|A single photo cannot contain it all, but this is a decent try. The impact of Versailles, outside|
Paris, on the palatial tastes of European royalty can hardly be overstated.
|Even as you encounter the front gate |
(here seen from the inside) you know you're
in for quite a spectacle.
|Posthumous coronation portrait |
Catherine II, 1793, Stefano Torrelli,
Fortunately, the palace had wide doorways.
Catherine was born in 1729 and lived to the ripe old age (for the time) of 67. Actually her birth name was Sophie Friederike Auguste. Prussian by birth, she came to Russia through an arranged marriage to her second cousin, the soon-to-be-tsar, Peter III, assuming the name of Catherine. She was 16 at the time. With the death of Peter's mother, the Empress Elizabeth, daughter of Catherine I, in 1762, and the ascendancy of Peter III to the throne, his wife became the Empress Consort. Brutal politics and palace intrigue were hallmarks of the Romanov dynasty and the eccentric (and perhaps not too bright) Peter III played the game rather poorly. Within six months there was a palace coup. Catherine II forced her husband to abdicate and shortly thereafter, he found out just how cutthroat (literally) the game could be. Catherine, on the other hand, took to empressing quite well. She ruled Russia with grace, charm, and most of all, enlightened intelligence for the next 34 years.
|There are other such gold leaf interiors in royal palaces dotting Europe from the same|
period, but Catherine's delight in its glittering glow is unmatched among the lot.
|The Amber Room, 1938, |
before the Nazis absconded with it.
The Russians have lavished millions upon million of rubles upon their restroration efforts, probably as much or more than that which Catherine expended. The results are undeniably impressive, and no doubt largely responsible for Saint Petersburg being the number one tourist attraction in all Russia. Yet, despite the importance of such opulent excess in Russian history and culture, and the millions of tourist euros and dollars these palaces and museums contribute to the Russian economy today, one has to wonder, with all the desperate privation bearing upon the Russian people in the years since the war,--why?
|The grand staircase, 1945|