The fairylike light of the crystal cascades, of the fantastic trees of gilded bronze, of porcelain, of coloured glass, of precious stones: there is a whole world of splendour in the palace-museums – a world which, when once beheld, captures the beholder’s heart for ever.
When the problem of restoring the Gatchina palace was only just beginning to be discussed, an experienced museum worker took me on an excursion to the Great Palace at Peterhof. We walked, late in the evning, through the dark, deserted rooms, and for me alone all the chandeleiers, lamps and girandoles were lit ... In their unaccustomed light the faces in the old portraits came alive, the carpets blazed with clear, bright colours, as did the curtains, the parquet floors, and the gilded mouldings. How could one not feel like a princess in a fairytale palace where such incredible wonders occur!
Before the opening of the Gatchina Palace it was important to decide on the placing of the light fittings. First of all, it was necessary to light the rooms that had already been opened, the exhibitions, the vestibules, the staircases; in the second place, to obtain historically appropriate light fittings, corresponding to the period and style of the rooms.
Before the Great Patriotic War, our palace was noted for its collection of paintings, sculptures, porcelain, weapons and so on. In the opinion of experts, the collection of light fittings too occupied “the first place among the palace collections.” It was assembled over a period of 200 years, but the greater part perished during the war, and what remained was dispersed among the country’s museums. We had to find replacement items of equal value.
Looking through the archives and surveying the celebrated watercolours of E. Gau, which portray the interior of the palace in the second half of the 19th century; looking at pre-war photographs of the museum, it is impossible not to be transported with the richness of the Gatchina palace collections. The collection of light fittings was distinguished not only for its quanitiy, but for the enormous variety of all possible types of chandeliers, lamps, sconces, candelabra, and standard-lamps.