Agate Rooms (Agate Chamber or Cold Baths)
The focal point of the Cameron ensemble is the pavilion of the Cold Baths or the Agate Rooms. The architect’s passion for Roman thermae, to the study of which he devoted twenty years of his life, is most evident here in the composition of the Baths, its exterior, planning and the exquisite taste and fine perception of the interior décor.
The ground floor of the building housed the Cold Baths, a room with a large tin swimming pool, a warm room with warm water. The rooms for rest were on the upper floor.
The motifs of ancient Rome predominate in the interior décor here. However, in drawing upon the methods of decoration from the arsenal of ancient Roman architects, Cameron attempted not just to make a copy of an antique building, but artistically revealed the functional significance of the premises, which also determine the décor. The decoration on the ground floor is mostly molded. The sculptor, Jean-Dominique Rachette embellished the vaults, the arches and walls of the frigidarium, the room with the swimming pool, with exquisitely drawn medallions, sculptured friezes, and panels depicting numerous figures in antique scenes.
Cameron’s unprecedented skill as a decorator made itself felt in the interior décor of the rooms on the first floor. In the richness of their furnishings these rooms are on a par with the main room in the palace. The decoration in the Jasper and Agate Rooms situated on both sides of the central main hall are a real collection of precious stones from the Urals and the Altai.
Delivered in St Petersburg in the 1750s, it was not until twenty years later that a use was found for the jasper, agate, and crystal in Cameron’s interiors. The sheets of green jasper were used to face the panels for the Jasper Chamber, and the dark red agate called meat agate in the 18th century, for the Agate Room. This is why the Cameron pavilion came to be known as the Agate Rooms.
The main hall of the Agate Rooms which served as a place for amusement, games and feasts, is reminiscent of one of the rooms in the thermae of Diocletian, a Roman emperor of the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth centuries. The matt gloss of its walls covered with artificial marble of a delicate peach color, the greyish pink Olonetz marble of the eight Corinthian columns, the whiteness of the marble of the torches in the form of antique female figures holding gilt lamps, and the vases of jasper and porphyry mounted in the niches create a noble gamma of colors. It is enhanced by redwood and rosewood door panels, the multifarious pattern of the decorative parquet designed by Yu. Felten for one of the palaces of Saint Petersburg.
The exterior of the Agate Rooms is exceptionally fine in its greaceful simplicity and the precise proportions. The massive socle faced with gray stone and designed with deliberately archaic details, links the building with the Cameron Gallery, imparting unity to the architectural style of the entire thermae complex.