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The Chinese Drawing Room of Alexander I

The Chinese Drawing Room, created to the designs of the architect Rastrelli in 1752–56, belonged to the private imperial apartments. This interior stood out among the rooms of the Golden Enfilade on account of the silk lining the walls that was painted with watercolours in the Chinese manner. The rest of the décor followed the general style of the state rooms: a ceiling painting, carved and gilded dessus-de-portes designed by the sculptor Duncker, mirrors between the windows, stoves with “Hamburg” tiles and a patterned parquet floor.

After the 1820 fire the original décor was recreated by Vasily Stasov on the orders of Alexander I: the walls were relined with new painted silk; the gilded woodcarving was restored and the artist Fiodor Briullov (1793–1869) made a new ceiling painting: Zephyr and Flora.

When the room was restored after the Second World War the lost Chinese silk was replaced with white damask, while the ceiling painting was replaced with a copy of François Boucher’s Venus Disarming Cupid, surrounded by four compositions of playing cupids in gilded stucco frames in the form of twining shoots. At the present time the painted silk wall-lining is being recreated on the basis of an extant sample of the fabric (right).

The paintings and furnishings of the Chinese Drawing Room of Alexander I that survived in evacuation have been returned to their historical places. The walls are once again adorned by splendid portraits by unknown artists of the first half of the eighteenth century – Peter the Great and Catherine I, their daughters Anna and Elizabeth, and Empress Anna Ioannovna; a likeness of Emperor Peter II by Johann Paul Lüdden and also portraits of Catherine II (a copy of the work by Johann Baptist Lampi the Elder) and Alexander I (by George Dawe). Displayed on card-tables and chests of drawers are pieces of Japanese and Chinese porcelain and eighteenth-century products of the Royal Porcelain Factory in Berlin. A unique item in Russian collections is a chest of drawers from the palace stocks inlaid with metal ornament. In all probability this fine piece of furniture was made in Augsburg in the 1740s – in other words, before the Great Palace (the Catherine Palace) was decorated – although it would seem to have arrived in Tsarskoye Selo only in the nineteenth century.

The Chinese Drawing Room of Alexander I
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