Currently houses the Hermitage Museum (if you’ve been living under the rock — that’s the second-largest art museum in the world after Louvre). Construction started in the 1730s and was going on almost continuously until 1837 (I mean, no wonder — the whole thing is around 6,450 squared meters. Count some wars and strikes in, too. Plenty of distractions).
Architects — countless. number. of. people. Seriously. But depends more on, like, what version of the Palace we’re talking about here. The one on the pic above (the current and last one, obviously) is the 4th version. But the previous three were, first, all in different locations, and, second, don’t exist anymore🤷🏻♀️
So the one responsible for this piece of heritage is Bartolomeo Rastrelli, and it took him 8 years to finish (1754–1762). Brace yourself there fam, cause we’re gonna see A LOT of Italian last names in this section in the future posts👨🏻🎨 Mi scusi😅
For reals though — probs every second architect working in St. P. in the 18–19 centuries was of an Italian descent. Every other one was German😅
Yeah this town defs didn’t have any coronavirus going on cause it was built with taste, ya know what I’m saying😂 Fine, maybe that’s not the best joke, but it’s true!
This Bartolomeo dude, for instance, was MAJORLY favoured by two empresses in a row — Anna (1730–1740) and Elizabeth (1741–1762), and was the senior court architect since 1730 till the year of his death — 1771. Told you — Italian😏 He’s the one who sorta ‘invented’ the style of Elizabethan Baroque.
The style is the same as what is called Rococo or Late Baroque. Before it was developed, the whole of St. P. was dedicated to Petrine Baroque which — you can tell from its name — was created under the influence of Peter. This Peter guy was Peter I The Great who founded St. P. in 1703, and then died in 1725🤷🏻♀️ Petrine Baroque is a very classy version of baroque without any of the over the top details and ruffles, which Peter saw for the first time in Denmark and Holland while was in Europe for a year in 1697–1698 . (Elizabeth was also his daughter).
Elizabethan Baroque, though, tended to create the architecture of grandeur in order to glorify the might of the Russian Empire. So the buildings are normally gigantic with golden splendour decorations.
The piece below is from the memoirs of the American artist working for the last Imperial family in 1899, Amalia Kussner Coudert. It was published in 1906, 1 year after the first revolution in 1905, because she wanted to show the Americans what the last emperor (who then wasn’t yet thought of as ‘the last’, of course) was like as a real human.
”I have hoped that some one free to speak would tell through the American press some of the kind things that I know to be true of the Tsar; but in all the writingabout Russia I have not found one word representing him as he appeared to me whenI painted a miniature of him a few years ago.
It was my rare privilege to see and now him as he is at home, in the private apartments of the Winter Palace, with, is family about him. I would not, in this case, break my rule of reserve concerning those whom I have had the pleasure of painting, were not the circumstances absolutely exceptional.
I found myself driving to the Winter Palace on a gloomy, snowy morning in March, 1899. Whirling through the grim, grey streets, for Russian horses go very fast, I was surprised and rather frightened at being saluted by the police. We Americans have heard such tales of the way all strangers are watched in Russia, that I wondered uneasily why the police should salute me. And I felt still more nervous on leaving the carriage at the overwhelming entrance to the great pile of stones, and walking through the big guard-room full of officers and soldiers. Conducted by a silent, bowing attendant, I was ushered into a reception-room, where a lady-in-waiting met me. While talking with her, I could not help mentioning the fact of being saluted by the police while on my way to the palace, and saying that I could not conceive of any reason for their noticing me at all.
“It was because you were coming to the Winter Palace,” she said, smiling a little at my frankness, perhaps. “They know who you are, why you are here, and the time of your arrival. They also know exactly when you are to leave the palace, and if you should not do so most promptly, there would be immediate inquiry”. This seemed strange and alarming to me, an American, with our ideas of freedom, but I afterward learned that it was quite true. One night at a dinner I met the courtly gentleman of high rank who was then the chief of police. He told me that he personally knew the movements of every one of importance in St. Petersburg.
“Well, in that case I shouldn’t wish to be a person of importance,” I said.
“But you are,” he replied. “You are at the Winter Palace every day, coming in close contact with the Czar and the Tsarina”.”
– Julia xx