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A passage room leads from the private apartment of Grand Duchess Maria Fiodorovna to the private rooms of her son, Alexander I. They begin with the Oval Anteroom that was created in 1817 to the design of the architect Vasily Stasov. It has been known by various names, but always retained the status of a service room. It linked Alexander I’s apartment with the rooms in the mains suite that were in his time occupied by his wife, Empress Yelizaveta Alexeyevna.

The fairly small room has no windows. Its walls are almost entirely taken up by four doorways two of which contain mirrored doors. One of them leads to the cast-iron spiral staircase that linked the Emperor’s apartment with the top-floor room occupied by Alexander’s personal valet.

In 1820 the Oval Anteroom suffered in the fire that engulfed the Great (Catherine) Palace. The room was recreated to the same design in 1821–22: the artificial marble was created by a craftsman named Blokhin and the painting was restored by the artist Fiodor Brandukov.

The décor of the Oval Antechamber is restrained but eloquent: the walls are faced with faux marble of a warm shade of pale yellow; the ceiling is decorated with ornamental grisaille painting; the floor is covered with a patterned parquet of precious varieties of wood. The room was lit by four gilded bronze wall sconces and contained four small chairs made in Heinrich Gambs’s St Petersburg workshop. Only one of the chairs survived the war, having been evacuated. The lights and parquet were lost and the marble badly damaged. The present interior of the Oval Anteroom is the result of restoration that was completed in 1974.

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