After Count Orlov, the future Emperor Paul I, Catherine II`s son, became the owner of Gatchina for the next thirteen years. Paul I, the most romantic figure among the Russian Emperors, a "Russian Hamlet", came to love this remote place sincerely. It was in Gatchina that the heir to the throne felt at home and secure under the protection of the palace's thick walls. He declared his residence a town in 1797. It was not a coincidence that Russian historians called Paul I "the Gatchina Emperor". Gatchina also preserves his memory.|
In 1851 a monument to Paul I was unveiled on the square, produced by Ivan Vitali. As a model, Vitali used the portrait of the Emperor by the Russian artist Schukin that was approved by Paul himself. The bronze emperor stands on the pedestal, with a cane and a sword, wearing the uniform of the Colonel of Preobrazhensky Regiment, tall jack-boots and large cocked hat. He is looking proudly at his palace and continues to take in the endless parade of time.
The Italian architect Vincenzo Brenna reconstructed the palace on Paul's orders. The former country house became more majestic and austere. A square was laid out in front of the Palace, surrounded by a moat, bastions, and cannons.
New staterooms were designed in the significantly extended palace: the solemn throne rooms, beautiful reception rooms, drawing rooms worthy of the future Emperor's majesty, and the cosy living rooms for the large imperial family, relatives and members of the "smaller" court and the cosy living rooms for the large imperial family, relatives and members of the "smaller" court.
Among the beautiful objects of the palace were many items acquired by Paul and his wife during their tour to Europe in 1781-82, when they were travelling under the pseudonyms of Count and Countess Severny.
Visits to the French, Austrian. Prussian and Neapolitan royal residences, museums and galleries of Italy, workshops of the famous painters and sculptors, fashion shops and famous manufactures of France left a profound mark on Gatchina's Emperor`s tastes and preferences. The splendid interiors of the White Room, Marble Dining Room, Greek and Chesme Galleries illustrate the art of ancient Greece and Rome.
The walls and the ceiling of the White Room are decorated with numerous moulded compositions of flower garlands, shells, depictions of animals and marble bas-reliefs on subjects from Homer's Illiad to stories of Alexander of Macedonia. Marble statues and busts of antique gods and heroes are placed along the walls. The exquisite parquet floor and doors, produced by Rinaldi, add to the festive appearance of the room.
Hubert Robert, a famous French artist of the XVIII century, "the painter of ruins", produced four big colourful pictures for the Greek Gallery.
The Chesme Gallery got its name in honour of the brilliant victory of the Russian navy over the Turks in the Mediterranean Sea in 1770. Hackert, a popular German painter, depicted episodes of that famous battle. The symbols of power and profiles of the Roman Emperors are included in the splendid decor.
The Upper Throne room of Paul I, State Bedchamber and Crimson Drawing room glorify the art of the French absolutism.
The main decoration of the Upper Throne room and Crimson Drawing room are the gobelins from the series "The Cardinal Points", "The Gods", "Story of Don Quixote", presented to Paul by Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette in Paris.
The blue-coloured Lyons silk embroidered in silver thread, porcelain cobalt vases of the Sevres manufacture were purchased for the State Bedchamber in France. The French artist George Doyen produced ceiling paintings. The beautiful wooden carved bed under the canopy, surrounded by the balustrade, resembles the bed of 'the Sun-King' Louis XVI.
A unique collection of cold steel and firearms, started by the palace`s first owner Grigory Orlov and maintained by Paul and all the successive owners of the palace, was used to decorate the Weapon Gallery. The larger part of the collection consists of shotguns. Two compositions look especially impressive: the monogram of Paul I made of pistols and the sun made of shotguns.
Paul liked his private apartments most of all. They were situated on the ground floor facing the Private Garden. It was here that Gatchina's Emperor worked and rested, thought over the future reforms, and prayed. The portraits of his idols were hung on the walls - his grandfather Peter I, his father Peter III, Henry IV, Friedrich II, and the paintings by his favorite artists. Here he also kept things that were dear to him as well as important papers. Later these rooms were turned into the original museum where the interior of those times was carefully preserved to commemorate the Emperor. Among the items exhibited there were his uniform and jack-boots, his cane, his shirt with the blood stains, and a screen that were transferred here from the Michael's Castle in Saint-Petersburg, where Paul had been murdered by a group of conspirators.