The Shuvalov Palace
One of the most beautiful palaces in St. Petersburg, formerly owned by the Naryshkins and the Shuvalovs, two famous aristocratic families.
Milestones of the history
Among St. Petersburg's long list of historical and cultural gems is the Shuvalov Palace, located at 21 Fontanka River Embankment. It is unsure when the palace, one of the most beautiful historic buildings in St. Petersburg, was constructed; we only know that it was designed in the style similiar to that of the architect D. Quarenghi in the late 18th century. It is in this period when the palace was first portrayed--in the engraving "The Fontanka River Embankment by the Anichkov Palace" by B. Patersen, located in the State Hermitage Museum.
The first owners of the Shuvalov Palace were Count and Countess Vorontsov. In 1799, the palace was purchased by Maria Antonovna, wife of the chamberlain D.L. Naryshkin. Being a great admirer and lover of art, Naryshkin acquired paintings by famous artists from all over the world, as well as marble sculptures, ancient art, weapons, a collection of rare stones, coins, exquisite snuff boxes, watches, and many other things with artistic value for his "museum" in Petersburg. The palace had been visited by such famous Russians as A. Pushkin, P. Vyazemsky, I. Krylov, N. Karamzin, and K. Bryullov. In addition, visits by the Emperor Alexander I made the Naryshkin home a hub for regular meetings by the St. Petersburg social elite.
A famous ball was held on April 29, 1834, in the Naryshkin house by the Petersburg aristocracy to celebrate the coming-of-age day of the heir to the throne, Alexander Nikolaevich, the future Emperor Alexander II.
Reconstruction of the palace started in 1844 for the upcoming wedding of the heiress of the house, Sophia Lvovna Naryshkina, to Peter P. Shuvalov. Reconstruction lasted until 1859. The palace was rebuilt in the neo-Renaissance style by the architects B. Simon and N.E. Efimov. In place of the modest entrance to the mansion of D.L. Naryshkin, which can be seen in the watercolor by Patersen, the lobby of the Grand Staircase, leading to the Fontanka entrance, was built.
With the wedding of Sophia Lvovna Naryshkina and Count Pyotr Pavlovich Shuvalov in 1846, the Naryshkin era of the palace on the Fontanka River ended, and the Shuvalov era began.
In 1914, at the beginning of World War I, the last owner of the house, Elizaveta Vladimirovna, donated the house as a military hospital for the wounded, and the hall served as an officers' ward.
After the events of 1917, the palace of Countess Shuvalov was nationalized on August 1, 1918. The paintings and works of applied art were carefully hidden in the recesses of many secret hiding spots, which were very cleverly disguised. The gradual discovery of these hiding spots showed that almost all of these valuables had been preserved.
Discovery of the secret hiding spots started in the spring of 1919, after the infirmary was finally removed from the mansion. The secret stash under the fireplace in the Blue Room proved to be particularly rich. A large pantry was found, full of drawers stuffed with paintings and packages which were packed with porcelain, earthenware, and Limoges enamels in case of evacuation.
A Museum of Aristrocratic Life was opened in the Shuvalov Palace from 1919 to 1925. The Museum's collections were then transferred to the State Hermitage and the Russian Museum, while some of the items were kept in the museum fund.
A Print House was located in the palace from 1927-1929. Here, on October 28, 1927, Vladimir Mayakovsky first recited his poem "Good" (Khorosho), written for the 10th anniversary of the Russian Revolution. The palace was then transferred to House of Engineers and Technical Workers and then to a design institute in the 1930s.
The palace was significantly damaged during the siege of Leningrad from shelling and bombing. On September 14, 1941, the palace's courtyard wing was completely destroyed by a direct hit from a bomb. Even greater damage was caused by an incendiary bomb that went through the roof and fell into the attic just above the Alexander Hall. The bomb started a fire, and the flames engulfed the wooden structure of the attic. The roof collapsed, as did the ceiling, which featured a unique painting by D. Scotti.
By the start of 1950, restorers had returned the Column (Alexander) Hall to its former beauty, and the final restoration of the palace was performed from 1978-1979.
It was decided in 1963 to use the Shuvalov Palace as a House of Friendship and Peace. The palace went almost 30 years without any major repairs, and gradually deteriorated. The building needed to be renovated and the ceilings, walls, floors, etc. were in dire need of restoration.
In 2006, the city of St. Petersburg agreed to a 49-year lease of the Shuvalov Palace to the Link of Times cultural and historical foundation, established by Viktor Vekselberg. The foundation announced they would be transforming the Shuvalov Palace into a privately-owned museum.
Restoration of the Shuvalov Palace, a famous architectural monument of the 18th century and one of the most fashionable places of St. Petersburg in the 19th century, was completed in 2013. The palace's former beauty was returned. The Link of Times foundation placed a permanent exhibition in the Shuvalov Palace, the Fabergé Museum, which was created using the personal collections of Mr. Vekselberg, and included the collection of Fabergé Easter Eggs, which Vekselberg acquired from the Forbes family in 2004.
Halls of the palace
The Grand Staircase was constructed in the 1840s at the main entrance to the palace. The staircase was built by the architect Nikolai Efimov and is fringed by a series of sculptures. Years after its completion, the architect Rudolph Bogdanovich Berngard erected the exquisite decorative stucco dome over the staircase.
Military-themed works of art. Life in the Russian army in the mid-19th century is portrayed in the watercolors of Karl Piratskiy and his successor, Pyotr Balashov. The works of these battle-genre artists are rarely found in museum collections and little is known about them; however, both artists enjoyed well-deserved recognition in their time. The Knights' Hall is named for the frieze encompassing the room, which depicts a medieval tournament of knights.
