In 1701, Friedrich IV, the king of Denmark, recommended the Prussian king Friedrich I that his court carver and amber polisher Gottfried Wolfram should make an amber room. It is known that from 1707 to 1712 the architect Andreas Schluter, and the Danzig amber craftsmen Ernst Schacht and Gottfried Tussaud worked on amber panels. The twenty-two amber panels made by them were set upon one of the rooms of the Berlin Palace Mon Bijou where they attracted the attention of Peter the Great. In 1716, when the treaty of alliance with Russia was signed, the king Friedrich Wilhelm I presented the amber room to Peter the Great as a diplomatic gift. The amber panels were initially mounted in Peter the Great’s Summer Palace where some rooms had elegant décor. Then they were set up in a study in the Winter Palace. From 1755 onwards the panels of “sunny stone” adorned one of the rooms in the main suite of the Catherine Palace for almost two hundred years.
The amber panels, varying in size and shape and covering an area of more than 25 square meters consist of polished amber of different hues, ranging from light blazing topaz to light lemon-colored amber. Obviously, each piece of amber was polished individually. When inserted in the panels they did not correspond in height giving a picturesque play of sparkling light, of glittering radiance.
The noble yellowish brown gamma of amber mosaics with its warm transparent and golden hues is enhanced by the skillfully added amber frames, garlands, the heads of ancient gods, coats of arms, crowns, monograms, and whole scenes from the Bible, carved in amber.
The wonder of this palace is the Amber Room. The walls are literally arranged in panels of this stone forming different designs.
St Petersburg Guide, Jean Bastin, 1874
Rastrelli particularly displayed his skill as a decorator in the décor of the Amber Room. The hall in the Catherine Palace where the panels were mounted was considerably higher than the one in the Berlin Palace, so there was not enough amber. Therefore, striving to preserve the color gamma of the hall, the architect ordered that a piece of canvas should be stretched across the remaining wall, painted to look like amber and decorated with luxurious gilded carving. Rastrelli was able to make the fantastic amber composition blend splendidly into the baroque interior of the hall of the main suite with its mirror-like pilasters, extremely fine carved gilt ornamentation on the walls and its mosaic pictures of agate and jasper.
These attributes of baroque in the décor of the Amber Room not only forged a link between it and the other main rooms in the palace but also formed a background for the beauty, richness of color and jewelry-like precision of the unique amber composition.
The most beautiful apartments in this palace are, the amber room, the pearl room, and the Chinese room. The walls of the first are covered with amber, with festooned panels, in the centres of some of which are various ornaments, in pietra dura. The amber which decorates this room, was presented to the Empress Elizabeth by Frederick II of Prussia.
Travels through Russia, James Holman, 1834
Numerous descriptions of the Amber Room in memoirs and historical literature refer to it as a “fairy tale work”, “the eighth wonder of the world”, “the amber poem”, and “the marvel of the reign of Elizabeth”. Rastrelli himself pronounced “this work of art of sunny stone to be an example of the inventiveness and creative festiveness”.