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The oldest carriage in our collection, a mid-eighteenth-century baroque state coach of Empress Catherine II returns to our exhibition of court carriages after three years of a thorough several-stage restoration.

The impressive 6 х 2.4 х 2.6 m carriage is restored to its original beauty thanks to the expertise of the Phenomenon restoration and research association and financial support from Russia's Ministry of Culture. Such a comprehensive restoration is done on this carriage for the first time in over a hundred years.

The four-seater by the renowned carriage-maker Johann Konrad Bukendahl is made of wood, metal, bronze, glass, leather, velvet, silk and wool, with techniques like carving, casting, forging, embossing and gilding. A masterpiece of carriage-making, it took part in the coronation procession of Catherine II in 1762 and later in many state ceremonies at the Russian imperial court.

A novelty system of steel springs created by Bukendahl provided this impressively large Berlin-type carriage with a very soft suspension, making its movement "as smooth and calm as that of gondolas". Passenger comfort was also facilitated by soft upholstered seats, backrests and handrails, feather pillows, spring roller blinds, and armrests.

Stored at the Court Stable Office building in St Petersburg since 1860, the carriage was hidden away at the State Hermitage during the Second World War. It was first showcased at the Cameron Gallery of Tsarskoe Selo in 1971 and then has been part of the Duty Stable display since 1990.

The Tsarskoe Sleo collection of carriages boasts eight vehicles of Catherine's time including a ten-seater sleigh, a ten-seater phaeton and a children's carriage.