In the early years of Catherine II’s reign the Old Garden between what became the Ramp Alley (an extension of the Ramp) of the Catherine Park and the road beneath the Caprice was redesigned along the lines of a landscape park. The Great Meadow, extending for over 200 metres, was laid out in front of the south façade of the Zubov Wing of the Catherine Palace with paths running along its sides.
In the middle of the nineteenth century, the creation of the Private Garden in this section led to the loss of one of the magnificent landscape areas of the Catherine Park. In 1856 part of the park was separated off by a low railing with three gates that were decorated with gilded bronze ornaments cast to designs made by the architect Ippolito Monighetti. Finally, in 1865 the architect Alexander Vidov laid out the intimate Private Garden here on the instructions of Emperor Alexander II.
The compositional centre of the garden was a large fountain with an octagonal basin and a tall vase made from Carrara marble at the Peterhof Lapidary Works. Around the fountain they created attractive flowerbeds, made winding paths and set up sculpture. At that same time the Italian-style pergola was constructed, concealing the Kagul Obelisk and the meadow from the windows of the palace and dividing the Great Meadow into two parts. In this way one of the finest views of the landscape area of the park was lost.
The Private Garden is flanked by the southern façade of the Zubov Wing of the Great Palace, the upper floor of which contained Catherine II’s apartments. The ground floor of this wing later became the private rooms of Emperor Alexander II. These interiors were destroyed in the Second World War and have yet to be restored.
The marble sculptures installed in the Private Garden in the 1930s did survive the war. There are two copies of Canova’s Dancer made in the early nineteenth century, Zephyr by Victor Brodzsky and a Nymph by Parmen Zabello.