Thursday, 14 May 2009
What to see: Kadriorg Palace, Tallinn
Kadriorg Palace in the Estonian capital Tallinn is an outstanding example of Russian baroque from the era of Emperor Pyotr I (“the Great”). The Emperor had come to like the city of Reval, as it was called then, and was also planning a naval base on the Gulf of Finland. The spot where Kadriorg was built reminded him of Peterhof outside St Petersburg and in 1714 he bought the five estates between the Tartu Road and Narva Road.
For a start the Emperor stayed in a wooden house which had been built before his time (today known as the Peter I Cottage), but this was of course too small and inconvenient. The monarch had the Italian architect Niccolò Michetti (1675-1743) him a palace, starting in 1718, but did not live to see it completed. The Emperor died in 1725, while his widow and successor, Empress Ekaterina I, for whom the Palace was named, died two years later. Michetti had in the meantime returned to Rome, leaving the task of completing the palace to his Russian associate Mikhail Zemtsov, who finished it in 1729.
All the Russian monarchs from Yelizaveta I to Nikolaj II stayed at Kadriorg when they visited Tallinn. Following the downfall of the Russian monarchy in 1917 Tallinn Workers’ and Soldiers’ Council used the palace before it was given to the Tallinn Estonian Museum in 1921.
During Estonia’s brief interwar spell as an independent nation Kadriorg became the official residence of the country’s president and underwent extensive renovation work in 1933-1940. When Estonia once again came under Russian rule the palace was put at the disposal of the Art Museum of Estonia.
At the time Estonia again became independent in 1991 the Palace was so rundown that the art collections had had to be removed not to be damaged. Kadriorg Palace was then renovated with financial assistance from Sweden and in 2000 it could again open as the Kadriorg Art Museum, a branch of the Art Museum of Estonia.
Kadriorg Palace is situated on a semi-artificial terrace, which means that it displays three storeys towards the park, but only two towards the formal garden, as can be seen in the first three photos. Towards the garden are two projecting wings in the French manner, which housed the Emperor’s and Empress’s respective apartments. As well as French ideas there is a significant Italian influence on the palace’s architecture.
The Grand Hall in the fourth picture lies at the very centre of the palace and takes up two floors. Today it is an almost unique example of such large halls in the Italian-inspired Russian baroque of Pyotr I’s reign. In Russia today one can only find smaller rooms in the same style while the grander ones have either been reconstructed or do no longer exist. The fifth picture shows a detail of the Grand Hall’s rich stucco décor – above the bust of Ekaterina I is her monogram.
The sixth photo shows the Banquet Hall, which is of relatively new origins. In 1790 Ekaterina II had expressed a wish to build a large dining room linking the two projecting wings, something which involved demolishing a semicircular veranda towards the formal garden. The plan was however only carried out by the architect Alexander Vladovsky (1876-1950) when Kadriorg became the residence of the President of Estonia in the 1930s. The Estonian President today resides in a neighbouring palace.