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The Palace Rooms:

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THE STATE LIBRARY OF PAUL I

The State Library of Paul I (257 Kb)

The State Library of Paul IThe finish to the State Library was executed between 1789 and 1791 by Vincenzo Brenna, on the basis of an original idea by Charles Cameron. After the fire of 1803, Andrei Voronikhin made essential changes to the decorative finish. He reduced the importance of the stucco moulding and gilding and faced the walls with artificial marble. Part of the palace book collection was once kept in the low bookcases standing along the library walls. The doors of the cases were covered with copper netting and draped inside. Stone vases and a sculpture stood on top on marble slabs. The ancient busts appear to have been acquired in Italy in 1782 from the English artist and collector T. Jenkins, at the time of Pavel and Maria's trip to Europe. The library also contained a sculpture Sleeping Cupid (Mikhail Kozlovsky, 1792) and a pair o statuettes attributed to the French sculptor C.-A. Bridan (1730-1805) symbolizing love and loyalty.

The State Library of Paul IAs before, the wall was hung with a large portrait of Maria Feodorovna dated 1795 (Johann Baptist Lampi I) and six teased carpets from the Savonnerie workshop in France, presented by King Louis XVI and representing scenes from the fables of Lafonteyne - The Fox and the Cockerel, The Raven and the Fox The Wolf and the Crane, The Deer and the Brook, The Cockerel and the Pearl and The Fox and the Grapes.

Also in its original place in the centre of the room is a large writing desk (Otto and Hambs, St Petersburg, 1794). On it stands an imaginary ancient temple (1794) made from ivory with bronze and amber details decorated with paintings on frosted glass. As Maria Feodorovna wrote, the center contains "a small bronze statuette with attributes of conjugal and filial love". On the pedestal she herself "drew all the monograms of her children in roses and myrtles". Another similar temple, only this time circular (1790), stands in its historical place beneath the portrait of Maria Feodorovna. Both were designed by Vincenzo Brenna - possibly with help from Carlo Rossi - and made by the master N. Fai. A whole series of other details were made by Maria Feodorovna herself. Taken together, they paint a picture of her tastes and predilections and there is nothing similar in any other palace in Russia.

The original suite of gilt carved furniture was upholstered with blue fabric decorated by yellow gilly-flowers on a "pearly background". Despite the fact that the suite survived the fire of 1803 more or less intact, it was replaced by a suite in the Directoire style decorated in imitation of ancient bronze, with new upholstery and satinstitching. The colour of the upholstery and the patterns in this room were, curiously enough, not uniform. Two of the original chairs have survived and are currently on exhibition. The rest are copies made in the 1960s after the two originals. Like the curtains on the windows, the upholstery of the furniture (late 18th century) bears no relation to the historical furnishings.

The ancient statue Drunken Satyr, found in Herculanum in the eighteenth century, was lost during the war. This was the first mould of the celebrated original, made for Maria Feodorovna after "insistent requests" to the Queen of Naples. The statue stood on the pedestal before the mirror between the windows.


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