Pavlovsk is the youngest of the palace and park ensembles in the vicinity of St Petersburg, the former capital of the Russian Empire. The fountains were already playing in Peter the Great’s summer residence Peterhof, guests were making merry in the halls of the Oranienbaum Palace (now the town of Lomonosov) built for Peter’s favorite Prince Alexander Menshikov, and sumptuous ceremonies were being held in Tsarskoe Selo, the country residence of the Russian Emperor (town of Pushkin), when building began in 1777 of a summer residence for Grand Prince Paul, the future Russian Emperor Paul I, on the banks of the river Slavyanka, in what had formerly been hunting grounds presented by the Empress Catherine to her son Paul on the occasion of the birth of his first son who was to continue the Romanov dynasty.
All the distinguished masters working in Russia in the late 18th century and the first quarter of the 19th century took part. It was a magnificent constellation of talent indeed, including the architects Charles Cameron, Vincenzo Brenna, Giacomo Quarenghi, Andrei Voronikhin, Thomas de Thomon and Carlo Rossi, the sculptors Ivan Prokofyev, Ivan Martos, Mikhail Kozlovsky, and Vasily Demuth-Malinovsky, the artists Giovanni Battista Scotti, Jakob Mettenleiter and Pietro Gongazo, and hundreds of Russian craftsmen whose names we don’t know – stone-masons, carpenters, gardeners, gilders, parquet-layers. At the same time as the palace was being built the splendid collections of painting and decorative applied art adorning its interiors were gradually assembled. It was almost fifty years before the ensemble was completed. The banks of the meandering Slavyanka linked by picturesque bridges; the quiet ponds in the shade of trees; the sunny lawns; young groves and glades adorned with marble and bronze sculpture; the pavilions and summer-houses skillfully blended into the landscape and, finally, the Great Palace with its white columns rising over the park – all this is breathtakingly beautiful.