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1754-1762: Construction of the Winter Palace commissioned by Empress Elizabeth Petrovna. Architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli (1700-1771)

In 1754 Empress Elizabeth Petrovna approved the design for a new winter residence in Baroque style by the architect Bartolommeo Francesco Rastrelli. Construction of the new palace took over eight years, covering the last years of Elizabeth's reign and the short rule of Peter III. In autumn1763, Empress Catherine II returned to St Petersburg after her coronation in Moscow and became the royal mistress of the Winter Palace.

Empress Elizabeth wished the beauty of her sumptuous new palace to eclipse that of the leading European royal palaces. Construction required an enormous sum of money and involved vast numbers of labourers. Over 4,000 people, including Russia's greatest specialists, worked on the creation of the Winter Palace. Contemporaries describe the luxurious decoration of the state and other rooms (over 460 in all). But the architect was unable to complete the work as originally intended, for the new monarch, Catherine the Great, was an admirer of the new architectural fashion, Neoclassicism. She was to seek new designers and architects to carry out her plans.


Portrait of the Architect Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli
Pfanzelt, Lucas Conrad

Image in the Digital collection

View of the Winter Palace from Vasilyevsky Island
Mayr, Johann Georg de
Image in the Digital collection

Catherine the Great Receiving the Turkish Embassy in the Winter Palace on 14 October 1764
Image in the Digital collection

View of the Winter Palace
Larger view


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