The palace and park complexes near St Petersburg well deserve their world renown. Some of them are famous for the magnificence of their architecture, others for the adundance of fountains and some others for the subtle lyricism and beauty of the Russian northern scenery.
In Pavlovsk, the latest Imperial country residence to have been created (late eighteenth-early nineteenth centuries), the austere, refined forms of architecture of the palace and park pavilions designed to harmonize with human proportions, are highlighted by picturesque views of the park, the largest in Russia.
In 1782, the Scotsman Charles Cameron, Court Architect to Catherine II, began to build on the sloping bank of the Slavianka river a palace for Grand Duke Paul, the heir to the Russian throne. In 1786 the construction of the palace, reminiscent of the famous villas of Andrea Palladio, was completed.
Cameron had managed to finish only the first six rooms in the Palace. Decorative work was then entrusted to the Italian architect Vincenzo Brenna. He was also responsible for the reconstruction and extension of the Palace after Paul had become the Emperor. Pavlovsk, though, was to serve as an Imperial country residence only for four years.
In 1803 a fire destroyed the whole decoration of the Palace's central block. The Russian architect Andrei Voronikhin, a former serf of Count Stroganov, was put in charge of the restoration of the Palace. The Palace took its final shape towards the 1820s when, after Voronikhin's death, Carlo Rossi, Brennas apprentice, worked there.
Though the building and decoration of the Palace was carried out by a succession of architects, its interiors and architecture show a great unity of style; the Palace's decor is completely integrated with its architecture. Its vast art collections won the Palace world renown. In the 1880s and early 1890s, it was furnished with French furniture produced by such masters as Henri Jacob, Jean-Henri Riesener, Dominique Daguerre, David Roentgen and Martin Carlin. Alongside the excellent furniture, the Palace received unique porcelain from Sevres, Meissen and other outstanding European factories and beautiful French bronzes, including first-rate works by Pierre Gouthiere and Pierre Thomire. In the same period works by the best Russian craftsmen also began to find their way to the Palace's rooms, and they did not lose their prominence even in these fascinating surroundings. All that was valuable and exquisite in Russian applied art was brought here: articles in steel by the famous Tula gunsmiths, porcelain and vases of semi-precious stones from the Altai and Urals, ivories by Kholmogory carvers and furniture with marguetry decoration made by serf cabinet-makers.