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Thursday, 23 November 2017
Chinese Palace at Oranienbaum to Open Three Restored Halls in 2018
Topic: Oranienbaum

The Chinese Palace, Oranienbaum
This article was researched from Russian media sources and written by Paul Gilbert, Founder of Royal Russia © 2017

The Peterhof State Museum-Reserve have announced that three newly restored rooms will open in the Chinese Palace at Oranienbaum, in the spring of 2018. The announcement was made by the Director of the Oranienbaum Branch of the Peterhof State Museum-Reserve Andrei Fedorov, during the 6th St. Petersburg International Cultural Forum, held from 16 - 18 November.

"We are opening three more halls next year, with restoration of the interiors scheduled to be completed by December 25, as part of the celebrations marking the 250th anniversary of the Chinese Palace. They will include interiors in the Paul I section of the palace - the boudoir, the study and the bedchamber.

Only open during the summer months

With the opening of the new halls, visitors to Oranienbaum will be able to access 11 of the 17 interiors of the Chinese Palace, built in the 1760s by the Italian architect Antonio Rinaldi as a summer residence of the Empress Catherine II.
Today the palace is only open to visitors during the summer months - 1st May to 9th October - as the buildings’ decoration, parquet floors, and picturesque 18th century ceiling lamps require a special temperature and humidity regime. The restored halls have been closed to visitors since the 1960s.

The process of restoration of the halls of the Chinese Palace, according to Fedorov, is very complicated: it takes about a year to complete one interior. "The peculiarity of the restoration of the Chinese Palace is that the highly artistic interiors are unique for Russia and our restorers lack the experience with such, so we have to conduct special design and survey works before restoration work can begin," he said.

In one of the interiors - the bedchamber of Paul I will restore the historic look of the early 19th century - the wall paintings of an unknown artist were dismantled in the 1960s because of their unsatisfactory condition and were kept in museum vaults until they were discovered in recent years by researchers. "The walls of the bedchamber were upholstered in silk, however, the historical silk has not been preserved," - said Federov, - "Instead, a similar pattern of silk recreated in the 1960s by the Institute of Silk, and used in the Hermitage, will be used by restorers for furniture upholstery and alcove interior."

The Hall of Muses was restored in 2011
The only one in Russia

The restoration of the Chinese Palace began in 2009 with the support of Gazprom Transgaz St. Petersburg, after the palace and park ensemble were transferred to the Peterhof State Museum-Reserve. The first stage was completed in 2011, which included the Great Antikamera, the Hall of Muses, the Blue Room and the Glass Beaded Salon were recreated.

The Chinese palace is considered to be the only monument of Rococo architecture in Russia. Despite significant changes in the layout of the building in the 19th century, the palace retained much of its authentic decoration. During World War II, Oranienbaum was not occupied and destroyed by the Nazis. While the building remained pristine, the interiors suffered neglect during the Soviet years. Restoration to Oranienbaum has been a slow process. Tsarskoye Selo and Peterhof restorations were given higher priority, and that is one reason Oranienbaum is a less-visited attraction.

According to the Peterhof State Museum-Reserve, Oranienbaum welcomes about 300 thousand visitors, about half of them visit the Chinese Palace.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 23 November, 2017


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:58 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 25 November 2017 8:10 AM EST
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Tuesday, 20 June 2017
Unique Palace Church Restoration at Oranienbaum
Topic: Oranienbaum

The newly restored three-tiered gilded iconostasis of the Oranienbaum Court Church
Photos © Peterhof State Museum Preserve

This article was researched from Russian media sources and written by Paul Gilbert, Founder of Royal Russia © 2017

On 15th June, members of the Russian media and press were invited to Oranienbaum for an exclusive preview of the newly restored court church.

Shortly after the Great Menshikov Palace at Oranienbaum was handed over to the administration of the Peterhof State Museum Preserve in the 2000s, extensive restoration work began in the western pavilion of the palace. 

One of the most ambitious and costly of the restorations was the interior of the palace church. Restorers were able to recreate the church’s historic appearance, in which 40% of the interiors were preserved and conserved, including the original trim dating from middle of the 18th century, and a pencil drawing attributed to Antonio Rinaldi (1710-1794). 

One of the greatest accomplishments is the recreation of the magnificent three-tiered gilded iconostasis. It was created in 1725 in the Moscow studio of Ivan Zarudnogo modeled on Western European Baroque altars, and subsequently destroyed by the Soviets in the 1930s.

Artists from the St. Petersburg State Academic Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, led by Professor J.G. Bobrova will undertake the delicate recreation of the lost images of the iconostasis and the 39 wall paintings lost during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945. Photographs depicting the beautiful interior decoration of the church before its destruction in 1939 were discovered in no less than 13 separate archives around the country. These materials, as well as drawings of the second half of the 18th century, will help restorers with the re-creation of the lost images of the iconostasis and wall paintings.

The Oranienbaum court church is scheduled to open to the public in 2018.

