The chief adornment of the state apartments is a suite of several halls with richly decorated gilded portals. The approach to the enfilade was at first by way of the staircase that Rastrelli placed at the south end of the building. In the later 1700s, at Catherine II's request, Cameron moved the stairs to the centre of the building, replacing the Chinese Hall there and disrupting Rastrelli's original conception. In 1860-61 Cameron's wooden staircase was replaced with a marble one designed in a Neo-Baroque style by Ippolito Moniglietti.
The Great Hall
This vast hall with two-rows of windows and an area of about 1,000 square metres is among the best Baroque interiors in Europe. The huge ceiling painting (1752-54) is by the Venetian master of perspective painting Valeriani.
The Picture Hall
In the 18th century this fairly small hall was intended for diplomatic receptions and musical evenings. In the summer of 1757 it was the setting for a celebration marking the arrival of banners and keys of Prussian cities captured during the Seven Years" War. The bulk of the paintings here (112 out of 130) were acquired for Empress Elizabeth in Prague and Bohemia by the artist Georg Grooth in 1745 for 12.000 roubles..
They include first-rate works by Witte, Ostade. Teniers, De Heem, Jan Fyt, Nattier, Courtois (Le Bourguignon), Blanchard and Luca Giordano. A special place is given to the paintings of the Battles of Poltava and Lesnaya commissioned by Peter I from Pierre Denis Martin the Younger.
The Main Staircase
The Main Staircase. The Clock
The basis of the palace is a simply-shaped block 300 metres long that is striking for the rich relief work of the walls, making the building resemble some gigantic organ. For greater decorative effect Rastrelli coupled contrasting pale blue and white plasterwork with gilding. The north-west facade of the palace opens onto a main courtyard that is enclosed by a great sweep of ancillary buildings, the south-east side overlooks the regular garden and Mirror Ponds.
The palace under Empress Elizabeth Noble persons of both sexes filled the palace apartments, glittering with their attire and precious stones. The beauty and wealth of the apartments is astounding; but they were outshone by the sight of four ladies, most beautiful and very richly dressed... Suddenly the darkness gave way to the light of 1,200 candles, reflected in mirrors.
The Great Hall
The Great Hall
An orchestra of 80 musicians struck up... During the first minuets a dull, somehow majestic noise could be heard. The doors were quickly thrown open and we saw Her Majesty seated on a gleaming throne. Descending, she entered the great hall, surrounded by her closest courtiers... The ball went on until eleven, when the chamberlain came to tell Her Majesty that supper was ready. Everyone move, to a very large and exquisitely furnished hall lit by 900 candles where a shaped table was laid for several hundred. A vocal and instrumental concert began on the galleries of the hall..." (Comte de la Messeliere, a French diplomat, describing a ball at the court of Elizabeth Petrovna, 1757).
Plan of Tsarskoye Selo.