The Palace Rooms:
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THE ROOMS 0F MARIA FEODOROVNA
Special place among the interiors of the Pavlovsk Palace is occupied by the residential quarters of the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna. Their finish was executed at the start of the nineteenth century by Giacomo Quarenghi and Andrei Voronikhin. An excellent example of the artistic resolution of the interior and the harmony of architecture with items of furniture, these rooms are the only such complex of apartments still surviving from that period today. Their decor and furnishings characterize the way of life and the tastes of that day and age.
The history of the Rooms of Maria Feodorovna begins at the start of the reign of Paul I, when the Emperor ordered Vincenzo Brenna to widen the palace in order to convert it into a fitting Imperial residence. In 1797 and 1798, Brenna built new chambers for Paul behind the southern semi-circle gallery. By the end of 1798, all the volumes of the rooms had been defined and a start had been made to their finish. Work, however, progressed slowly, as Brenna was also working on the new state rooms. In 1800, therefore, Giacomo Quarenghi was also invited to work at the palace. Quarenghi in those years became a close confidant of Paul I, especially after he joined the Maltese Order and carried out work on the Maltese Chapel. Quarenghi finished the Grand Study and designed the finish of the other rooms. The tragic death of Paul I, however, put this work on hold for a number of years. The Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna chose Pavlovsk as her permanent place of residence and only left it at the coldest time of the year. She decided to complete the finish of the apartments according to her own tastes and requirements. The rooms were not finally completed until after 1803, when Andrei Voronikhin, who had been invited to restore the palace after the fire, was commissioned by the Empress with designing the decor and furnishing her private chambers. Voronikhin designed the rooms as a stylistically integral ensemble, transforming them into a charming home for the bountiful mistress of Pavlovsk - a well-known charity worker, patron and artist, as well as a loving mother and head of a large estate.
The Ante-Room (170 Kb)
It is possible to enter the residential rooms of Maria Feodorovna via the ANTE-ROOM, a small room of irregular form. The part adjoining the residential rooms of the central building has a low ceiling, as mezzanines were built above it for the servants. Through the arched aperture, one can see the Ante-Room of the Residential Rooms, well-lit by a large window. Pictures by eighteenth and nineteenth century West-European artists hang on the smoothly painted walls. Along the walls are superb specimens of mahogany furniture with bronze decorations (Hambs workshop, St Petersburg). Next to the window is a unique work of Russian early nineteenth century applied art - Egyptian Cirl (bronze and pink granite, designed by Andrei Voronikhin). The Ante-Room is decorated by a fireplace with a pair of Russian vases made from jasper and gilt bronze.
The Valet de Chambre Room (140 Kb)
After the Ante-Room comes a small circular room, the VALET DE CHAMBRE ROOM (or Secretary's Room). Its finish was done by Vincenzo Brenna in 1798. The ornamental cornice and the moulded casing, jambs and lintel of the doors with lion masks are especially elegantly executed. The painted design of the plafond imitates a caisson vault. A statue of Aphrodite Anadiomene wringing out her hair (18th century Italian copy from an ancient original) stands in the niche to the right of the entrance. The circular wall is hung with late eighteenth and early nineteenth century water-colours and gouaches with views of the Imperial parks. The art of watercolour painting was highly rated at this time and such works were a fashionable finish to small studies. The furnishing of the Valet de Chambre Room consists of a suite of mahogany furniture with embroideries made in Russia in the early nineteenth century.
The Pilaster study (261 Kb)
The next room is the largest one - the PILASTER STUDY (originally called the Grand Study of His Imperial Majesty). The architectural finish was designed by Giacomo Quarenghi in 1800. The walls of white artificial marble are designed in the form of decorative panels, separated from one another by the clear rhythm of the gilt stucco pilasters in imitation of sienna marble. The same material is also employed in the lower wall panels and the band of the frieze dividing the walls from the moulded cornice. Moulded bas-reliefs are painted in imitation of ancient bronze over every panel, as well as over the mirrors and doors. The medallions contain profiles of Alexander the Great and his mother Olympias. Motifs painted in imitation bronze have also been introduced into the ornamental design of the plafond, executed after designs by D.-B. Scotti, in harmony with the general character of the finish of the study.
