The Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg, Russia, was, from 1732 to 1917, the official residence of the Russian monarchs. Situated between the Palace Embankment and the Palace Square, adjacent to the site of Peter the Great's original Winter Palace, the present and fourth Winter Palace was built and altered almost continuously between the late 1730s and 1837, when it was severely damaged by fire and immediately rebuilt. The alleged storming of the palace in 1917 as depicted in Soviet paintings and Eisenstein's 1927 film "October" became an iconic symbol of the Russian Revolution.
The palace was constructed on a monumental scale that was intended to reflect the might and power of Imperial Russia. From the palace, the Tsar ruled over 22,400,000 square kilometres (8,600,000 sq mi) (almost 1/6 of the Earth's landmass) and over 125 million subjects by the end of the 19th century. It was designed by many architects, most notably Bartolomeo Rastrelli, in what came to be known as the Elizabethan Baroque style.
The green-and-white palace has the shape of an elongated rectangle, and its principal façade is 250 m long and 100 ft (30 m) high. The Winter Palace has been calculated to contain 1,786 doors, 1,945 windows, 1,500 rooms and 117 staircases. The rebuilding of 1837 left the exterior unchanged, but large parts of the interior were redesigned in a variety of tastes and styles, leading the palace to be described as a "19th-century palace inspired by a model in Rococo style."
In 1905, the Bloody Sunday massacre occurred when demonstrators marched toward the Winter Palace, but by this time the Imperial Family had chosen to live in the more secure and secluded Alexander Palace at Tsarskoe Selo, and returned to the Winter Palace only for the most formal and rarest state occasions. Following the February Revolution of 1917, the palace was for a short time the seat of the Russian Provisional Government, led by Alexander Kerensky.
Later that same year, the palace was stormed by a detachment of Red Army soldiers and sailors—a defining moment in the birth of the Soviet state. On a less glorious note, the month-long looting of the palace's wine cellars during this troubled period led to what has been described as "the greatest hangover in history". Today, the restored palace forms part of the complex of buildings housing the Hermitage Museum.
As completed, the overriding exterior form of the Winter Palace's architecture, with its decoration in the form of statuary and opulent stucco work on the pediments above façades and windows, is Baroque. The exterior has remained as finished during the reign of Tsaritsa Elizabeth. The principal façades, those facing the Palace Square and the Neva River, have always been accessible and visible to the public. Only the lateral façades are hidden behind granite walls, concealing a garden created during the reign of Nicholas II. The building was conceived as a town palace, rather than a private palace within a park, such as that of the French kings at Versailles.
The Winter Palace is said to contain 1,500 rooms, 1,786 doors and 1,945 windows. The principal façade is 500 ft (150 m) long and 100 ft (30 m) high. The ground floor contained mostly bureaucratic and domestic offices, while the second floor was given over to apartments for senior courtiers and high-ranking officials. The principal rooms and living quarters of the Imperial Family are on the first floor, the piano nobile.
The great state rooms, used by the court, are arranged in two enfilades, from the top of the Jordan Staircase. The original Baroque suite of the Tsaritsa Elizabeth running west, fronting the Neva, was completely redesigned in 1790–93 by Giacomo Quarenghi. He transformed the original enfilade of five state rooms into a suite of three vast halls, decorated with faux marble columns, bas-reliefs and statuary.
A second suite of state rooms running south to the Great Church was created for Catherine II. Between 1787–95, Quarenghi added a new eastern wing to this suite which contained the great throne room, known as St George's Hall (13), which linked the Winter Palace to Catherine's less formal palace, the Hermitage, next door.
This suite was altered in the 1820s when the Military Gallery (11) was created from a series of small rooms, to celebrate the defeat of Napoleon. This gallery, which had been conceived by Alexander I, was designed by Carlo Rossi and was built between June and November 1826 under Nicolas I; it was inaugurated on 25 October 1826. For the 1812 Gallery, the Tsar commissioned 332 portraits of the generals instrumental in the defeat of France. The artist was the Briton George Dawe, who received assistance from Alexander Polyakov and Wilhelm Golike.
Usage Of The Palace:
While the state rooms occupied the northern and eastern wings of the palace and the private rooms of the Imperial Family occupied the western wing, the four corners of the building contained the smaller rooms, which were the apartments of lesser members of the Imperial Family, often being of two floors. This is one of the reasons that the palace can appear a confusing assortment of great halls or salons with no obvious purpose located in odd corners of the palace. The fact that the Malachite Drawing Room is separated from the equally large Gold Drawing Room by a series of bedrooms and small cabinets initially seems unusual.
However, when considered in the context that the Malachite Drawing Room was the principal reception room of the Tsaritsa's apartment while the Gold Drawing Room was the principal reception room of the apartment of her daughter-in-law, the Tsarevna, the arrangement of the rooms makes more sense. Similarly the vast White Hall, so far from the other grand halls, was in fact the principal hall of the Tsarevich's and Tsarevna's apartments. Thus the Winter Palace can be viewed as a series of small palaces within one large palace, with the largest and grandest rooms being public while the residents lived in suites of varying sizes, allocated according to rank.
Imperial Hermitage Museum:
Eventually, after eleven years of building and architectural conflict, the first art museum in Russia, the Imperial Hermitage Museum, opened on 5 February 1852. The trebeated facades of the building were inspired by Schinkelesque architecture. It was erected in grey marble round three courtyards and the complex is noted for the asymmetrical planning of its wings and floors. By order of the Tsar, visitors to the museum were required to wear evening dress even in the morning.
The Tsar also decreed that grey top hats were "Jewish", and dress coats "revolutionary." Having negotiated the dress code, what the public saw was a huge array of art, but only a fraction of the Imperial collection, as the Winter Palace and other Imperial palaces, remained closed to the viewing public.
On 30 October 1917, the palace was declared to be part of the Hermitage public museums. This first exhibition to be held in the Winter Palace concerned the history of the revolution, and the public were able to view the private rooms of the Imperial Family. This must have been an interesting experience for the viewing public, for while Soviet authorities denied looting and damage to the palace during the Storming, eyewitness accounts describe the private apartments as the most badly damaged areas. The contents of the state rooms had been sent to Moscow for safety when the hospital was established, and the Hermitage Museum itself had not been damaged during the revolution.