Winter Palace of Peter I
The construction of the First Winter Palace of Peter I began in the autumn of 1707 and was completed in the spring of 1709. It was a one-storey wooden house with a mezzanine, a triangular pediment and the tile roofing which consisted of six rooms. It was among the row of houses built along the bank of the Neva River for Admiralty and Naval officials. In 1711, the house was moved to the Petrovsky Island and a new palace began to be built on its site in June and completed in December of the same year.
The second Winter Palace built to the design by Domenico Trezzini was a two-storey stone building with thirteen windows on its façade, a high basement floor, three avant-corps, a mezzanine with a triangular pediment, and a high front porch. The palace stood at the back of the site and its main façade fronted the Neva River. The wedding party of Peter I and Ekaterina Alekseevna took place in this Winter Palace on February 19, 1712. The building, which was often referred to as the “Wedding Chambers”, was dismantled in 1726.
In 1716-1720, a new two-storey stone building with adjacent side wings was built to the design of architect Georg Mattarnovi in front of the old palace, closer to the Neva River. In 1718–1719, a canal, later called the Winter Canal, was dug from the Neva to the Moika River along the western building of the palace. The construction of this third Winter Palace was completed by Domenico Trezzini in 1723. The central portion of the building was designed as a three-span triumphal arch generously decorated with sculptures. The Palace had a family chapel decorated by French artist Louis Caravaque and a Throne Room on the second floor. In this Palace, Peter I died on the night of January 27th to 28th, 1725. The reason of his death was ascending pyelonephritis which ultimately developed into urosepsis. The farewell with the Emperor took place in the Throne Room which was arranged for the mourning ceremony.
The Palace was considerably expanded under Catherine I. A cleared portion of the original façade of the Catherine’s palace can be currently seen on the side fronting the Winter Canal.
After the death of the Empress, the Palace was used to accommodate courtiers and later served as the living quarters for the guards who supported Elizabeth Petrovna in her ascending the throne. In 1783–1785, Giacomo Quarenghi built the Hermitage Theatre on its site. During the reconstruction, the architect kept some of the walls of the first floor of the Winter Palace of Peter I. This fact was discovered by archaeologists during the restoration of the Hermitage Theatre in 1976–1989. Upon completion of the scientific restoration in 1992, an exhibition dedicated to the Petrine era was opened in the building of the Hermitage Theatre.
The historic interiors were recreated in the three restored rooms on the first floor. The interior décor is comprised of the items that belonged to Peter. The exhibits include an operable lathe, the carpentry tools, the table and chairs from Peter’s Palace. The dining room features two chairs of the Polish King Augustus the Strong and two more chairs of pear wood brought by Peter I from Amsterdam in 1717. A special place in the exhibition belongs to the wax figure of Peter I. It is a life-size figure commissioned by Catherine I and made from wax and wood by sculptor Bartolomeo Rastrelli in 1725. Modeled after the death and life masks of the Emperor, the face of the figure is a perfect replica of his face. Peter wears an authentic European-style suit from his wardrobe: a caftan, a waistcoat, short pants, silk stockings and leather shoes.