The first retrospective exhibition of works by Nikolai Kulbin (1868–1917) discovers the artist as a landscape painter with an analytical mind and yet an unspoiled vision, a p...
Historic events, everyday life of the city, and St. Petersburg places of interest depicted in photographs and postcards of the late 19th and...
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5/1 Millionnaya Str., St. Petersburg
Metro - Nevsky Prospekt
Marble palace, a unique sample of architecture of the XVIII century, is situated in Palace Embankment of the Neva River in the historical center of Saint-Petersburg. It was constructed in 1768 — 1785 according to the design by an Italian architect Antonio Rinaldi
Grigory Orlov died when the palace was still under construction, and Catherine II bought it out from Grigory’s heirs — Orlov brothers- and presented it to her second grandson Grand Duke Konstantin
In 1844 — 1849 Marble palace and its service pavilion were reconstructed according to the project by an architect Alexander Bryullov
Grand Duke Konstantin
Grand Duke’s sons had to sell the palace complex to the state after his death as they didn’t have enough money to maintain it. This happened in the autumn of 1917, when Provisional Government had already assumed power and the palace housed The Ministry of Labor.
Between 1919 and 1936 Marble palace was occupied with the State Academy of Material Culture History. This was the period when state and private palace interiors were spontaneously reorganized for the needs of a big institution. At the same time systematic restoration of the palace facades and railing began.
In 1936 г. the city government made a decision to organize a department of Central Museum of Lenin in Marble palace. N.Lanceray
The new period of Marble palace history started in December 1991, when the town hall of Saint-Petersburg came to a decision to give the palace under the jurisdiction of the State Russian Museum. A new conception of the palace premises was developed — they now reflect Russian art in the context of world art. Academic restoration and thorough examination of this monument of architecture have been held since then, including interior size, planning and design reconstruction.
Also, Marble palace permanently displays the collection of Russian and foreign pieces of art coming from the second half of the XX century, originally belonging to Peter and Irene Ludwig but donated by them to the museum. This exhibition is known as “Ludwig Museum in the Russian Museum”.
Displays of restored and constantly renovated premises of Marble palace reflect the position and role of Russian art in context of world art. Considering this role, we better understand the diversity of national traditions and local artists’ distinctive character, as well as see common European traditional background of cultures.
Marble palace is a unique heritage asset of Russia of the second half of the XVIII century. Along with Winter palace it is one of the main places of interest on the panorama of the Neva River embankment. This building is a rare example of early classical style in Saint-Petersburg. Moreover, the palace décor is a unique illustration of natural stone design: the outer facades of Marble palace are its main value as their authentic appearance has mostly survived.
General composition of the facades suggests the ground floor faced with dark red granite, being the pedestal for the first and second ones faced with light grey granite.
Corinthian order pilasters and three-quarter columns of pink Tiudian marble with white marble bases and capitals consolidate the first and second floor and rhythmically intersperse with the windows adorned with grey Ruskeala marble architraves. There are also relief white marble garlands between the windows of the first and second floor.
North- and south-facing elevations of the palace consequently overlook the Neva river Embankment and the Field of Mars. They are supposed to be seen from a long distance, having discernable center lines, with balcony doors in the niches topped up with semicircular vaults and a cartouche on the attic. Balcony railings are made of marble and decorated with gilded bronze balusters. Along the perimeter of the attic the vases of grey dolomite are introduced.
There is a beaten grate with gilded elements standing on the basement of red granite between the palace and the service wing. Granite pillars of the grate are topped with marble vases, and on the sides of the entrance gate we can see military equipment of marble.
East-facing elevation, overlooking the court of honor, has abundant sculptural decoration. The façade is topped with a clock pavilion, adorned with marble vases. The pavilion houses the palace chiming clock, which was reconstructed by the Russian Museum in 1999. On the sided of it we can see two allegorical statues of marble: “Generosity” and “Faith” by F. Shubin.
