Display of Colours on the Gatchina Palace Parade Ground. Water-colour by G. Sergeyev (late 18th century) The Gatchina Palace is the focal point of the palace and park ensemble of the town of Gatchina. Its bright and eventful history falls roughly into three periods.

The first commenced in 11766 when Antonio Rinaldi went into construction of a palatial building on the gently sloping bank of a crystal-clear lake. The estate was meant for Count Grigory Orlov, a favourite of Catherine IT. The three-storeyed central section was put up in 1781. Semicircular double-tier galleries joined it to single-storeycd service wings and rectangular inner courtyards called the Kitchen Block and the Stable Block (known later as the Arsenal Block). Traits of the early classicism were clearly perceptible in the entire project. Having enriched the customary pattern of a manor house with expressive plastic elements, the architect introduced unusual appendages - ten polyhedral towers and an underground passage running towards the Silver Lake bank - thus lending the palace a semblance of a medieval English castle. Elongated narrow vestibules with semicircular vaults enhanced the feeling of a mystery.

For facing the outer walls and ground floor passages. A. Rinaldi made use of a variety of local limestones noted for rich and subtle tints.

The year of 1783 brought about the second period. Gatchina became a residence of future Emperor Paul I. The new owner commissioned Vincenzo Brenna to remodel the palace (1790s). Without altering the general layout, V. Brenna made the side blocks level with the galleries making the latter closed to house new rooms inside. Brenna encompassed the palace parade ground with a moat spanned by four bridges, installed grilles and planted cannons thus making the palace look even more like a feudal castle. Vincenzo Brenna turned Rinaldfs chamber-like interiors into ceremonial rooms integrating the new palatial halls into the existing ensemble. Brenna's clear-cut concept lay in employing the inexhaustible stock of antique traditions and merging of architecture and pieces of pictorial and applied decorative art of various countries.

The third period in the history of the Gatchina Palace is associated with its use as a residence of Nicholas I. The architect Roman Kuzmin worked again on the side blocks between 1854-1856. Without changing their configuration, Kuz-min faced them outside with Paritsy and Rotkovo stone slabs. A new chapel replaced the one built formerly by Andrean Zakharov into the corner tower of the Kitchen Block. Living rooms for the Gatchina owners were arranged in the Arsenal Block. The Palace remodelling undertaken by Kuzmin led eventually to careful restoration of the late 18th century rooms, building of a new main staircase in the central section and reshaping of the Bastion Wall in front of the palace. The grilles were replaced with a Rotkovo stone slab parapet with bastions and ports for cannons. A bronze statue of Paul I modelled by Ivan Vitali was put up by the wall.

After the Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917 the Gatchina Palace was turned into a museum opened to public on May 19, 1918 with all rooms of historical and artistic value displayed. The late 18th-century state and private rooms were accessible to visitors in the main building and the galleries. The Arsenal Block housed a museum of palatial furnishings and household utilities of the second half of the 19th century. The rooms which did not retain their original integrity were used for displays of pieces borrowed from the abundant palace stocks. The palace was badly damaged during the 1941-1945 war; the decor suffered most of all. Restoration work in the Gatchina Palace is still in progress. Of special importance for restoration of the palatial suites of rooms is the collection of water-colours rescued during the war-time. The artists Luigi Premazzi and Edward Hau painted these water-colours in the 1870s rendering the furnishings and decorations of the state and private room interiors with true virtuosity and utmost accuracy. The water-colours reproduced here reveal the beauty and artistic perfection of the palace rooms undergoing careful rehabilitation as most valuable works of the art and architecture of the past.
A. Elkina, N. Tretyakov

Main Page  •  Preview  •  The Antechamber. The Marble Dining Room  •  The Throne Hall.  •  Rinaldi's Communicating Room. The White Hall  •  The Picture Hall. The Crimson Drawing Room  •  The State Bedroom. The Dressing Room. The Green Corner Room  •  The Weapon Gallery. The Chesme Gallery. The Greek Gallery  •  The Late 18th-century Private Apartments  •  The Lower Dressing Room. The Lower Throne Hall. The Lower Chevalier Chamber  •  The Gothic Gallery. The Chinese Gallery  •  The Oak Chamber. The Arsenal Block Drawing Room  •  The Chinz Chambers  •  The Arsenal Block Drawing Room. The Arsenal Hall


© Historical Magazine «Gatchina Over the Centuries»