The Great Menshikov Palace has a rich history. Peter the Great presented the land to Prince Alexander Menshikov around 1710. Three years later, Menshikov began construction of his palace. After his arrest and exile in 1727 the Oranienbaum estate was passed to the State, and became a naval hospital. In 1743, the estate was presented by the Empress Elizabeth to her nephew, the future Emperor Peter III. Peter commissioned the architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli to renovate the palace, who left the exteriors untouched, but created sumptuous interiors. Numerous other architects made further alterations and the palace continued to change owners within the Romanov family, including Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich (1798-1849) and his wife, the Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna (1807-1873).

Click here to view 20 more photos of the restoration of the Oranienbaum Court Church, courtesy of the Peterhof State Museum Preserve.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 20 June, 2017


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:06 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 20 June 2017 6:25 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 3 June 2015
Oranienbaum Picture House Opens After Restoration
Topic: Oranienbaum

The newly restored Picture House at Oranienbaum
On June 1, 2015, the post-restoration opening ceremony of the Picture House was held at the Oranienbaum Palace and Park Ensemble (Lomonosov).

The architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli built the Picture House in the middle of the 18th century. It is located near the western edge of the Grand Palace at Oranienbaum. The building was meant to house the Picture Hall (a beautiful collection of Grand Duke Peter Fedorovich — the future Emperor Peter III, the Library and Kunstkammera — cabinet of curiosities. A small opera hall was situated in the east wing of the Picture House, which was for several years (before the building a wooden Opera House in 1759) associated with musical life of Oranienbaum.

After a brief period of prosperity the Picture House has lost its original purpose during the Soviet years — the collections had been disbanded, and the building was used as a warehouse. At various times it housed apartments, college, and high school. Thus, the interior had been completely lost, however, the Baroque facades survived to our time practically unchanged.
Restoration work on the house paintings began six years ago. During the restoration the historical layout of the premises of the first (a main) floor with opera hall, art gallery, the library, the cabinet of curiosities, and the hall with two tiers of windows was recreated; storm drainage systems, plinths and basement were restored; the interior decorations were carried out according to historical documents. Façade restoration work was carried out, and all necessary engineering systems were installed.

© Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation and Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 03 June, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 10:35 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 2 March 2018 11:07 AM EST
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Sunday, 7 October 2012
Katalnaya Gorka at Oranienbaum
Topic: Oranienbaum

A panorama view of the Katalnaya Gorka pavilion and sliding hill at Oranienbaum 

The estate of Oranienbaum consists of a series of beautiful palaces and pleasure pavilions. Visitors to St. Petersburg today often overlook this magnificent  palace complex opting instead for its more grand and opulent neighbour at Peterhof.

One particular folly which has captured the imaginations of historians and visitors is the switchback or roller coaster of Emperor Catherine II at Katalnaya Gorka (Sliding Hill).

Created soley for the purpose as a setting for a day's amusement, the pleasure pavilion and adjoining sliding hill was a highly sophisticated version of the most popular of Russian sports, the 'Russian mountains', as they were called throughout Europe, with the name of 'ice hills' for the winter version.

The beautiful pavilion built by Rinaldi which resembles a wedding cake has survived 

Archdeacon Coxe, writing in 1784, brings us right to Katalnaya Gorka:

"In the gardens of Oranienbaum is a very extraordinary building, denominated the Mountain for Sledges . . . It stands in the middle of an olbong area, enclosed by an open colonnade with a flat roof, which is railed for the convenience of holding spectators. The circumference of this colonnade is at least half a mile. In the middle of the area stands the flying mountain, stretching nearly from one end to the other. It is a wooden building, supported upon high brick walls, representing . . .  a mountain composed of three principal ascents, gradually diminishing its height, with an intermediate space to resemble vallies: from top to bottom is a floored way, in which three parallel grooves are formed. It is thus used: a small carriage containing one person, being placed in the center groove upon the highest point, goes with great rapidity down one hill; the velocity which it acquires in its descent carries it up a second; and it continues to move in a similar manner until it arrives at the bottom of the area, where it rolls for a considerable way . . .  It is then placed in one of the side grooves, and drawn up by means of a cord fixed to a windass . . . At the top of the mountain are several handsome apartments for the accommodation of the court and principal nobility; and there is also room for many thousand spectators within the colonnade and upon its roof."

So, summer and winter, the court of the Empress Catherine II would amuse themselves for a few hours, return to the pavilion, take their refreshment and rest in its lovely rooms, and watch their friends from the terraces and balconies. But when the court no longer went to Oranienbaum, the 'flying mountain' fell into disrepair, was pronounced dangerous, and dismantled in the mid-19th century. The meadows that once housed the toboggan runs were cleared and planted with fir trees.

The only reminder of the sliding hill or switchback is this scale model, now housed in the Katalnaya Gorka Pavilion 

Today, visitors to Oranienbaum can still see the field where the empress's immense folly II once stood. The pavilion at the end of the meadow has survived and undergone a splendid restoration. Inside, a scale model of the sliding hill is the only reminder of Catherine the Great's roller coaster.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 07 October, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:01 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 10 October 2012 6:55 AM EDT
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Saturday, 4 August 2012
Grand Palace at Oranienbaum Opens New Rooms
Now Playing: Language: Russian. Duration: 3 minutes, 46 seconds
Topic: Oranienbaum



 Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna  

The Grand Palace at Oranienbaum opened four newly restored rooms to the public today. This brings the total number of rooms open to visitors to fourteen.