Since 1994 there has been a monument to Emperor Alexander III by P.Trubetskoy on display in front of the main entrance to the Marble palace. The statue was kept in the storage of the Russian Museum since 1939, and before that in
Having entered Marble palace we find ourselves in Gala Staircase— a unique interior in the history of Russian architecture of XVIII century, which has survived until nowadays almost completely. Its design includes different kinds of varicoloured marble. Opposite the entrance there is a marble relief portrait of the architect A.Rinaldi, which appeared here as the first owner of the palace, count G.Orlov, wanted to emphasize the credit of the architect. The author of the portrait is still unknown.
The main motif of the staircase design is abundance of Italian marble sculpture situated in the niches as well as relief compositions on the walls of the second floor and ceiling moldings.
The sculptures which decorate Gala Staircase of Marble palace are the only preserved in Saint-Petersburg allegorical ensemble of the XVIII century. In the niches, decorated with marble shells, between the ground and first floors, we can see four female figures of marble symbolizing the time of day: Night (by an unknown master) with an owl, its traditional object; Morning is shaped as the goddess of dawn Aurora holding a garland of roses and having a sun discus by her feet; Midday has an arrow (the symbol of sunrays), a sundial showing midday and the zodiacs (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn) reminding of midday’s permanency throughout the year; Evening is shown as goddess Dianagoing hunting at dawn. Her attributes are a bow and a quiver of arrow. These three statues were executed by a sculptor F.Shubin.
Meanwhile rectangular niches between the first and second floor house the two statues symbolizing the vernal equinox — a female figure holding a flower garland and having a ram head by her feet which stands for Aries as the sun enters this zodiac after the vernal equinox — and fall equinox shaped as a male figure with ripe grapes in his hand.
Inner walls of the second floor show us reliefs of four main virtues: Modesty, Courage, Sensibility and Justice. In the center of the western wall there is a composition “Games of the cupids”. The staircase used to be topped with a clock face. The palace carillion of the XVIII century used to have two faces — one on the façade and the other one placed horizontally into the ceiling. Nowadays the ceiling has a plafond “The judgement of Paris” be Joseph Christie, transferred here from the palace hall in the middle of the XIX century.
Marble hall is a unique interior in XVIII century Russian architecture history, which authentic design has survived until nowadays almost completely. The walls are faced with different kinds of local and Italian marble. The hall was originally one-storeyed, A.Bryullov added the second level. The windows of the first and second floor provide the abundance of light. Corinthian order is used in the walls decoration. The pilasters with gilded bronze bases and capitals are carved of Tiudian marble. They are supported with a socle running along the perimeter of the walls. The socle is divided into parts by Italian green marble panels which bear relief images of vases and draperies.
The sculpture ware of Marble palace was created by outstanding Russian masters. Along the perimeter of the walls we can see 14 round bas-reliefs 14 unified with the subject of “Sacrifice” by a sculptor F.Shubin co-authored by an Italian sculptor A.Valli. The two dessus de portes above the doors were also made by F.Shubin. On the western wall there are two bas-reliefs by M.Kozlovsky: “Regulus returning to Carthage ” and “Camillus liberates Rome from Galli”. The ceiling is decorated with a plafond “The wedding of Cupid and Psyche” by S.Torelli. The interior design of the hall involves quite a rare semi-precious stone — lapis-lazuli. The window frames and balcony doors were made of gilded bronze. The door panels and inlaid floor of a sophisticated pattern were assembled of different kinds of rare wood.
In 1844 — 1849 the state and private palace interiors of the second floor were redesigned by A.Bryullov. The rooms’ design demonstrated variety of styles and decorative materials.
A.Bryullov was an architect of eclectics, a widely developed style in the middle of XIX century. This was reflected in the design of Marble palace. During the reconstruction of Marble Hall the architect preserved the original décor of the first level, but disassembled the ceiling between the first and second floor and placed the plafond “The wedding of Cupid and Psyche” by S.Torelli into a new ceiling. He also designed a new ornament of the gilded molding. This was the same time when gilded bronze chandeliers with crystal pendants appeared. As for Inlaid door panels and the parquet floor, the architect preserved their initial appearance.
