The Knights Room
The Ante-Chapel Gallery was created by Vincenzo Brenna (1797-99) and originally conceived as a gallery of ancient sculpture. It was, however, a state hall, and not just a room in a palace museum. Ancient statues and busts and marble pedestals were the main factor in the architectural image of this interior, which was of highly simple volume, with apertures positioned quite arbitrarily along the length of its walls. Eight statues on pedestals of pinky-brown natural marble were distributed evenly about the background of the walls, like a colonnade. They defined the main architectural rhythm of the room, which is upheld by the busts on blue pedestals near the butt-end walls. Their rhythm was completed by the two large marble vases with bas-reliefs in front of the wall nearest the Orchestral Room and the two circular faience stoves with bas-reliefs standing in the corners of the opposite narrow wall. The motif of the figurative bas-reliefs was continued along all the walls. The authors of the bas-reliefs were the sculptors Ivan Prokofiev and M. Alexandrov (new casts after restored originals were placed in the walls after the war). The walls of the room were painted green, with the illusory painted design of the ceiling resolved m corresponding tones. The plafond imitates the stucco moulding - a Maltese cross in the center of the ceiling, symbolizing Paul I's acceptance of the title of Grand Master of the Maltese Order. The room was furnished with chairs upholstered with green morocco and was used for receptions and ceremonial dinners.
Between 1870 and 1872, the Ante-Chapel Gallery was converted into the central room of the Museum of Antiquities. The ancient statues in all the interiors of the palace were transferred here, altering the original composition of the rooms and diminishing their artistic effect. Several ancient urns were also brought here. The consequence of all these changes was that the Ante-Chapel Gallery lost all the harmony of its original architectural concept. In the 1900s, however, there was a revival of interest in Russian Classical architecture and part of the ancient sculpture was restored to its original places (the Italian Room in particular). After the war, the room was largely recreated as a section of the Museum of Antiquities. When recreating the room as was at the end of the eighteenth century, statues from the Lloyd Brown collection acquired by Catherine the Great were specially brought here from Tsarskoe Selo. These eight small statues are all of a similar size and most of them have found their way into this room. The larger statues either came here in 1870 (Nymph with a Shell and Portrait Statue of a Roman) or after the war (Faustina the Younger as Venus and Satyr at Rest). The latter three are among the best statues now in the Ante-Chapel Gallery.