1746–1759, architect F.B. Rastrelli
To the western Guest gallery of "Monplaisir", there is adjacent yellow one-story building, the "Catherine block". It was built for the empress Elizabeth by the architect F.B. Rastrelli in the middle of the XVIII century. The palace, decorated in baroque style, was intended for the court balls, receptions and banquets. At that time it was called the "Stone block". The name "Catherine" came later and is associated with the memory of the palace coup, that brought Catherine II onto the Russian throne. When she was the Grand Duchess, she lived in the rooms of the wooden lodge adjoined to the "Stone block". It was from there in the morning of June 28, 1762, that she went off to St. Petersburg to lead the conspiracy plot aiming to overthrow her spouse, emperor Peter III. The marble statue of Catherine II in the vestibule of the palace is reminiscent of this historic event.
After ascending the throne, Catherine II commissioned the architect Quarenghi to refurbish the lush baroque chambers of Elizabeth's "Stone block" in the style of the noble rigor of Classicism. The new color of the walls defined the names of the rooms: the Yellow hall, Blue parlor, Green reception room. The only room of the palace, that preserved the unchanged decor by Rastrelli - the Heating room.
The development of the appearance of the palace interiors lasted for several decades. The last stage was associated with the name of the Emperor Alexander I and the important events of his reign. The victory over the Napoleonic France created a fertile soil for the flowering of the Russian Empire. At that time, the Empire style paintings of the military nature started to appear in the interiors of the palace, in the spirit of the art of the mighty Roman Empire. The memorabilia related to the Patriotic War of 1812 is kept in the study of Alexander I: a small copy of the marble obelisk, installed on Borodino field, paperweight with the authentic cores from the place of the Borodino battle, bas-reliefs on military themes and foreign campaigns of the Russian army. The porcelain cups and glasses with the portraits of the heroes of the Patriotic War of 1812 are displayed in the glass-case.
The museum has a first-class collection of the domestic furniture from poplar, Karelian birch and mahogany, made according to the sketches of C.I. Rossi, A.N. Voronikhin, V.P. Stasov and L. Ruska. The furniture presented here demonstrates the distinctive Empire style forms: the rook-bed, the bowl-chairs, the sofa with the legs in the form of sphinxes, that became a popular decor element after Napoleon's Egyptian campaigns.
The collection of the decorative bronze of the "Catherine Block" includes works of the prominent French masters: P. F. Thomire, P. V. Ledur, A. Raverio, L. Lenoir-Raverio. It is a variety of clocks, chandeliers, candlesticks, censers, that were an indispensable decoration of the Empire interior.
The tapestry of "Peter I, rescuing the fishermen during the storm on Ladoga lake" is reminiscent of the founder of Peterhof. It was woven at the famous Parisian manufacture. The tapestry was commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte, but completed by the King Louis XVIII, who presented it to Alexander I.
The pride of the "Catherine Block" is the presented in the Yellow hall famous gala Guryev service. Manufactured at the Imperial porcelain factory in Petersburg, it had about 5000 items and was used only on special occasions. With its decoration the service glorifies Russia and the people inhabiting its vastness. On the plates there are dozens of images of the people of Russia, and on the wine refrigerators - the views of St. Petersburg, Moscow and its surroundings. The magnificence of the service is stressed by the crystal, ordered by emperor Paul I at the end of the XVIII Century in England.
During the XIX century on the day of Smolny Institute graduation, the receptions for the graduate-girls were given in the Yellow hall. After the revolution inside the "Catherine Block" there was a museum of home decor of palaces of the XVIII-early XIX centuries.