The Green Dining Room marks the beginning of the private apartments in the northern part of the palace that were created in the 1770s on the orders of Catherine II for her son, Grand Duke Paul (the future Paul I) and his first wife Natalia Alexeyevna.
These rooms appeared in place of a hanging garden – a huge terrace constructed by Rastrelli. One of the end walls of that “open-air hall” was the façade of the palace church; instead of an elaborate parquet floor it had Baroque flowerbeds and its furniture consisted of stone benches set up in the shade of fruit trees. In time, however, the garden became a source of damp in the palace and in 1773, on the Empress’s orders, the architect Vasily Neyelov (1722–1782) constructed “Their Highnesses’ Apartment” instead of it.
The interior decoration of the new rooms was carried out in 1779 by Charles Cameron. By that time the apartment was occupied by the future Paul I’s second wife, Grand Duchess Maria Fiodorovna.
The pale green walls of the dining room are embellished with white moulded ornament, its motifs taken from wall-paintings in ancient villas. Figures of youths and girls in ancient dress stand out among the fragments of Classical architecture, Greek vases and grapevines. The sculpted décor also includes medallions containing dancing cupids and multi-figure compositions, the relief of which is brought out by the pink background. The doors of the Green Dining Room are decorated by grotesque ornament that derives from Ancient Roman murals. Most effective is the northern wall of the room, in the centre of which Cameron placed a marble fireplace with consoles in the form of lions’ heads and paws. All the moulded décor in the Green Dining Room was the work of the great Russian sculptor Ivan Martos (1754-1835).
In 1820 a serious fire broke out in the palace church and badly affected the rooms that Cameron had created. On the orders of Emperor Alexander I a commission headed by the architect Vasily Stasov was created to repair the burnt part of the building on the basis of surviving fragments of décor and Cameron’s own designs. The Green Drawing Room was restored to its previous appearance.
During the Second World War Cameron’s halls were looted and partially destroyed. In 1957 it was with these halls that restoration work began in the Catherine Palace to a plan devised by Alexander Kedrinsky.
Today the interior of the Green Dining Room is completed by chairs, a bronze fire-grille and fire irons that were made to Cameron’s designs specially for this room, a candelabrum made by Pierre Gothière and the Moscow Service that was made at the Gardner factory to a commission from the master and mistress of this part of the palace – Grand Duke Paul and Grand Duchess Maria Fiodorovna. The items of this elegantly shaped and exquisitely coloured table service are embellished with the owners’ monograms.