Visitors' tour of the museum begins from a small pavilion known by the German name Lusthaus (the amusement house). The Lusthaus, square in plan, with a brick floor and four huge doors, is surmounted by a tetrahedral dome with skylight pouring in through it. The facets of the dome were painted by artists from the Moscow Armoury after Philippe Pillement's sketches in 1721. Canvases by Western European painters of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries decorate the walls of its interior. The paintings on display in the Lusthaus are part of the extensive Monplaisir collection, which mainly consists of works by Dutch and Flemish masters. The pictures were bought abroad on the orders of Peter the Great himself. The galleries connecting the two lusthaus blocks with the central building of the palace were found especially suitable for the display of the paintings.
The gallery is about twenty metres long. Sixteen glazed doors, from the floor to the ceiling, fill the interior with light and air introducing a feeling of its harmony with the surrounding scenery. There is practically no wall on the southern side and on the northern one the window apertures grew much narrower and form piers panelled with oak. The ceiling and coves are decorated with ornamental painted motifs and with the use of gold by Philippe Pillement. The medallion in the centre of the plafond features an allegory of Summer- a subject fashionable in the eighteenth century.
The wide piers between the windows on me northern side were suitable for hanging pictures in pairs, one over another. It was, however, not by their subject-matter, artistic manner or colour scheme that the choice was made - the only thing that mattered was the size. The plain black frames of the paintings stand out clearly against the background of the warm-toned walls faced with elegantly carved oak panels. Twenty-one of the original paintings have survived. With the exception of three Italian works, represented here are pictures by Dutch and Flemish painters of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This choice reflects the tastes of the Monplaisir owner. The paintings were acquired mainly at auctions in Amsterdam during Peter the Great's visits, and often painters themselves helped him to make his choice. One can hardly trace any consistent idea behind the selection of the paintings except for the Tsar/s apparent liking of marines.
During the Petrine period Monplaisir housed 201 paintings. Their lot in the seaside palace was sad. Not heated in winter, exposed to strong winds and damaged by water during floods, Monplaisir is by no means an ideal art repository. There are 147 paintings on display in the palace today and 120 of them belonged to the originals collection.
Among the paintings of the Eastern Gallery one should single out two works by the Flemish painter Daniel van Heil (1604-1662). One of them, The Destruction of Sodom, was inspired by a Biblical subject and the other, Aeneas' Flight from Troy, was based on the poem Aeneid by the Roman poet Virgil. The most notable pictures in the gallery are Falconry by the Dutchmen Philips Wouwerman (1631-1698) and Calm on the Sea by the well-known marine painter Adriaen van de Velde (1636-1672).