The Empress & the Architect: British Architecture and Gardens at the Court of Catherine the Great

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Yale University Press, 1996 - Architecture - 273 pages
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In August 1779, Charles Cameron, a Scottish architect based in London, set sail for St. Petersburg. He had been summoned by Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, to create a magnificent architectural setting for the splendours and extravagances of her court - most especially the two luxurious palace ensembles outside St. Petersburg at Tsarskoye Selo and Pavlovsk. His reputation prior to his arrival in Russia was based almost entirely on his authorship of a book on the baths of ancient Rome - he had built nothing as yet - but while serving as Architect to Her Imperial Majesty, Cameron was responsible for some of the most dazzling and original architectural creations of the eighteenth century. This book tells a fascinating story of enterprise, initiative, amazing patronage and very remarkable architectural achievements on a large scale, all of which took place within a unique historical and cultural context.
Dimitri Shvidkovsky weaves together the intriguing, and still not completely documented biography of an enigmatic architect - possibly a Jacobite rebel and exile - and the life of the great Russian ruler, Catherine II. This is set against the backdrop of the rapidly developing influence of British culture on Russian society. Architects, park designers and gardeners from England and Scotland were to be found in every part of Russia by the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century, helping to establish a particular form of design whose cultural impact was made all the more dramatic by its adoption and development by native Russian architects and designers.
This book, ravishingly illustrated with views of the palaces and gardens of imperial Russia - many now destroyed - places Russian architecture and garden design of the neo-classical period within its European context for the first time, and explores the hitherto neglected connections between British and Russian architecture of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It offers a fascinating and original account of Russian culture in this period.

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The empress & the architect: British architecture and gardens at the court of Catherine the Great

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Shvidkovsky (history, Moscow Inst. of Architecture) tells a fascinating story of the fate of Scottish architect Charles Cameron, who never built a building until being summoned by Catherine the Great ... Read full review


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About the author (1996)

Dimitri Shvidkovsky is a senior research fellow at the Institute of Theory and History of Fine Arts and is a professor and head of the department of history at the Moscow Institute of Architecture.

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