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The Ball Room

The Ball Room was designed by Charles Cameron (1784-87). Three of his original blueprints - southern wall, frieze and plafond-still survive. This room was used to host state balls. Its walls were lined with mirrors, small painted plafonds and corbels with candles. After the fire of 1803, Andrei Voronikhin recreated the room in its original form, with the exception of the window apertures. As the Ball Room faced north, it was decided "to hew them down on both sides and above, making them more slanting", in order to let in more light. In 1815 the Ball Room was redesigned as the Dining Room. The mirrors and corbels were removed and their place was taken by four pictures by Hubert Robert - The Ancient Monuments of France, The Ancient Monuments of Rome, The Fire of Rome and Triumphal Bridge. Brought from St Michael's Castle in St Petersburg, they have now been returned to their historical places. In 1824 the Dining Room was again redesigned and united with the Old Drawing Room. Archive documents report that "the wall was removed and a large arch was made for the extension of the dining room". A wooden crossed vault was erected and closed by a frieze. In 1858 the Dining Room was renamed the Reception Room.

During restoration of the palace after the war, it was decided to restore the original early nineteenth century finish to the Ball Room. Original fragments of the late eighteenth century frieze, corresponding to the original designs, were uncovered by restorers under the mid-nineteenth century vault. The drawing of the moulded and gilt frieze would appear to be more typical of the work of Charles Cameron. As in the Old Drawing Room, mention ought to be made here of the delicate color resolution of the paintwork on the walls, ceiling and frieze. They are built on a combination of tender tones, at times almost imperceptible to the eye. The chandelier with the pivot of ruby-coloured glass was manufactured at the J. Zech workshop (1790) in St Petersburg. The piers between the windows contain consoles from St Michael's Castle designed by Vincenzo Brenna (Bierth workshop, St Petersburg, 1799). On the piers stand Japanese porcelain vases (late 18th century) and French bronze gilt candelabra (late 18th century). Works of French bronze grace the fireplace (late 18th-early 19th centuries).