From the State Blue Drawing Room we pass into the Chinese Blue Drawing Room of the Grand Duke Paul (Paul I) that gets its name from the fact that for some 150 years its walls were lined with blue Chinese silk decorated with landscapes and genre scenes.
This interior was created in 1783 by Charles Cameron, who in the main retained the original treatment given to it by Vasily Neyelov. In the eighteenth century Russia followed Europe in developing an interest in Chinese art. Chinoiserie (from the French chinois – “Chinese”) elements were employed in architecture and in the decoration of palace interiors. Paying tribute to this vogue, Cameron successfully combined motifs from Chinese decorative art with elements of a Classical interior. The gilded stucco frieze, the ceiling painting depicting personages from Greek and Roman mythology, the white marble fireplace with caryatids and a carving of a sleeping Cupid and the painting on the doors have all been treated in the Classical style. But the light blue Chinese silk with its exquisite painting and the design of a Chinese “umbrella” used in the parquet floor bring an oriental exotic touch to this state room interior.
During the Second World War the drawing room was wrecked: the Chinese silk was looted; the wall mirror, marble fireplace, ceiling painting and medallions all perished. Today the walls of the room are lined with newly-made silk that was painted by the restoration artist Raisa Slepushkina. Her reconstruction was based upon a fragment of the original silk found behind the frame of the fireplace mirror and pre-war photographs preserved in the museum’s archives.
The Chinese Blue Drawing Room of the Catherine Palace was reopened to visitors in 1959. The unique eighteenth-century Chinese porcelain vases preserved by evacuation were returned to it, as were the fire-irons and grille produced from a drawing by Cameron and models by Charlemagne-Baudet.