Catherine Block in Peterhof
In 1748-1749 architect F. B. Rastrelli built the stone one-storey structure for Elisabeth I nearby Monplaisir. The baroque-style décor was completely changed under Catherine II in 1785-1786, the architect who worked on the reconstruction was G. Quarenghi. In the early 1800s under Alexander I the structure was redesigned again, this time in Empire style. The author of the ceiling-paintings was J. Scotti.
The building was given name Catherine Block because the young Grand Duchess Catherine lived here during 15 years. She was woken up by her associates early in the morning on June 28th 1762. This was the day when her fate was decided. This conspiracy would eventually give her the Russian throne and make her Catherine the Great. During her reign the graduation balls and gala dinners for the students of Smolny Institute (the first boarding school for the noble girls in St Petersburg) were held annually here.
Features and description of the museum
Emperor Alexander I has defeated Napoleon. The Empire style, created to glorify Napoleon, was successfully adopted in Russia and became immensely popular under Alexander I. Catherine Block is the perfect specimen of empire style in Russia. There are several chambers here decorated in different colors: Green Reception Room, Blue Living Room, Yellow Hall. There are two chambers where Alexander I used to live when he stayed in Peterhof in the summer and there is only one single chamber that keeps the original baroque style of Rastrelli.
The museum boasts the big collection of furniture done in Empire style from domestic materials: Karelian birch and poplar. Such prominent local architects as A. Voronikhin and V. Stasov were making sketches for these chairs, tables and sofas.
The assembly of porcelain in the palace is unique. There is famous Guryev service on display here in the Yellow Hall. Count Guryev was the financial minister of Alexander I and gave his emperor the lavish present: the gala porcelain dinner service. The items were produced at the Imperial Porcelain factory in St Petersburg. It has taken the period of ten years to make because of Napoleonic campaigns. The work was implemented from 1807 till 1817. The service numbered about 5000 pieces. The decor is outstanding and is often called “The Encyclopedia of Russian Empire”. On the surface of the porcelain plates there are images of different peoples of Russia in folk costumes. There are porcelain statuettes representing young girls and men in traditional Russian outfits. Vine-coolers bear the views of St Petersburg and Moscow. All of the pictures were done according to the ethnographic albums and famous paintings of the period.
Another famous artifact is also on display in the Yellow Hall and it is the tapestry produced in Paris, France. It was commissioned by Napoleon when the emperor of France was hoping for the alliance with Russia. The tapestry is named «Peter I, rescuing the fishermen during the storm on Ladoga Lake". Napoleon had chosen the most celebrated Russian ruler in Europe. But it has taken many years to make. Napoleon was already in his St Helen Island exile when the tapestry presented was finally to Alexander I.