State Reception Room is the central premise of the Neva suite of rooms is one more hall with authentic elements of décor. Here we can see eight solid columns of Serdobol granite, moldings on the vaulted ceiling and inlaid floor fragments. Reconstruction works in this interior finished in 2015. Marble mantelpieces, inlaid floor of rare kinds of wood and a gilded bronze chandelier were reconstructed, ceiling moldings were cleared and gilded anew, door panels were restored. Also, the doorways to neighbor premises were open.
In the western side of the building there is one more interior constructed by A.Bryullov — a hall with two tiers of windows overlooking Millionaire’s Road. Having receiver dew décor, the room was called White Hall or Gothic Hall due to neo-gothic style elements used during its redesign. Bryullov divided the hall into three parts, putting up abutments decorated with sets of narrow “gothic” columns which merge into fan-vaults. On the sides of the southern wall doorway two marble columns with figures of Russian knights were erected. The marble mantelpiece with a mirror in a gilded carved frame is situated along the central axis of the northern wall. This is the only authentic mantelpiece of XIX century which has been preserved up to nowadays on its historical spot.
In 2002 complex restoration works on White Hall were completed, including the reconstruction of knights’ figures along the perimeter of the hall, sculpture images of double-headed eagles, moldings on the ceiling, the windows of the second tier on the eastern wall were discovered. Bronze chandeliers and sconces were reconstructed as well as inlaid parquet floor.
Greek Gallery adjoins White Hall from the north side. Its interiors have also been reconstructed: the walls were refaced with artificial marble; the parquet floor was laid anew. Colored molding of the ceiling was also reconstructed as well as gilded bronze chandeliers.
Leaving Greek Gallery we find ourselves in Winter Garden. А. Bryullov organized it on the terrace where originally Hanging Garden had been situated; it occupies the space on the first and second floor. Decorative arches are supported by cast iron columns and semi-columns; metal ceiling over the second floor is decorated with caissons. The windows of the second floor face the garden, and the eastern side has a small reconstructed balcony with an elegant drop-forged grate. In the middle of the there is a three-bowl marble fountain on the mosaic floor. The fountain has been reconstructed as well as the big threefold glass door, the three archways connecting the garden premise with the parterre, and the balcony at the level of the second floor with a decorative grate. A marble mantelpiece with a mirror has been reconstructed in in the parterre, and a doorway leading to the former palace library in the Neva suite of rooms has been discovered.
On the ground floor of the palace facing Millionaires’ Road quite a few private apartments of Grand Duke Konstantin have been preserved. They were constructed in late XIX —early XX century. These interiors vividly reflect esthetic preferences of their owner. Grand Duke’s study, decorated with mahogany panels, is executed in Jacob style. Music (Gothic) Room is completely faced with oak. Its appearance is based on gothic elements. Near here we can see a sitting room with a five-part plafond in the vault. Grand Duke Konstantin attributed to the composition of “Serving the Arts”, the subject of the plafond, painted by E.Ligart. Next premise is so-called Small Marble Sitting Room, which walls are faced with artificial marble. The interiors of Konstantin’s library and audience hall have also been restored. These days the halls house a memorial exhibition dedicated to a poet of Silver Age, with a cryptonym-signature "KR“— Grand Duke Konstantin Romanov.
In 1994 an agreement to establish “Ludwig Museum” in the Russian Museum. Collectors Peter and Irene Ludwig donated belonging to them works by Russian and foreign artists of the XX century to the Russian Museum. This is how the main concept of Marble palace was put up: “Russian art in the context of world art”. Nowadays the palace has a permanent display called “Ludwig Museum”, which contains works by those artists who reflect the tendency of art evolution in the second half of the XX century, both in Russia and abroad.
In 1998 Saint-Petersburg collectors Iakov and Iosif Rzhevsky donated their set of artworks to the Russian Museum. The vast pa part of the collection is canvases of the XVIII — ХХcentury, including works by I.Aivazovsky, J. von Klever, I.Dubrovsky, I.Mashkov, P.Konchalovsky and B.Kustodiev. Especially rare oiece of the collection are mantelpiece, cabinet and carriage clocks designed by different craftsmen of late XVIII — early XIX century. Some clocks have unique mechanism or chme, some can chime several melodies, some have interesting face and case decoration. This private collection also displays graphics, sculptures, furniture, lamps and bronzeware.
