The Upper Garden in Peterhof

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The Upper Garden in Peterhof
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The Upper Garden in Peterhof

The garden covers the area of 40 acres between St Petersburg Avenue and the southern Grand Palace façade. It is situated on top of the cliff – hence the name. The garden under Peter the Great had been used as the vegetable garden. Peter the Great was following Dutch gardening fashion here. The practical Dutch burgers along with making their gardens pretty were never forgetting the business side of life and were growing vegetables and herbs. Peter arrived to Peterhof mostly by the sea; the same did all his guests, this way most of them never got to see the Upper Garden at all. The epoch has changed, and when Peter’s niece empress Anne came to the throne in 1730, the main entrance to Peterhof was arranged from the side of the highway. The Upper Garden turned out to be the first entrance to Peterhof and was rearranged as the purely formal garden.

The last major reconstruction was implemented when under empress Elisabeth F. B. Rastrelli in 1750s was rebuilding the palace. The garden was significantly widened and has got cast iron fence with the stone columns around.

The landscape design of this park is compositionally bound to the architecture of the palace. There is the central axis with three geometrically calculated ponds. The parterre with green lawns corresponds with the central part of the palace building. Two square ponds and three pairs of symmetrical bosquets are corresponding with the wings of the building.

Landmarks of the Upper Garden in Peterhof

Upon the entrance to the park one can see the fountain named Mezheumny (“indefinite” in Russian). In the center of the round pond there is the sttatue of a dragon and four dolphins around it. Over the centuries décor of this pond was changed many times. Maybe this is the reason for such a name.
The compositional center of the Upper Park is the fountain named Neptune. This is the only fountain in Peterhof that was produced beyond the borders of Russia. The sculpture of Neptune, the mythological god of the sea, stands on the high pedestal. On the sides of this pedestal there are sea creatures, sparkling water. At the foot of this composition there are fantastic riders mounted on the backs of the sea-horses driving on eight dolphins. The sculptural composition originates from Nuremberg. The town authorities commissioned it from the local craftsmen to be put at the fish market in 1650s. When they started to install the fountain they have discovered there was not enough water to make it work. The composition was put into storage. More than a hundred years passed. Grand Duke Paul, the son of Catherine the Great, visited Germany and came to the Nuremberg town in 1782. He was offered the sculptural group for the fountain and purchased it for 30 000 roubles. When Paul ascended the throne, he ordered Neptune fountain to be installed in Peterhof. Neptune was put in the center of the Upper Garden in 1799.

Under Nicholas II the copy of Neptune sculptural group was sent to Nuremberg. During the Nazi occupation of Peterhof this sculptural composition was stolen. The Soviet army discovered it on the territory of Germany in 1950s and brought it back.

The Upper Garden can boast of its own cascade. It is really small in size, though. There is a copy of the famous Belvedere Apollo statue standing in the park on the shore of the pond, and there is a waterfall sliding down at the feet of the statue.

The Oak fountain is not far from the Neptune fountain. The name has derived from the old design. There was an oak tree, and after several years it was moved into the Lower Garden. Now there is a different composition. The marble sculpture of the Cupid trying on the mask is encircled by the four dolphins. In the mouth of each dolphin there is a water jet sprinkling water into the air.

Placed closer to the Grand Palace there are two square ponds. They are the water reservoirs, accumulating water for the fountains in the Lower Garden. They are the little part of the intricate plumbing system feeding the fountains of Peterhof. In the middle of each pond there is a statue. These are the allegories of spring and summer, classical Italian sculptures. Around both statues are water jets set up in a circle.
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