Elena Kalnitskaya, CEO of the Peterhof Palace Museum Complex greeted visitors this morning with a brief welcome speech.

"Restoration at Oranienbaum can not be stopped, and I have no doubt that it will continue at a rapid pace," she said.

Five years ago the palace was in a terrible state of disrepair. The experts sounded the alarms and it was at this time that the palace administration decided to bring the palace back to life.

Reparing cracks in the walls, installing a new heating system, and re-planting the Lower Park were just a few of the problems that had to be addressed. The palace opened its doors last year to coincide with the 300th anniversary of Oranienbaum. Ten rooms had been restored and decorated with many original items from the Oranienbaum storage and archive facilities.

The four newly restored rooms focus on the private life of the Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna (wife of Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich), nicknamed "the Freedom Princess" due to her support of the abolition of serfdom in Russia.

She lived at the Grand Palace for more than ten years. It was here that the former Princess of Wurttemberg, discussed such topics as Peasant Reform, her exhaustive charitable work, and the arts. Her palace was "cozy" and reflected the trends of the time. Visitors to the palace can now see her bedroom, decorated in pink, her favourite colour.

There are now plans for the restoration of the rooms of Princess Elizabeth Vorontsova, the mistress of Emperor Peter III.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 4 August, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:16 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 2 March 2018 11:09 AM EST
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Wednesday, 1 August 2012
The Grand Palace at Oranienbaum Restores Four New Rooms
Now Playing: Language: Russian. Duration: 3 minutes, 55 seconds
Topic: Oranienbaum



Four newly restored rooms of the Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich (1798-1849) and his wife, the Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna (1807-1873) are scheduled to open this week in the Grand Menshikov Palace at Oranienbaum. This follows an extensive restoration of ten rooms in the central part of the palace which were opened to the public in 2011.

The unique historical interiors of the grand ducal couple will offer visitors examples of the rich aristocratic lifestyle enjoyed by members of the Russian Imperial family in the early to mid-18th century.

The palace has a rich history. Peter the Great presented the land to Prince Alexander Menshikov around 1710. Three years later, Menshikov began construction of his palace. After his arrest and exile in 1727 the Oranienbaum estate was passed to the State, and became a naval hospital. In 1743, the estate was presented by the Empress Elizabeth to her nephew, the future Emperor Peter III. Peter commissioned the architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli to renovate the palace, who left the exteriors untouched, but created sumptuous interiors. Numerous other architects made further alterations and the palace continued to change owners within the Romanov family.

Between 1857-1873, the Grand Duchess Elena (nee Princess Charlotte of Wurttemberg) commissioned her architects, L. Bosse and H. Preuss Bonshtedt to redesign many of the interiors to reflect her own personal tastes.

The four newly restored rooms are decorated with items from the vast Oranienbaum storage collection (some 7,000 items!), including furniture, mirrors, portraits and other personal items of the grand duchess .

It has been many years since I was at Oranienbaum. I recall the Grand Menshikov Palace which was very impressive, though its interiors were in a perilous state, some parts on the verge of collapse. In the past decade, major restoration work has been carried out on the palace's facade and interiors which has saved this beautiful palace. I look forward to seeing the palace and its newly restored historical interiors on my next visit to St. Petersburg.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 01 August, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:01 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 2 March 2018 11:10 AM EST
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Friday, 19 August 2011
Glass Bead Panels at Oranienbaum
Now Playing: Language: Russian. Duration: 3 minutes, 50 seconds
Topic: Oranienbaum
This year marks 300th anniversary of Oranienbaum and preparations are already underway for the main celebrations to be held in September.

Restoration in the Chinese Palace includes the Glass Bead Salon, the walls of which consist of 12 panels dating from 1762-64, depicting fanciful scenes of birds, flowers and exotic landscapes. These scenes, surrounded by pink scrolls, leaves and other Rococo motifs, have been intricately embroidered and are set against a backdrop of shimmering white glass beads.

Their creators were Russian masters, headed by Frenchwoman Marie de Chelles. Over the centuries, some of the panels had deteriorated and demanded a number of repairs and restoration.



The responsibility for implementing the necessary restoration work fell to the Department of Scientific Restoration and Conservation of the State Hermitage. The laboratory staff coped with the task, and in December of last year restored the panels, which were later put on display at the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. The panels have recently been returned to Oranienbaum.

In addition to the restored Glass Beaded Salon, the anniversary of Oranienbaum will open the Hall of the Muses, and the Big Blue room antechambers of the Chinese Palace. Visitors will also have the opportunity to visit 10 rooms of the central building of the Grand Menshikov Palace.

Oranienbaum is currently under the administration of the Peterhof State Museum.

© Royal Russia. Updated 19 August, 2011. Originally posted on 3 August, 2011

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 1:46 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 2 March 2018 11:19 AM EST
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