Cameron Gallery in Tsarskoye Selo: photos, description, reviews


The Cameron Gallery in Tsarskoye Selo was built during the reign of Catherine II, when the palace park underwent the greatest changes. The Empress was fascinated with his accomplishment as diligently as her predecessor Elizaveta Petrovna was refurbishing the Catherine Palace. Until her death, the Great Empress directed the beautification and decoration of the park.


Around the middle of her reign (1779), Catherine II invited the London-based architect Charles Cameron to erect park constructions "in the antique style" of the summer imperial residence. Thus, an amazing ensemble (1783–1786) appeared, consisting of a term (“Cold Baths”) with Agate Rooms, the Hanging Garden and the Cameron Gallery in Tsarskoye Selo, the description of which is given in the article.

New board - new style

Considering the Grand Tsarskoye Selo palace to be old-fashioned, Catherine the Great often called him "whipped cream." With the beginning of her reign, a new style is rapidly developing - Russian classicism. The fancy decor and an abundance of intricate elements of Elizabethan baroque have been replaced by antique proportions, elegant outlines of shapes and a moderate, almost ascetic design of architectural structures. The characteristic features of mature classicism are magnificently presented in the configuration and decoration of the Cameron Gallery in Tsarskoye Selo. The style of antiquity, Charles Cameron, possessed unsurpassed, and he managed with a special grace to embody the atmosphere of a historical era in a complex.

Roman Thermal Specialist

Why did the empress invite this particular English architect? Cameron worked in the direction of classicism long before the style came to Russia. He was considered an architect with the highest level of professional skill and knowledge. In addition, from 1766 to 1779 he lived in Italy, where he studied the subtleties of ancient architecture. He was especially interested in Roman terms, a scientific work about which he began writing in London. For more than ten years, Cameron personally made measurements, drawings, drawings of Roman buildings and architectural elements, which were included in his very thorough work "The Baths of Rome". His in-depth knowledge was embodied in the ensemble of the Cold Baths, the Hanging Garden and the gallery.


The design did not immediately become named in honor of the architect, but only from 1885, when the Zodchiy magazine published an article by the researcher of the history of architecture N. Petrov, who repeatedly called the gallery in Tsarskoye Selo Kameronova.

Location and architectural features

In 1780, the architect began to design a complex in Tsarskoye Selo Park, which reproduced on a smaller scale the thoroughly studied Roman baths. The ensemble begins on the eastern side of the palace in the two-story Cold Bath building. They are connected with the Hanging Garden by the oval vestibule, which leads to a long gallery that ends at the lake in the park with an impressive staircase. Since the gallery building is located on gentle terrain, the base of hewn stone rises significantly in the direction of the lake, and the height of the building at the park stairs is equal to the height of the palace, although this is unnoticeable due to the sloping terrain.

The design looks majestically and at the same time elegantly thanks to the original idea of ​​the architect. The showiness of the structure is based on the principle of contrasts, which is clearly seen in the photo of the Cameron Gallery in Tsarskoye Selo. The first floor is made of Pudost stone (calcareous tuff), reminiscent of the porous texture of pumice stone and giving the object a noble appearance of "antiquity". In contrast to this fundamental basis, the snow-white second floor with 44 slender antique columns seems airy and weightless.

The Pudost stone also served as material for the arched base of the Hanging Garden and the exterior of the first floor of the Cold Baths, which creates the harmonious integrity of the entire ensemble.


Ground floor rooms and Color Garden

Inside Kameronova Gallery in Tsarskoye Selo has undergone changes only in the premises of the first floor. Now converted rooms are designed for temporary expositions. Once there were apartments maid of honor. Because the garden adjacent to the building is called Freylinsky. A charming place designed for solitary walks was also designed by Cameron, and younger Bush, the son of the genius Tsarskoye Selo gardener, was engaged in vegetative decoration. Because of the abundance of brightly flowering plants, the garden was also called Tsvetnoy.

Second floor with colonnade

The design, as if reigning, dominates the surrounding landscape. The glazed pavilion of the upper tier, surrounded on four sides by wide open terraces and fluted pillars, is intended as a belvedere for contemplating the nature and philosophical reflections of the empress. Therefore, from any place of open terraces you can see a wonderful view of the park. It was one of the favorite places of Catherine II, and she often took walks through the Cameron Gallery in Tsarskoye Selo.


As the completion of the entire architectural ensemble, Cameron planned a wide granite staircase, descending from the first floor to the park. The only change Catherine made to the project was the wish that the steps lead to the colonnade on the second floor. The task is solved by the architect very elegantly: two pivoting stairs symmetrically semicircular frame the arched doorway of the first floor. The composition looks so harmonious that it can be considered an independent masterpiece of architecture.

