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Екатерининский дворецЕкатерининский паркАлександровский дворецАлександровский парк

The Hanging Garden and the Ramp

The terrace of the Cameron Gallery, the second storey of the Zubov Wing, where Catherine II had her private apartments, and the Agate Rooms of the Cold Bath pavilion, where the Empress spent her mornings reading, reviewing state papers and answering letters, are linked by the Hanging Garden.

The side of the upper storey of the Cold Bath facing the Hanging Garden is embellished by an oval half-rotunda; light yellow walls set off the brick-red colour of relief medallions and niches in which decorative busts and statues made of dark bronze.

The terrace between the Cameron Gallery, Zubov Wing and Agate Rooms, intended for a small hanging garden at second-storey level, rests on vaults supported by mighty piers. Before the garden was laid out the vaults were covered with sheets of lead to protect them from moisture and then topped with a layer of soil in which plants could flourish. In the eighteenth century apple-trees, lilacs, jasmine and roses grew here. Tulips, peonies and daffodils were planted around the bushes.

The open sides of the Hanging Garden were originally bounded by a balustrade made of dolomite from the Baltic island of Ösel (now Saaremaa in Estonia). By the early nineteenth century it had become dilapidated and was replaced by a white-painted wooden one.

In 1787 a hanging garden of considerably smaller size and different shape was located only in front of the second storey of the Cold Bath. Its southern corner touched the northern one of the Cameron Gallery and the western corner the gable wall of the Zubov Wing.

The garden was enlarged five years later, when the Ramp was designed and constructed. This required the erection of six more piers and vaults between the wing of the palace and the Cameron Gallery.

The Empress decided she wanted an additional means of descending to the park from the Hanging Garden early in 1792. When he set about drawing up a project, rather than repeating the steps that already existed by his gallery Charles Cameron suggested constructing a gently-sloping ramp.

The Ramp is formed by seven vaulted arches of declining height and three archless piers. Cut into the keystones of the arches on both sides are masks of Classical deities – Jupiter, Juno, Mars, Minerva, Mercury – and other mythological personages. The columns that end each step in the side wall of the ramp were once topped with statues of the muses – Euterpe, Calliope, Melpomene, Polyhymnia, Thalia, Terpsichore and Erato, and also the Venus Kallipygos, Medici Venus, Mercury and Flora. In its first decade the Ramp, richly decorated with sculpture, was known as “the Staircase of the Gods”. But the bronze statues were not here for long: in 1799 on the orders of Emperor Paul I they were moved to Pavlovsk where they were set up in a round clearing in the Old Silvia area (that became the Etoile of the Muses). Their place on the Ramp was taken in 1826 by cast-iron “Classical altars” incorporating bowls for flowers. These were cast at the St Petersburg State Iron Foundry to the design of the architect Vasily Stasov. At the very end of the Ramp up until 1941 stood two colossal bronze vases copied from ancient prototypes. During the occupation they disappeared without trace.

Construction of the Ramp was completed in April 1794. The project was supervised by Ilya Neyelov, Charles Cameron’s permanent assistant. At that time in accordance with Cameron’s design grilled iron gates that had been made at the Sestroretsk works were placed on the Ramp, where they remained until the middle of the nineteenth century.

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Slide film by Yury Z. Matsin

The Hanging Garden and the Ramp
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