Marble palace is the essential part of the Russian Museum collection as well as a masterpiece of Russian architecture of XVIII — XIX centuries. Its cultural and historic importance can be compared to the collections housed by the Russian Museum.
Count Grigory Orlov (1734 — 1783), being a prince after 1772. He took part in the palace coup of 1762, which placed Catherine II in power. He was a General Feldzeugmeister since 1765, general-in-chief of Hourse-guards Corps, Her Imperial Magesty’s Adjutant General and Arch Chamberlain, colonel-in-chief of life-guard mount regiment, president of Guardship over the Foreigners Secretariat and the holder of different awards. He managed Master of Hound Dods Secretariat, responsible for royal hunting and fireworks. He stayed in service until his death in Moscow.
For Orlov’s participation in historic events and his merits to the Fatherland Empress Catherine II ordered to issue a memorial medal “For the liberation of Moscow from devastator”, put up a triumphal arch in Tsarskoe Selo, and construct Marble palace where the inscription read above the entrance: “the building of gratitude”.
After the count’s death Catherine II bought the palace from his brothers with 200000 rubles. Also, she separately acquired the collection of paintings and miniatures from the palace.
In 1796 Catherine II presented the palace to her second grandson Grand Duke Konstantin. Between 1797 and 1798 Marble palace was the residence of the last king of Poland Stanislav August Ponyatovsky.
Stanislav August Ponyatovsky (1732 — 1798) was the king in 1764 — 1795. He was invited to Saint-Petersburg to sit in “Debt committee”, sharing the debts of The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth between Russia, Prussia and Austria for the annexed lands and in compensation of demand lawn of 1777, which Russia guaranteed, liquidation. The King arrived in Saint-Petersburg with his inner circle of courtiers of 160 people.
The King’s Private Apartments were situated on the first floor in the north-eastern part of the building, including Marble Hall. In February 1798 S.Ponyatovsky died suddenly of an apoplectic stroke. Specially organized “Misery committee” was responsible for the funeral. The obsequies took place in Grand Hall, decorated by V.Brenna.
Grand Duke Konstantin (1779 — 1831) was brought up together with his elder brother Alexander (Alexander I to be). He was interested in the science of warfare. A colonel, a colonel-in-chief of Saint-Petersburg Grenadier Regiment, a colonel-in-chief of life-guard Izmaylovsky Regiment, the chief of cadet corps, General Inspector of horse cavalry. Konstantin participated in Italian and Swiss military expeditions of A.Suvorov. He also was the commander-in chief of the guards during the wars of 1805 — 1807. He took part in military expeditions of 1809 — 1812 and headed the guards’ corps in the battle of Austerlitz. Since 1814 Grand Duke had been the head of the troops in the Kingdom of Poland and in 1816 he became a commander-in-chief of the army of Poland and permanently resided in Warsaw. In 1818 Konstantin also became a deputy of ThePolish Seim standing for Prague, the suburb of Warsaw. After the vice-regent of Poland died in 1826, Grand Duke in fact started performing his duties. In 1831, escaping from the uprising in Poland, he set off for Saint-Petersburg and died of cholera in Vitebsk and was buried in Saint Peter and Paul’s fortress. For next dozens of years Marble palace was occupied with Grand Duke’s court servants and their families. Being overpopulated, the palace premises needed reconstructing and repairing which was conducted by A.Voronikhin, the court architect in 1803 — 1810.
After Grand Duke’s death in 1832 in accordance with Emperor Nicolas I’s edict Marble palace was presented Grand Duke Konstantin (1827 — 1892), the second son of the Emperor. Underage Grand Duke was being brought up with the family while the palace remained the residential area for the courtiers.
Grand Duke Konstantin, a general admiral, the head of the Naval Ministry, conducted a range of reforms of Russian fleet; he also took part in writing the famous “Manifesto” which abolished serfdom.
In 1848 he married Grand Duchess Alexandra, nee Princess of Saxon-Altenburg. In December 1849 the family moved to the palace after its reconstruction held by A.Bryullov.