The Pilaster Study was used for audiences and small receptions. During the day time, Maria Feodorovna would often discuss the running of the estate here with her bailiff or the head gardener. In the evenings it was host to small family gatherings. This was all reflected in the furniture, arranged in groups with the creation of separate small "corners", highly typical of the early nineteenth century residential interior. Special attention should be paid to the suite of furniture designed by Andrei Voronikhin, consisting of two mahogany sofas, armchairs and chairs with gilt carving on the backs and armrests. Its most distinctive feature is the carved decoration on the backs in the form of two intertwined serpents (St Petersburg, circa 1805) and the silk and wool satin-stitching. The tables, consoles and work tables were made by Russian masters at the start of the nineteenth century. Among the items of furniture, there is an interesting mahogany screen embroidered with Russian crosses. The embroideries have allegorical subjects and inscriptions in French. Maria Feodorovna, who was herself an excellent needlewoman, allegedly had a hand in their creation. Embroideries were extremely popular at the start of the nineteenth century. Alongside the satin and tambour stitching often encountered in the eighteenth century, a new vogue developed for embroideries with cross, half-cross and gobelin stitching. Embroideries were used to decorate furniture - upholstery and insets in closets, screens and tables. Russian masters also embroidered rugs and there are superb examples of such work on the floor of the Pilaster Study.
Among the objects of decorative and applied art in the Pilaster Study, there are some excellent specimens of the art of Russian stone-carving. These are the paired jasper obelisks on the bureau (designed by Andrei Voronikhin, Peterhof Lapidary Factory, 1803), the paired jasper vases with bronze handles in the form of serpents (Ekaterinburg Lapidary Factory, 1801-02) and the two chalice jasper bowls with accompanying bronze figures of falcons drinking (Ekaterinburg Lapidary Factory, 1807). Between the windows on consoles are elegant decorative vases made of crystal and stained glass with bronze (designed by Jean-Francois Thomas de Thomon, Imperial Glass Factory, St Petersburg, 1808). Works of late eighteenth and early nineteenth century French artistic bronze - clocks, candelabra, incense vase - adorn the fireplaces, consoles and bureaux that together comprise the furnishings of the Pilaster Study.
After the Pilaster Study comes the LANTERN STUDY, one of the most stunning interiors of the Pavlovsk Palace. The Lantern Study is also the creation of Andrei Voronikhin (1807). Preserving Vincenzo Brenna's original scheme for the room as a private library, Voronikhin removed an outside wall and replaced it with the semi-circularoriel "lantern" protruding out into the Private Garden. The oriel is formed by an Ionic colonnade of white artificial marble. The glazing between the colonnades creates the illusion of the "flowing" of the study into the living nature of the Private Garden. The caisson vault of the half-rotunda adds to the height of the study. Unlike the usual classical examples, Voronikhin decided to experiment and designed the moulded rosettes of the caissons in the shape of camomiles. The wide arch of the oriel is supported by two caryatids originally executed by V. Demut-Malinovsky (recreated by N. Maltseva and T. Shabalkina). The green hues of the paint on the walls echo the colour of the summer foliage outside the windows. Garlands of wild grape vines are twined along the high padouga of the plafond. The supports contain allegorical representations of the sciences and the arts after studies by D.-B. Scotti. Light streams in through the French windows of the Lantern Study, creating chiaroscuro contrasts between the illuminated and shaded sections of the interior.
The Lantern Study was the favourite working place of Maria Feodorovna. It was simultaneously a private library and picture gallery. Some forty pictures by West European masters working from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries were the main decorative element of the study. These works included Guido Reni's Virgin Mary and Archangel Gabriel, Carlo Dolci's Mary Magdalene, Francesco Albani's Holy Family, Jose de Ribera's St Bartholomew, Charles Lebrun's Mater Dolorose and the masterpiece of the museum collection, Agnolo Bronzino's Madonna with Child and St John the Baptist. The center of the study is occupied by writing bureaus made by David Roentgen. They contain a multitude of various writing objects - blotting-pads, ink-wells, paper-weights, paper and letter stands and miracle candlesticks. There is also a mahogany basket for papers with a gilt and embroidered border, designed by Andrei Voronikhin. Other furnishings in the study are small tables made of bronze, stained glass and crystal, indicating the high artistic taste of Maria Feodorovna. The furniture was specially manufactured for the study after designs by Andrei Voronikhin. These are a suite of chairs, painted black with carved gilt ornamental designs and ornamental embroidery on the upholstery, and white bookcases with black tractions and decorative faces on the butt-ends. The dressers are adorned with stone and porcelain vases (Russia) and a unique clock and musical box in a mother-of-pearl case (Austria, early 19th century). A set of French bronze stands on the fireplace - candelabra (P. Gouthiere workshop) and two fireplace decorations with the representation of A Reading Girl (P.-F. Thomire workshop after models by Boizot). The firescreen is made from mahogany after a drawing by Andrel Voronikhin and decorated with gilt carving and decorative silk-stitched embroidery on cloth.
