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Catherine’s parquet

28.10.2020

Walked on by Catherine the Great, the original eighteenth-century parquet floor is returning to the Catherine Palace’s Lyons Hall after careful restoration.   

The hall’s third gem besides the lapis-lazuli finish and golden silk lining, the floor was designed by Charles Cameron and produced at Johann Kimmel’s furniture workshop in St Petersburg in 1782–84. It was the only element completely untouched by later revamps.

The geometric parquet of eight woods — mahogany, tulipwood, amaranth, palisander (rosewood), palm, walnut, maple and birch — consists of lighter rectangles and rhomboids ornamented with rosettes, ribbons and wreaths, contrasting with darker and massive hexagons. The parquet panels are framed by narrow stripes with a palmette pattern.

Cameron received five hundred Australian mother-of-pearl shells “sorted by academicians and therefore very expensive and rare”, with which he planned to encrust only the lighter panels, but Catherine desired them on the darker ones as well.  

In the eighteenth century, four thick cloth covers were used to protect the inlaid wood from sun discoloration while the imperial court was away from Tsarskoe Selo. When the heavy bronze and lapis-lazuli objects were furnished in the early 1860s, a room-sized carpet was placed.

In need of restoration by 1917, the wooden patterns were firmed up by Leroy & Arendt parquet factory specialists, who took care of the floors in the Catherine Palace during August–December 1918. 

Stolen by the Nazis during World War Two, the parquet of the Lyons Hall was found in Berlin in 1947 and returned to Tsarskoe Selo. Several of its panels were restored in the early 1970s and put on display until the Hall’s reconstruction began in 2018.

Now restorers from the Tsarskoselskaya Amber Workshop, who brought back the other interiors including the Amber Room, are finishing work on the parquet panels which they will reinstall in the Lyons Hall together with decorative stoves and other elements.