As one becomes familiar with the achiives, as one examines the celebrated watecolours by E. Hau of the interior of the palace in thhe second half of the 19th century and pre-war photographs of the museum, it is impossible not to be struck by the richness of the Gatchina palace collections. The collection of lamps and light fittings was exceptional not only for its quantity but also for the great variety of chandeliers, lamps, sconces, candelabra and wall-lamps.
Chandeliers were installed at the beginning of the 18th century; they were still called by their old name of “panikadilo”. They were of the so-called “French” type: delightful examples of Russian Baroque with fantastically curving bronze branches on which crystal oak-leaves, stars and pyramids hung in profusion. Today many such chandeliers can be seen in the palaces at Peterhof and Pushkin.
It should be noted that only 18th-century crystal possesses the beautiful lilac tint resulting frrom the addition of manganese. Chandeliers dating from the 19th century (for example in the Pavilion Hall of the Small Herrmitage which contains the “Peacock Clock” and the “Fountain of Tears” employ pure transparent crystal.
In the time of Catherine II the Baroque style was succeeded by the Classical, and the forms of light-fittings changed. They now displayed vertical and horizontal lines, and the crystal decorations became lighter and more elegant or else disappeared, showing off the decorative beauty of the bronze.
It was precisely from these classical crystal chandeliers that the celebrated “Gatchina” chandeliers were born. The central stem of such a chandelier is hidden in a vase of coloured glass, and to the stem round hoops of bronze are attached, on which hang crystal pendants and garlands. The crystal pieces are worked into the shape of almonds, of beads, of drops of water. Especially delightful are the “bouquets of rain”which crown the chandeliers. The bottom of the “Gatchina” chandeliers was adorned with a “basket” of crystal garlands, drawn together in a bronze rosette. The idea of creating such crystal “baskets” is ascribed to N.A. Lvov, the architect of the Priory Palace, who was also a poet and composer. Various versions of these chandeliers adorned the the Oval Room, the Green Corner Room, the Chesme Gallery and other state rooms of the Gatchina Palace. Then, later on, enormous “basket-chandeliers” appear, suspended from the ceilings. In such chandeliers in old theatres, the light is - as it were - slowly and secretly extinguished as the music strikes up and the curtains part!