Monday, 3 June 2013

The Amber Room

No it is not the title of a spy or mystery novel but more of an anniversary of a room given, yes an entire room from a Palace from one Sovereign to another. In 1716 King Frederick William of Prussia, known as the Sergeant King made a gift of a entire room made of precious amber stone to Peter the Great of Russia in return for a contingent of very tall Russians for his Grenadier Regiment. The room was designed by Andreas Schlüter and Gottfried Wolfram and amber masters Gottfried Turau and Ernst Schacht. In all 6 tons of amber was used, it was installed in the Catherine Palace in 1755. We visited the Catherine Palace and the Amber Room in 2012, it is as spectacular as these pictures.

 Black and White photos of the Amber Room c. 1932

This last photo by Novosti Press shows the room with the statue of Frederic the Great in 1932.

This room created a sensation in Europe, no Palace had anything quite like it. Until the Second World War or 1942 it remained intact. Then disaster struck, the invading Nazi Army from Germany attacked the City of Saint-Petersburg (Leningrad) and the outlying area known as the Golden Ring with its Palaces and bombarded and destroyed all in its path. Palaces were looted and any precious object was shipped back to Germany as war booty.

Detail Amber Room restored in 2003, Gold leaf and Amber.

in the 2003 restoration you can see that the equestrian statue of Frederick the great is missing and so is the bureau and chinese vases.

The Soviet Government had already evacuated a lot of art works to a safe haven far from the war theatre in the interior of Russia, but the amber room with its fragile wall panels could not be dismantled quickly and was left behind, the walls were recovered cotton and other protective material.

As early as the Spring 1944, the Nazi army are pushed back but the area in and around St-Petersburg was nothing but devastation, buildings lay in ruins, most had been repeatedly looted, bombed and burned. The Nazi practiced a scorched earth policy, leaving nothing behind them.  The Soviet Government realizing the important historical value of these monuments and Palaces decided to start re-building and at the same time gave work to hundreds of artists and craftsmen, work that went on for decades. Today teams of artists and restorers continue their work in preservation of the past.

About the mystery of the rooms disappearance after the end of the war. A Soviet report indicated the room had been destroyed probably in the bombing fire of Konigsberg Castle (Kalinigrad) and in 1997 the family of a German soldier who had been part of the team who had removed the Amber Room from the Catherine Palace found a piece of the original panel of amber in his house. He had kept a piece as a war souvenir.  In 2003 the German Government returned to Russia 3 paintings which had hanged in the room as part of the original setting.

 These photos from Novosti Press shows the difficult puzzle work by artists

The Amber Room is located in the Catherine Palace in Tsarkoe Selo (Tsar's Village) about 25 Km outside St-Petersburg. Built by the daughter of Peter the Great, Elizabeth I, she will name the new palace after her mother Catherine I.

In 2013, the 400th Anniversary of the Romanov Dynasty in Russia, the re-built Amber Room celebrates its 10th anniversary.


  1. It's always struck me as amazing that the Soviets (re) invested so much in their tsarist heritage. But of course we are mighty glad that they did.

  2. Now Putin continues and is inviting the Romanov Family and others back. It seems they discovered that having Royalty around brings in tourist dollars.