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The Choir Anteroom

The Choir Anteroom – the last of the suite of state rooms in the Great Palace of Tsarskoye Selo – gets its name from its location next to the choir gallery of the palace church. In Vasily Neyelov’s plan the room had two windows overlooking the courtyard and two more facing the church. At the end of the eighteenth century Cameron divided the Choir Anteroom in two: “the room that is near the church” and “the dressing-room of Grand Duke Paul”. The church-side windows were bricked up at that time.

Following Nicholas I’s wishes, Vasily Stasov, who redesigned the interiors of the palace in 1844–45, removed the partition and turned the Choir Anteroom once more into a bright spacious room with wallpapered walls topped by a gilded stucco frieze. In 1894 golden silk appeared in the Choir Anteroom, its woven pattern featuring pheasants and swans. This fabric, lost in the Second World War, was woven at the Sapozhnikov brothers’ factory in emulation of a unique hand-made French silk created by Philippe de Lasalle’s factory in Lyons in the later 1700s.

After the war the decoration of the Choir Anteroom was recreated from nineteenth-century technical drawings. The moulded frieze, ceiling and parquet floor were restored; the walls were relined with golden silk with a woven pattern from the stocks of the Tsarskoye Selo museum-preserve. Each length of this fabric, produced in the eighteenth century from French designs at a factory belonging to Ivan Lazarev in the village of Frianovo near Moscow, bears the name of the serf craftsman who wove it. We thus know the names of S. and N. Strelnikov, N. Dyochkova, I. Bely and intriguingly Vasily Pauk (“Basil Spider” – perhaps a soubriquet given to an exceptionally gifted weaver).

The Sapozhnikovs’ silk that survived in the museum’s stores was used to upholster a gilded canapé and armchairs created in the 1750s to designs by Rastrelli. These unique examples of Russian furniture-making were designed by the architect-in-chief specially for the halls of the Great Palace at Tsarskoye Selo (the Catherine Palace) were removed in the first days of the war and preserved in evacuation.

The Choir Anteroom
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