20 December 1849 an Imperial Edict declared: “reconstructed Marble palace with all its interiors and belonging to it service wing His Majesty the Emperor had the grace to present the palace to His Imperial Highness Grand Duke Konstantin’s hereditary possession in perpetuity and ordered to call it Konstantin’s palace”.
Grand Duke Konstantin was highly interested in music and played several instruments. Loving literature and being an expert of it, he encouraged the first posthumous edition of collected writings be N.Gogol. It was the in-house magazine “Naval digest” where were first published pieces by I.Goncharov, V.Dal, A.Afanasjev, A.Ostrovsky, D.Grigorovich.
Numerous writers and musicians visited Grand Duke in Marble palace. White Hall hosted concerts of E.Balakirev, A.Rubinstein, N.Rimsky-Korsakov. 2 May 1856 the first in Saint-Petersburg concert of I.Strauss was held here.
Grand Duchess Alexandra
Alexandra was a vivid person among outstanding women of the time. She stood at the origins Red Cross of Russia, arm of nurse service in military hospitals, and construction of civil ones. During the Russo-Turkish war of 1877 — 1878 with her own money she organized sanitary warehouses, bought medicines and hospital equipment, a special sanitary train was launched. For 25 years Grand Duchess headed Children’s Shelter’s Council, which meetings often took place in the sitting rooms of Marble palace.
Grand Duchess took active part in the work of Russian Imperial Music Society and Conservatoire establishment. In accordance with her petitionary of 1889 the Conservatoire of Saint-Petersburg received the building of Imperial Bolshoi Theatre. The money for the building reconstruction came from Her Imperial Highness’ Secretariat.
In 1892, after the death of Grand Duke Konstantin, his son Konstantin (1858 — 1915) inherited the palace.
Grand Duke Konstantin, known as a poet and interpreter with a cryptonym-signature “KR”, was the president of Academy of Science since 1889 г. That was he who encouraged “Belles-lettres Department” by the Academy to be created. As for Grand Duke’s military service, he started it in the Navy, later was transferred to the Army. In 1882 Konstantin was the captain of life-guard Izmaylovsky regiment, where he put up “Izmaylovsky leasures ”, a kind of a theatrical, music and literature union of the officers, at whose assemblies recitation was held, for example, by eminent poets A.Maykov and J.Polonsky.
Music performances and drama plays were held in Marble palace. The best production of “Hamlet” in translation by Grand Duke Konstantin and with him in the lead was performed in Grand Hall it, where a stage had been constructed for this. The Emperor’s family members attended the play as well.
Grand Duke was the chief and later on The Inspector General of military schools of Russia. He maintained the development of education in military schools and also supervised education improvement in general.
In 1889 Grand Duke Konstantin encouraged changing Woman’s pedagogical college with its two-year course into a higher education institution — Women’s Pedagogical University, when he’d become its patron.
He also patronized Agricultural College, put up in 1899, which students resided in the service wing of Marble palace. The college was available for everybody between 10 and 18 years old despite the caste. Five thousand children studied there, but the interest in them was so high that the number of those willing to study reached 14 thousand people.
Grand Duke Konstantin married Princess Elizabeth of Saxon-Altenburg in 1884; nine children were born into the family.
Grand Duchess Elizabeth (1865 — 1927), nee Princess Elizabeth of Saxon-Altenburg, Duchess of Saxon. This lady’s life was dedicated to charity and creating a big family. She patronized a lot of organizations put up by Empress Maria in the town of Pavlovsk. She sponsored the Custody of Sick and Poor Children Society. Owing to her, the Society established consumer’s record books in all big cities of Russia at the beginning of the 1900s. These record books listed organizations promising to give a discount in case of cash payment for goods they sold.
In 1906 she superseded Alexandra as the head of Children’s Shelter’s Council , became the curator of Alexander’s orphanage and the City Society to Support Women in need. Under her supervision the city’s first workhouse for poor children and teenagers was founded, where they could study for a profession and employment assistance in job search was provided.
Grand Duchess Elizabeth resided in the palace until 1918 when she left Russia with her infant children and grandchildren. Her three sons — Ioann, Konstantin and Igor were executed in the town of Alapayevsk in 1918.
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