The Dressing Room (199 Kb)
The next room after the Lantern Study is the modest and even somewhat austere DRESSING ROOM. Its finish was the work of Giacomo Quarenghi in 1800. The walls were faced with white artificial marble. Each wall was edged with two decorative stripes of gray and light-blue, creating a smooth transition to the frieze and the plafond, which are painted in the en grisaille technique. The frieze is painted in imitation of moulding in correspondence with the sculptural brackets. The large mirror placed beneath the windows reminds the visitor of the original purpose of the room. The furnishings, placed about the room in groups, also recall the original intention of the interior. A gueridon table of black and amber glass (designed by Jean-Francois Thomas de Thomon) is located in the centre against the mirror. On it stands a washing set consisting of a basin and jug of blue and white cut crystal (designed by Andrei Voronikhin). This is a unique ensemble of Russian artistic glasswork (Imperial Glass Factory, St Petersburg, early 19th century).
The Green Dressing Table stands to the right by the wall. This masterpiece was made at the Imperial Porcelain Factory and presented to Maria Feodorovna on her name-day, 22 July 1803. It is a set of 34 objects intended for one's morning toilette and breakfast. Refined gilt reliefs stand out on the light pistachio background of porcelain, while the en grisaille medallions depict ancient scenes. Central place is assigned to the elegant octagonal mirror in a bronze frame. At its foot are two biscuit figures of women in ancient attire. The furniture of the Dressing Room was designed by Andrei Voronikhin and manufactured at the Hambs workshop. It consists of armchairs, banquettes, a couchette, two mahogany Jardiniere bureaux with bronze decorations and a cache-pot for wild flowers. It was during Maria Feodorovna's time that wild flowers became an integral part of the decor of the interiors and to this end Jardinieres were especially included in items of furniture.
The Bedroom (225 Kb)
Beside the Dressing Room is the BEDROOM, the most elegant room in these living quarters. The cult of flowers reigns supreme in the finish of the interior. Garlands of bright garden and wild flowers twist a path along the walls (finished with white artificial marble) and around the doors and fire places. The padouga has musical instruments interlaced with garlands. The plafond represents the starry sky in a frame of wreaths and flower garlands. The refined finish of the Bedroom was completed by Andrei Voronikhin in 1805. He also designed the suite of mahogany furniture with carved imitation ebony details - sofa, armchairs and banquettes stylized in imitation of ancient furniture, upholstered in green satin with borders embroidered with Russian crosses (F. Gageman's workshop, circa 1805, recreated by A. Khokhlov and A. Vinogradov). The bedside table and the cupboard with embroidery inset represent superb examples of Russian workmanship. By the window is a console made by the famous French bronzer P.-F. Thomire.
The Marquee (219 Kb)
The furnishings of the Bedroom are supplemented by objects of Russian porcelain and glass and French bronze. On the central wall over the bed is a tapestry of Paul I (St Petersburg Spalier Workshop, 1799). The enfilade of rooms comes to an end at a small oval room, the MARQUEE. This room has an exit that leads out onto the closed balcony joined to the Private Garden. A long semicircular sofa, decorated with a wide border and sewn with coloured threads depicting various flowers, is placed against the wall. This room was intended for quiet repose and needlework. The shaded balcony offered refuge from the heat on warm days, thanks to its cast-iron roof with elegant ornamental designs. A beautiful view opens up from the balcony onto the flowerbeds of the Private Garden.
|© Pavlovsk, 1999-2006|