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1721-1725, architect J. Braunstein

In the XVIII century, there was a fashion spread among wealthy Europeans for construction of special pavilions, called "Hermitages" or "places for seclusion". They were two-storey buildings: on the ground floor there was a cook and servants, who prepared and served the meals that were delivered by the hoist mechanism to the top floor, where a circle of close friends of the host of the manor, would gather. The first Russian Hermitage was created in Peterhof, by the decree of Peter I. It was built on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, in the western part of the Lower Park. The idea of its construction came to Peter during his travels in European countries, where he saw similar constructions for the first time. Peterhof seaside pavilion served as the prototype of all Russian "hermitages" later built.

Its construction was commissioned to the architect, J. Braunstein. The works began in 1721, and ended only after the death of Peter I. A small two-storey building of the pavilion, rests on a massive foot-podium and is surrounded by a deep, wide moat. The moat used to be filled with water, and in the first half of the XVIII century, was spanned by a drawbridge. The vast glass windows and doors give lightness and airiness to the facades, because of this, the palace seems transparent.

The lower floor was intended for the servants, with two Closets, the Kitchen and the Pantry, where they prepared and warmed up the exquisite dishes for the feasts, organized in the upper Hall. The laying of the ready meals and serving of the fourteen persons Hermitage table were happening in the Pantry, that occupies the central position on the ground floor of the pavilion. The main exhibit is a hoist-mechanism, operated by a manual traction. The central section of the table, was lowered from the first floor into the Pantry, through an oval opening, and after serving, would be hauled up again by the servants. This contrivancewas to the taste of many, and during the XVIII century, it was often a place to "have fun and enjoy eating".

The guests were getting to the Hall of the first floor, with the help of a special elevator - the lifting chair. But in 1797, during the stay of the Emperor Pavel in Hermitage, one of the hawsers of the chair snapped. It was ordered to destroy the lifting device and build a staircase, that exists until now.

The decor of the only hall of the first floor, is fascinating. From its enormous windows facing the four sides of the world, that create the effect of an all-around perspective, there is a view opening over the Gulf with Kronstadt and the park with its alleys, running away into the distance. The walls are covered with a bright carpet of 124 paintings, separated only by gilded moldings. The collection of paintings of the first Russian Hermitage, is comprised of the works of the leading European art schools of the XVII-XVIII centuries. Above all, the collection is presented by the canvases of the artists from Dutch, Flemish, Italian, German and French schools. There is only one painting devoted to the Russian theme. It is "The Battle of Poltava", by an unknown Russian artist.

The sumptuously laid table is impressive, with the sailing shipcakes and jetting up sugar fountains, the ruddy "kulebyakas" (Eng. pies) look appetizing. Catherine I and her daughter, Elizabeth Petrovna, were fond of organizing the evening meals here. The Hermitage was also often visited by Catherine II, imparting to the Hermitage gatherings her intellectual brilliance. During her presence here, the important state affairs were discussed at the Hermitage, and literary salons were held. So, one evening in 1796, here, in the presence of the Empress, D.I. Fonvizin read his comedy "The Forman", having been after nicknamed by A.S. Pushkin as the "satire brave sovereign".

Having suffered during the German occupation, the "Hermitage" pavilion became the first museum of Peterhof, that has opened its doors to the visitors after the war, in 1952.