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Royal splendor: the Marble Palace for Count Orlov

There is one of the most picturesque and majestic palaces in the very heart of St. Petersburg – the Marble Palace, built by Catherine II for her favorite. The amazing thing about this building is that only one material was used for the construction - marble in all its diversity and nobleness.If you want to see a unique palace, stroll through richly decorated halls, touch Russian paintings and sculptures, and visit the living and working rooms of the reigning persons of the past years, then the Marble Palace will not disappoint you!

How to get to the Marble Palace

The palace is located on the Palace Embankment of the Neva River - it can be reached on foot  if you do not mind walking or by metro. The nearest metro stations are Nevsky Prospect and Gostiny Dvor but it will take about 15 minutes walking. It is more convenient to exit the metro towards Sadovaya Street or Gostiny Dvor - go to the Embankment and follow to Mikhailovsky Palace, then cross the Moskva River, go along the Summer Garden to turn to Millionnaya, follow the street and you will come to the gate of the Marble Palace.

A Brief History of the Marble Palace

Before the construction of the Marble Palace, the Drinking Den was located on this land, which was rebuilt into a postal house with a pier in 1714 and cultural life began to boil here. On the second floor of the house, the Emperor arranged lavish receptions and assemblies, received guests and placed them in hotel rooms.

After the Postal House on the Embankment, which is now called the Palace Embankment, the Manege was built but it did not last for a long time and soon was destroyed by the fire. Empress Catherine the Second decided to use the vacated land to make a rich gift to her favorite Count Orlov in gratitude for his support and assistance on the way to the throne in the events of 1762.

The construction was led by the architect Rinaldi and many people believe that he laid a marble chest with coins in the Palace's foundation. About 300 people worked at the construction every day, and the Empress personally monitored the work and generously rewarded the most diligent workers.

The Palace's decor was thought out to the smallest details - the parade room was decorated with four statues of Morning, Day, Evening and Night, and sculptural groups dedicated to the spring and autumn equinox. Also there were an extensive library, a huge art gallery, Turkish and Greek baths in the Palace - the Empress wanted to reward her favorite for his loyalty.

By the way, the count did not stand aside and made a worthy return gift but Orlov did not have time to appreciate his own palace - he died shortly before the construction's completion, and Catherine had to redeem the palace from his heirs, and later gave it as a gift to her grandson Konstantin.

Later, two more Konstantins owned the house - the son of Nicholas I and his grandson, the president of the Academy of Sciences and the poet of the Silver Age, who worked under the pseudonym “K.R.” In the nineteenth century, the Palace's reconstruction began on Bryullov project, and the premises were significantly rebuilt to the needs of the museum, almost destroying the original look of the interior. Since 1992, after the transfer to the Russian Museum, the Palace is gradually being reconstructed and the previous interiors are restored.

Interesting facts and legends about the Marble Palace

  • Count Orlov could not remain in debt to the Empress for her truly royal gift, and presented her with an incredible diamond of 190 carats. Subsequently, the diamond was called by the name of the count;
  • 32 varieties of marble and granite were used for the Palace construction – the stone was brought from all over Russia as well as from Italy and Greece;
  • The craftsmen from Sestroretsk were engaged in the roof's manufacture – they so carefully fitted and soldered the copper sheets that the roof lasted 150 years, and during that time it never needed to be repaired;
  • After the Count's death, the Empress did not want living in the Palace and decided to give it to her six-year-old grandson - ten years later, the future tsarevich moved there with his wife immediately after the marriage ceremony. However, the couple did not live long there. The fourteen-year-old wife suffered from her husband’s hooligan tricks and, according to rumors, she often had to hide from him in one of the corridor vases - the prince chased the missus with a toy gun loaded with live rats. When the Empress found out about her grandson's mischief, she quickly evicted him as a punishment for inappropriate behavior;
  • After the grandson was expelled from the castle, Catherine leased the building to the Polish heir who had abdicated, but the former prince died in the palace, and his remains could not be transferred to Poland for a long time. After the reburial did happen, the territorial policy changed. And the territory with the grave went to Russia again;
  • There is an opinion that the Empress herself made the first sketch of the palace, and already according to her sketches the architect was creating a project;
  • There is a legend that during the foundation construction a large chest with valuable coins “for a rainy day” was laid;
  • It is believed that a secret passage leads to the palace, created specifically for secret meetings of lovers.

What is worth seeing first of all when visiting the Palace

Exhibition of foreign artists in Russia 18-19 centuries

You can learn more about the relationship between the fine arts of Russia and Europe, see unique paintings and learn more about their great authors.

Ludwig Museum in the Russian Museum

In 1995, a married couple of collectors Peter and Irena Ludwig donated to the museum a unique collection of paintings by contemporary artists from Russia, Europe and America. The exposition allows you to see how fine art developed in Russia, and how it intertwined with the culture of other countries.

Collection of Rzhevsky brother's collectors

In 1998 brothers Jacob and Joseph Rzhevsky presented the Russian Museum with an extensive collection of art works. The Rzhevsky collection has 503 exhibits mostly dated back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries - painting, graphics, sculpture and amazing examples of decorative and applied art.

Exposition of Knyaz Konstantin Romanov

This permanent exhibition is located in the private chambers of the Knyaz and talks about him as a poet of the Silver Age. The exposition presents the exhibits telling about the creativity, life and hobbies of Konstantin - you can see his study, the music room, where Rubinstein, Maikov, Fet and Tchaikovsky used to come, as well as the everyday environment, where Knyaz Romanov was having a rest and looking for inspiration.

Exhibition " Plastic Mass"

This exhibition presents the works of Russian sculptors of the 20-21 centuries - the exhibition shows unusual techniques of working with polymers and other plastic materials, non-standard sculpture and many other interesting exhibits.

Barry Coston exhibition showing that Russia is not black and white

Here you can get acquainted with the works of the famous English photographer Barry Coston - from 2014 to 2018, he took a lot of colorful and vivid pictures in Russia, designed to show that the country is by no means black and white - it is full of colors and intensive vivid life!

The Marble Hall

Here, the rich stone implementation in its original form has been preserved - fourteen vertical ledges with gilded gutters and bases divide the walls. The walls are also decorated with white marble garlands with eagles in honor of the first owner of the Palace.

The White Hall

Its arched openings and cross vaults are decorated with Gothic ornaments, and the columns are made of snow-white marble. There are six palladian windows in the hall and you can go to the winter garden through the Greek gallery.

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