1762-1768, architect A. Rinaldi

The Chinese palace, located in the depth of the Upper Park and surrounded by greenery on all of its sides, is part of the "Private Dacha", the grand palace-and-park complex of the Empress Catherine II. The definition "private", in the court terminology, implied that a particular building, pavilion or a garden, were intended solely for the imperial members, and only selected people could have been invited here. This was the case with the Chinese Palace and its surroundings - the personal residence of Catherine II.

Erected between 1762 and 1768, by the design of the Italian architect A. Rinaldi, the palace had just one floor and only in the middle of the XIX century, it acquired new features. By the project of the architects L. Bonstedt and A.I. Stackenshneider, the second floor was built, the gallery was made of glass and extended under a newly constructed balcony, connecting the two ledges on the south side. From East and West, small premises - the anterooms were built.

For a long time, the palace, similar to "Monplaisir", was called a "Dutch House". Only in 1774, the name "Chinese palace" appeared in the Kamer-Furjevskiy journal, that arose, because of the few interiors of the palace, that were decorated in the spirit of the Chinese aesthetics or with the use, of the original works of Chinese art.

Despite the external restraint and a certain rigor, the palace interiors are decorated exquisitely and surprisingly chic. In the middle part, there is an enfilade of grand rooms: the Spangle-work cabinet, the Fabric Bedroom, the Hall of Muses, the Blue and Pink Seating rooms and the Large and Small Chinese cabinets. These names themselves speak of the exclusivity and eccentricity of the palace premises. The large enfilade is complimented with small enfilades: in the western one, there are residential quarters of Catherine II, and in the eastern - the rooms of the Grand Duke Paul. In the palace, there are no repeating frameworks of the doorways, panels, or flaps, each interior is completely independent.

The main celebrity of the Chinese palace, is the Spangle-work cabinet, that retained its authentic finishing of the 1760s. The walls of the room are decorated with twelve spangle panels. These are the canvases, that are embroidered with spangles (beads of milky glass) and with a multi-colored fleecy silk - chenille. On a sparkling background, there are some complex compositions depicting fairy-tale birds, plants and fluttering butterflies. The panels are enclosed in the frames with gilded carvings, imitating the tree trunks, entwined with leaves, flowers and clusters of grapes.

For the interior decoration of the palace, the first-class works of fine and applied arts were acquired. The most significant part of the art collection, consists of plafonds, painted specifically for the Chinese palace. No other preserved Russian palace had such a collection of plafonds at their disposal. The majority of them were executed by special order, in Venice, by the leading masters of the Academy of Painting and Sculpture. Two big Italian artists: Stefano Torelli and Serafino Barozzi, worked on the paintings of the vast interiors, such as the Hall of Muses, the Big Chinese cabinet, the cabinets of Catherine II and Paul, the Boudoir and others.

The parquet of the palace, with its total area of 722 square meters, is unique for its artistic value. It is composed of the local and "overseas" tree species - red and ebony wood, amaranth, boxwood, Persian walnut, maple, birch and oak. In some settings, there are up to fifteen different types of wood. By the richness and diversity of tree species, the complexity of the set patterns and the craftsmanship, the parquets of the Chinese palace have no match in the world.

The Chinese palace embodies the fashion influences and the aesthetic preferences of the XVIII century. The interior decoration of the palace is done by the European and Russian artists and artisans of exceptional skill, and has no analogs. The art historian, Igor Grabar, spoke of the Chinese Palace as being: "The true miracle of miracles of the eighteenth century". 

Entrance to the Chinese Palace of Oranienbaum