The creation is crowned with bronze sculptures of Hercules Farnese and Flora, mounted on pylons on both sides of the steps. These two copies of marble prototypes from the National Neapolitan Museum Cameron ordered during the construction of the complex.


Sculpture collection

The Grand Duchess intended to furnish the gallery with statues. So it was decided to decorate the palaces since the late Renaissance. In the year of completion of construction (1787), Catherine ordered that eight rather large compositions made of marble and bronze be installed on the terraces. Thanks to the property description of the Cameron Gallery in Tsarskoye Selo, which is stored in the archives of the palace, it is possible to say with accuracy what statues it is. All were replicas of the masterpieces of Italian and French sculptors, among whom was the equestrian statue of Louis XIV and sitting in Voltaire's chair.

A year later (1788) at the southern facade of the gallery, at the behest of Catherine, several busts were put up, among which was the image of the ancient Roman philosopher and playwright Seneca. So it was no coincidence: the Empress knew and often quoted the works of the thinker.

A selection of bronze busts

With some difficulty, Cameron managed to convince the highest customer to free the colonnade from eight beautiful, but too cumbersome statues. Three years later, they were installed in the Fraelin garden. And it was decided to decorate long passages exclusively with busts of prominent personalities and characters of ancient mythology performed in bronze. The Empress herself decided whose sculptural images deserve a place in her collection. Thus arose a kind of exhibition of remarkable portraits, inherently connected with the Cameron Gallery in Tsarskoye Selo. Description and reviews of this exhibition are included in many publications on art history - both domestic and foreign.


The colonnade was gradually filled with busts of gods, heroes, poets, thinkers, emperors, and political figures. The prototypes were the heads of famous statues of ancient Rome and Greece of the Renaissance and later times. Some portraits ordered especially. Gypsum models were made mainly by Italian sculptors, and the casting was made in the workshops of the Academy of Arts of St. Petersburg. Also from Europe, the courtiers brought finished works suitable for the Catherine's collection. The exposition has 69 busts. The careful long selection of exhibits has not been without curious stories and incidents.

Occasional busts

Thunder peals struck St. Petersburg, when in the summer of 1790 the Swedish fleet broke through from the capture of the Russian squadron. The victory was close, and on that day Catherine II ordered a bust of the legendary Achilles, whom Alexander the Great so honored. The Empress also idealized the image of the hero of the Trojan War and deeply sympathized with the ancient Greek king, feeling with him the identity of many properties of character. Much later, a bronze statue in his attributes was identified as the image of the god of war, Ares. In this it is possible to see some mysterious meaning, given the time at which the statue was ordered.

When the French state was already a revolution for two years, the Russian ruler in 1791 ordered a bust of the great commander Caesar, the suppressor of the peoples of Gaul (modern France). She believed that the rebellious lawlessness would bring the country to a state of savagery. At the same time, the colonnade was decorated with sculptural images of the god of light Apollo, the fearless hero of Hercules, carriers of wisdom and enlightenment: poets, writers, philosophers, and orators. This contained a deep symbolism, perfectly understood by then contemporaries.


Rejected idols

The French Revolution inspired Catherine II to the idea of ​​placing in the gallery busts of wise statesmen, politicians and progressive people who contributed to the pacification of nations. She has compiled and approved a list of such individuals. By 1794, sculptural portraits of Marcus Aurelius, Scipio Africanus, Titus, Germanicus, Vespasian, and Septimius Sever were ready. Busts of Caracalla and Tiberius remained for casting. But the ruler decided that the bronze portraits of the wayward libertine Caracalla and the despotic Tiberius had no place in her collection. Instead of them, perhaps for the sake of old republican hobbies, she ordered the images of Mithridates and Brutus. However, the news of the execution of the French king prompted the sovereign to completely abandon the republican thoughts, and Brute’s bust from the gallery ordered her to be removed. The latest in her list was approved image of Lomonosov.

On this by the middle of 1793 the full register of statues was completed. The last busts were cast in the period of 1794-1796 from the plaster models that Cameron ordered from the talented Italian sculptor Koncezio Albani. The installation of bronze statues was completed shortly before the death of the Great Empress.

Another sculpture of the Cameron Gallery in Tsarskoye Selo was the composition established at the end of the 19th century: a reduced copy of the monument to the Great Empress, which is located on Nevsky Prospect.


After the German occupation of Leningrad, the entire palace complex was significantly damaged. In the difficult post-war (1946-1947) years, the gallery was reinstated as one of the first. The careful work of restorers has thoroughly reproduced its original appearance, which makes it possible to admire this magnificent example of Russian classicism today.

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