The State Blue Drawing-Room
The largest and most elegant room in the apartments that Cameron created in 1779–83 for Grand Duke Paul (Paul I) is the State Blue Drawing-Room. Its state-room status is underlined by the wealth and variety of its décor: the walls are lined with silk featuring pale blue flowers on a white ground and rise to a gilded frieze in which vases alternate with oval painted medallions. The twin Carrara-marble fireplaces are decorated with bas-reliefs and caryatids. On the western wall large mirrors are set in carved and gilded frames crowned with medallions and gilded consoles. The panels of the doors are painted with motifs taken from ancient grotesques. The patterned parquet floor was made in G. Stallmeyer’s workshop from previous varieties of wood, predominantly rosewood and palisander.
After the 1820 fire in the Catherine Palace Stasov retained the original layout and décor of the drawing-room. New silk was painted for the walls from the old design by the artist Fiodor Brandukov. The ceiling remained white until 1855, when in accordance with Stakenschneider’s plan, a painting of The Forbearance of Scipio by Vladimir Moshkov (1792–1839) was installed in it, framed by a moulded bas-relief, two round and two oval medallions.After the 1863 fire the damaged ceiling was replastered. The silk on the walls was replaced by new fabric with the same designed but printed rather than painted (at the Sapozhnikov brothers’ factory). The medallions in the frieze are the work of Giuseppe Bernasconi.
During the war the silk wall-lining, the ceiling painting and insets, as well as most of the painted medallions of the frieze, were destroyed or looted; the doors, fireplace and wall mirrors were wrecked; the fire surrounds smashed and the caryatids lost their heads and arms.
Restoration work has returned the State Blue Drawing-Room to its original appearance. The printed silk was made on the basis of an old sample at the Krasnaya Roza factory in Moscow. The marble fireplaces were restored, as was the old parquet, which survived almost entirely. Thanks to a sketch for the painting of the ceiling discovered among unknown designs by Cameron in the State Hermitage it proved possible to recreate the ceiling painting. The frieze on the wall opposite the windows contains the 16 surviving medallions; the remaining 64 were recreated by post-war restorers.
Today as in the past the room is adorned by armchairs produced in 1783 to Cameron’s deigns in the workshops of Jean-Baptiste Charlemagne-Baudet. One of them was saved in the evacuation; the others were brought back from Königsberg in 1947. The old fire grilles have survived, together with the fire ornaments in the form of reclining sphinxes and the gilded-bronze fire-irons made to Cameron’s deigns at the same time as the decoration of the room.
Visitors’ attention is invariably caught by the 17-candle blue-glass torchères with crystal elements and biscuit figures that were made at the St Petersburg Glassworks in the late eighteenth century, by the early nineteenth-century candelabra and the vases that bear architectural landscapes (the Berlin Porcelain Factory, early 1800s) and scenes from the story of Psyche (France, first third of the nineteenth century).