The Small White Dining Room
Adjoining the Picture Hall is the Small White Dining Room which was the first room in the personal apartments of Empress Elizabeth and after her of Catherine II, who in her turn passed them over to her favourite grandson, the future Emperor Alexander I.
The dining room was decorated to Rastrelli’s designs in 1752–56: the walls were lined with white damask in carved and gilded frames; the doors embellished with dessus-de-portes made from models by the sculptor Duncker with elaborate compositions incorporating hunting horns, a quiver, an eagle with spread wings, garlands of flowers and more. The interior also featured a stove with “Hamburg” tiles, mirrors in carved and gilded frames and a patterned parquet floor – traditional elements of Baroque décor. After the fire in 1820, the decoration of the dining room was restored under the direction of the architect Vasily Stasov. In the 1850s the moulded and painted décor of the ceiling was created to designs by Andrei Stakenschneider.
During the Second World War this interior perished completely. Today it has been fully restored: the carving on the walls and above the doors has been recreated, as has the Baroque stove, and the walls are once again lined with white damask. The ceiling painting is a copy of Carle Vanloo’s Bathing Venus. Besides this the Small White Dining Room contains authentic items that were saved by evacuation: views of the Great Tsarskoye Selo Palace (the Catherine Palace) and park by Friedrich Hartmann Barisien (1724–1796 ), three landscapes by Gerard Delabarthe depicting the Catherine Park and a canvas by Fiodor Alexeyev (1753-1824) showing the Cameron Gallery.
Notable too are the carved and gilded armchairs made in Russia in the middle of the eighteenth century and a marquetry bureau made in the 1770s by the craftsman Nikolai Vasilyev of the Okhta settlement on the right bank of the Neva. This bureau, commissioned in all probability by Catherine II herself, is connected with the laying of the foundation stone for the Kremlin Palace that took place in Moscow on 1 June 1773. According to the concept of the outstanding architect Vasily Bazhenov, with whose ideas the Empress was taken at the time, this new building was to overshadow the ancient wonders of the world and amaze everyone with its “majesty and immensity”. Probably for this reason the façade of the bureau is decorated with a view of the Moscow Kremlin. The piece’s connection to Catherine II is also evidenced by the presence in its decoration of two marquetry compositions depicting pavilions at Tsarskoye Selo: the Hermitage and Hunting Pavilion or Monbijou (from engravings by A.A. Grekov and Ye.G. Vinogradov after drawings by Mikhail Makhayev).