its own individual features.

The Western Chinese Lobby.

The Eastern Chinese Lobby.
Stove with painted till decoration.

The Western Chinese Lobby.

The Western Chinese Lobby.
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