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The Lacquer Study

On crossing the threshold of this study, the visitor suddenly finds himself in the magic oriental kingdom - the walls in the room are faced with black lacquer panels set in ornate red frames. The painting on a black lacquer ground is executed in gold with figures in relief. The pictures feature landscapes, gardens, scenes of hunting and fishing, birds and plants. Fixed on the vertical strips between the panels are carved and gilded brackets with their shelves supported by putti and sirens. The shelves are used to display pieces of Oriental porcelain which found their way to Monplaisir in Peter's time. The ceiling painting, an allegory of Autumn matches the overall subject of the palace plafonds - that of the Seasons. Pillement portrayed here a Bacchante holding a cluster of grapes and a wine-cup and symbolizing Autumn. The décor of this room is typical for the European palaces of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.

Work on the decoration of the Lacquer Study began to designs by Johann Braunstein in 1719 and already by February 1722 ten Russian icon-painters had completed ninety-four lacquer panels. Jean Michel and his French and Russian assistants were responsible for the woodwork.

The study had retained its original appearance until World War II. When in 1944 the museum employees entered the room, they could see nothing but the bare brick walls. Further on, clearing the dug-outs, they discovered several lacquer panels there. Painters from the village of Palekh, a well-known Russian centre of lacquer painting, used them for recreating the lost panels. After the restoration of the study the three authentic panels have been placed on a pier between the windows.

The Hall

The door from the Lacquer Study leads to the central interior of die palace which is known as the Hall. Its glazed doors look onto the garden and the northern ones face the sea. The formal character of the room intended for reception of guests is emphasized by its dimensions and the wealth of its decor. Its walls, like those in the galleries, are richly decorated with oak panels with paintings in black frames set into them. But the most remarkable feature of the interior is the dome-shaped tetragonal ceiling painted by Philippe Pillement. The four facets in the coving bear the images of ancient gods symbolizing the four elements - Water, Air, Fire and Earth. Above them the painter depicted allegories of winds and temperaments. Apollo, the god of sun, art, poetry and sunshine, reigns supreme over all this maginficence. In the corners, at the joints of the facets, are sculptural groups of half-length figures which symbolize the four seasons. These are true masterpieces of sculpture of the first quarter of the eighteenth century. Although one of surviving documents mentions the authorship of a French sculptor, his name has not been identified.

Among the twenty-two paintings hung in the Hall of particular interest are the representations of ships riding at anchor by Adam Silo (1674-1766), a painter who was also a ship-builder, a captain and an engraver. It was his versatility that attracted Peter the Great when he studied ship-building in Amsterdam. Legend has it that the Tsar used Silo's paintings to examine cadets at the Naval Academy in Russia. The fireplace shield is decorated with A Vase of Flowers by the Flemish artist Pieter Casteels (1684-1749), a large-scale painting which is a typical still-life of the early eighteenth century. Among genre paintings one should pay particular attention to the subject of Jolly Company by the Dutch painter Anthonie Palamedesz (1601-1673). Battle painting is represented by The Siege of Tournai by Louis XIV, the work of the French artist Adam Frans van de Meulen (1632-1690).



The Lacquer Study.


The Lacquer Study.
Shelves with Porcelain pieces.



The Hall.

The Hall.
Abraham Storck.
"A City Pier".

The Hall.
Philippe Pillement.
The ceiling painted over stuccowork.

The Hall.
Adam Frans van de Meulen.
"The Siege of Tournai by Lois XIV".
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