The extension that became known as the Zubov Wing from the name of one of Catherine II’s favourites was built onto the Great Tsarskoye Selo Palace between 1779 and 1785 to the design of the architect Yury Velten (1730–1801). Its construction was supervised by Ilya Neyelov (1745–1793).
The rooms in the second storey designed and finished by Cameron and Giacomo Quarenghi(1744–1817) became the private apartments of the Empress and comprised the Domed Hall, Chinese Hall, Silver Study, Bedchamber, Blue Study (Snuffbox), Mirror Study, Raphael Room, Maid-of-Honour’s Room and Dressing-Room.
Cameron’s interiors formed an integral complex and were linked to the Cold Bath pavilion by the hanging garden.
The rooms on the ground floor, also finished by Cameron and Quarenghi, were used by Catherine’s lovers – favourites: in succession Grigory Potemkin, Alexander Lanskoi, Alexander Dmitriyev-Mamonov and Platon Zubov. Later relatives and close friends of the imperial family lived in this part of the palace. The wing had its own separate entrance that also came to be named after Zubov.
In 1841, in view of the approaching marriage of the heir to the throne (the future Alexander II), the architect Ippolito Monighetti was ordered to refurbish the rooms in the Zubov Wing. The apartment on the ground floor was given to the Grand Duke, and Catherine II’s former rooms to his bride – Maria Alexandrovna.
Alexander II’s private apartment comprised the Entrance Hall, Reception Room, Standard Room, Arsenal Room, Pantry, Asiatic Room, Study, Dressing-Room, Valet’s Room and Wardrobe. Three of them – the Study, Reception Room and Dressing-Room – were intended for official receptions and working meetings.
The floors were linked by two staircases: the first, Bosquet Staircase, led from a corridor to the Domed Hall. The same corridor was connected to the small Entrance Hall where Alexander’s apartment began. The second, internal, staircase linked the Empress’s private rooms to the Emperor’s Valet’s Room.
During the Second World War the rooms of the Zubov Wing that had retained the decoration from the mid-nineteenth century suffered in a serious fire and in the 1950s they were reconstructed for the use of the naval college that was housed in part of the Catherine Palace at that time. As a result of this work the historical dimensions of rooms were disrupted while the surviving fragments of decoration were removed and transferred to the museum storerooms.
Restoration work in 2001–04 gave the Zubov Wing back its original layout and now the ground-floor rooms are used for temporary exhibitions.