Russian silver. The Red Room is dedicated to a collection of Russian silver works, produced from the 18th to the beginning of the 20th centuries. The room's displays showcase spectacular works by the top Petersburg firms that also carried the honor of Supplier of the Highest Court (C. Fabergé, P. Sazikov, Nichols and Plinke, the Grachev brothers, Tegelsten).
Easter Eggs by Fabergé. The central hall of the Shuvalov Palace contains the Imperial Easter Eggs and surprises made for the last of the Romanovs - the Emperors Alexander III and Nicholas II. These remarkable works each tell their own unique story and made Fabergé a world-renowned brand.
Gifts from the Tsars, objets de fantaisie made by House of Fabergé, and jeweled boxes. Many of the items exhibited in the Gold Room are associated with the Romanov dynasty and their foreign relatives. The objets de fantaisie, made by the masters of the House of Fabergé, are particularly noteworthy, as are the jeweled boxes decorated with portraits of Russian emperors.
Jewelry, small items, accessories, and clocks. The Anteroom contains a collection of household items once owned by the wealthy and which demonstrate the rich color palette of guilloché enamel, as well as jewelry--the least-preserved items of the Fabergé legacy.
White and Blue Room
Enamel work from the firm of Pavel Ovchinnikov and Moscow cooperatives. Russian porcelain from the 19th century. The White and Blue Room displays works of enamel from the workshops of Pavel Ovchinnikov and also presents outstanding examples of Russian porcelain.
Stone carvings by the House of Fabergé and their contemporaries. Russian paintings from the 19th century. The Exhibition Room, known by the first Shuvalovs as the Great Study, once house the family's personal museum. Today, the Exhibition Room is home to stone carvings by Fabergé and paintings by nineteenth century Russian artists.
Russian icons. The Gothic Hall, once the study of Count Pyotr Shuvalov, features a collection of Russian icons from the 16th-20th centuries, most of which are clad in frames and covers of precious metals made by famous jewelers from Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Upper Dining Room
Turn of the 20th Century Russian and European paintings. On display in the Upper Dining Room are paintings by Russian and French impressionists and neoimpressionists from the end of the 19th-beginning of the 20th centuries. Special attention should be given to the works of August Renoir and the great Russian impressionist Konstantin Korovin. A prominent piece is the Palace Vase, painted by Fyodor Krasovsky.
Russian enamel. The Beige Room offers visitors a look at the various shapes and styles of everyday tableware in Imperial Russia. On display are also cigarette cases which illustrate various silver working and enamel decorating techniques.
Fine serveware and precious items. Items in the Terracotta Room are grouped according to the various themes covered by the leading jewelers at the turn of the 16th and 20th centuries, such as meals, smoking, navigation, and war. (C. Fabergé, P. Ovchinnikov, Nichols and Plinke)
Sky Blue Room
Enamel works by the leading Russian firms (I. Khlebnikov, A. Kuzmichev, F. Rückert). This room exhibits works by artists from the factory of Ivan Khlebnikov, a supplier of the Imperial Court; Antip Kuzmichev, who cooperated with the American jewelry firm Tiffany & Co.; and Fyodor Rückert, who created his own unique style and worked on many orders for the House of Fabergé.
White Column Hall
The White Column Hall (formerly the Alexander Hall), was the largest ballroom in all of St. Petersburg during the time of Alexander I, but was badly damaged during World War II. Scientific restoration was carried out in the late 1940s, during which time the decoration of the hall was reconstituted as per the design from the 1820s, including the lost ceiling painted by D. Scotty.
Restoration of the Shuvalov Palace
by the Link of Times foundation
The Link of Times foundation made the first comprehensive restoration of the Shuvalov Palace in its more than 200-year history and adapted the palace for modern use. Previous renovations were done either to restructure the palace or to remove traces of the many accidents that occurred due to the lack of funding, which lasted from the post-war years up to the transfer of the palace to the Link of Times foundation.
For example, the dome of the Grand Staircase was in complete disrepair in the 7 years prior to being restored by the foundation. Numerous leaks over the years led to the loss of the dome's load-bearing capacity. There was a threat of its collapse, which would have resulted not only in the loss of the dome, but the whole Grand Staircase and its galleries. Unique work was performed to replace the load - bearing wooden beams and save the dome. This made it possible to keep the original dome intact for future generations.
When performing the restoration, more than 30 hazardous areas were found hidden by plaster, suspended ceilings, and partitions. Damaged load-bearing wooden beams, destruction, separation of masonry, insufficient bearing capacity of main walls, and an absence of connectors in brick walls all threatened not only the historical interiors, but also people’s safety. As a result, many difficult design decisions and complicated restoration work was required. Strengthening the foundations, waterproofing the basement, replacing the roof, ensuring the fire safety of the building - despite being put off indefinitely by the former tenants of the building, the Link of Times foundation performed all of this as quickly as possible. Tempera painting was found in the Gothic Room from tape trims under 8 layers of paint. Now, with its rare picturesque historic finish, the room truly adorns the Shuvalov Palace. The hanging gallery was completely restored to its historic dimensions.
A huge amount of restoration work was carried out under the constant supervision of specialists of KGIOP St. Petersburg. This work included replacing damasks, gilding, and restoring antique chandeliers, and clearly demanded enormous efforts by the restorers. Doors, windows, and decorative elements made of precious wood - sycamore, cork, and oak - were carefully stripped of many layers of paint and varnish. Tremendous work was done to restore the marble fireplaces, murals, and sculptures. Historic iconographic materials made the reconstruction of the lost decorative elements as historically accurate as possible. On occasion, up to 300 people were in the Shuvalov Palace work on the restoration at one time.