The Grand Palace in Gatchina was founded May 3, 1766, when the Gatchina estate belonged to Count Grigory Orlov. Antonio Rinaldi, an Italian responsible for the construction of the palace, had been already well-known in Russia by that time. He was invited to Gatchina by Grigory Orlov to build a palace that would be more modern in style than the Winter Palace designed by Rastrelli for Elizabeth Petrovna. Rinaldi’s design should also be different from that of the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Sclo. In that period, the 1760s, the English style with the elements of Italian decor was particularly fashionable, and Rinaldi built the palace according to the precepts of that austere style, with towers and underground passages. The author of the project, the famous architect Antonio Rinaldi, decided to build a palace as a hunting castle with towers and an underground passage. The main buildings of the palace were connected via semicircular open galleries. The façade of the palace was lined with local stone from Czernin and Pudost. Rinaldi deliberately contrasted the splendor and elegance of its interior decoration with the austere exterior.
Construction of the palace was completed in 1781, and in 1783, following the death of Count Orlov, Catherine II gave Gatchina to her heir, the future Emperor Paul I.
Gatchina Palace was rebuilt by the architect V. Brenna - according to the tastes and inclinations of Paul. The meadow in front of the palace was turned into a military parade ground, which was surrounded by a wall of the bastion; a trench was dug and filled with water, with four draw bridges built over the water.
The interiors of the palace were rebuilt too. On the ground floor of the main building are located the private rooms of Paul - the Chevalier Room, the Throne Room, and the Dressing Room, all of which are magnificent specimen of the 18th century residential interior. The newly added Marble Dining Room was decorated with sixteen columns of Carrara marble and bas-reliefs depicting scenes from the life of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine. Adjacent to the Marble Dining was the Throne Room. A special jewel throne was executed from different types of wood. The White Hall, intended for special receptions, was decorated with marble reliefs and sculptures. Architects Bazhenov and Voronihin also contributed to the interior design of the palace.
After Paul's death in 1801, the palace belonged to his widow, Maria Feodorovna, and in the years 1828-1855, it became one of the residences of Nicholas I. In 1845, the palace underwent yet another reconstruction. At this time the project was commissioned to the architect R. Kuzmin, who was supposed to restore the main building of the palace, and to increase the number of dwellings for the imperial family.
Kuzmin added the Front lobby, as well as the Marble Staircase, and the Chinese and Gothic Galleries.
After the October Revolution Gatchina Palace became a public museum.