Cameron Ensemble - Baths, Gallery

This light, but at the same time monumental structure designed by Charles Cameron, was beautifully described by Alexander Pushkin:

There in silence the lofty mansions,

Leaning on their vaults, rush upwards to the clouds.

Reminiscences in Tsarskoe Selo, 1814

Charles Cameron, the talented architect who as fanatically keen on the ancient world, came to Russia from England in the summer of 1779. That was the time then Russia’s prestige was being boosted considerably by military victories and its standing among the major world powers was enhanced. Its ties with Europe, with European culture facilitated the dissemination in the advanced circles of Russian society of the progressive ideas of Enlightenment and had an impact on the formation of the aesthetic principles of classicism.

In architecture the new style was manifest in the absence of luxurious decoration. The exultant architecture of the middle of the century with its excessively ornate designs, broken fanciful forms, dynamic nature, abundance of molded and carved gilt patterns, was replaced by more serene, better balanced and austere forms. In these edifices, solemnity and elegance was attained by the classical precision of the proportions, the linear rhythm, and accentuation of the part played by the order in its antique form.

In spite of his passion for the beauty of Antiquity, however, the buildings the architect created in the style of early classicism were imbued with genuinely Russian national originality, continuing the traditions of ancient Russian architecture. According to the figurative words of the famous art critic Yevgeni Lancere, one of the scholars of the works of Charles Cameron, “western art on Russian soil, in a Russian climate, in Russian conditions has become something close in its spirit to us, something really Russian…”

Cameron worked in Tsarskoe Selo from 1779 until 1795. Over that period he created one of his biggest structures, which came to be known as Cameron Baths. This was the Cold Bath-House, the hanging garden and the gallery, in which he employed elements of the architecture of monumental Ancient Roman public baths or “thermae”.

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