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The Yellow Hall

The huge Yellow Hall with its exquisite Classical decor by Quarenghi is the main interior of the Catherine Block. Its walls are divided by sixteen paired pilasters of the Corinthian order; between them are grotesque stucco mouldings including a classical vase, plant shoots, bowls and a female figure in an oval medallion; over the four doors of the Hall are the bas-reliefs by the sculptor Jean-Dominique Rachette glorifying architecture, music, theatre and science in allegorical form. The interior is lit by seven beautiful chandeliers made of gilded wood and putty by Russian craftsmen in the early twentieth century.

The gobelin embroidered at the famous Paris Factory in the early nineteenth century after a painting by Charles Steuben is devoted to a memorable historical episode. It shows Peter the Great rescuing fishermen during a storm on Lake Ladoga. The gobelin was commissioned by Napoleon I, but was finished in the reign of Louis XVIII who presented it to Alexander I.

The walls of the hall are also adorned with portraits of the Russian Emperors: an early- nineteenth-century copy from a portrait of Catherine the Great by Johann-Baptist Lampi the Elder, and a portrait of Alexander I painted by George Dawe in 1825. The clock by Pierre-Philippe Thomire placed under Alexander I's portrait repeats the famous sculptural composition of the monument to Minin and Pozharsky on Red Square in Moscow.

The best decoration of the Yellow Hall is the Guryev Service, the most magnificent among Russian porcelain services. It was named after Count Dmitry Guryev who commissioned the set at the Imperial Porcelain Factory in St Petersburg for the Imperial court. Its original name, the "Russian Service", exactly reflects the subject of its decor. It is a sort of encyclopaedia of Russian life. Its plates contained representations of dozens of various folk types illustrating the population of the huge country, and a wine-cooler bore views of St Petersburg and its environs, as well as sights of Moscow. The painters who decorated the service drew on Johann Georgi's book The Peoples of Russia and Christian Gottfried Geissler's St Petersburg Scenes and Types as well as paintings by Mikhail Vorobyov, Fiodor Alexeyev and Semyon Shchedrin. Three-dimensional objects were adorned with sculptures of young boys and girls wearing Russian national costumes. They were designed by the sculptor Stepan Pimenov. The war against Napoleon's France delayed the creation of the service until 1817. Originally it was intended for 50 persons, but later the number was supplemented several times and towards the end of the nineteenth century the set included about 500 items. The brilliance of this service was emphasized by crystal items commissioned in England by Paul I in the late eighteenth century.

The Yellow Hall.

The Yellow Hall.
Tapestry. Paris.
Early 19th century.

The Yellow Hall.
The Guryev Service.
The Imperial Porcelain Factory,
St Petersburg. 1809-17.


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