Monday, 3 October 2016

Hidden Doors in the Military Gallery in the Winter Palace

After the fire in 1837, the architect Vasily Stasov reconstructed Carlo Rossi’s Military Gallery of 1812.

Hau’s watercolor (below) of the Military Gallery in 1862

In the literature on the Winter Palace, the English artist George Dawe has been credited with painting the 319 portraits. Vladislav Glinka in his book on the Military Gallery in 1949 reveals that many of the portraits were completed by Dawe’s two Russian assistants, Alexander Polyakov and Vasily Golike during the 1820s.

Of the 13 empty frames on the walls, archival documents dispute the version that Nicholas I ordered the Decembrists' portraits,except for one, removed in 1826.  Dawe's studio had been unable to obtain a likeness of the men from their families therefore an engraved plaque identified the individual.

The only portrait Nicholas I removed in 1826 was Prince Sergei Volkonsky’s portrait. It was found in a palace storeroom in 1903 and rehung on the wall.

Stasov added an upper choir balcony in 1840. It has taken me years to discover its hidden door access. In 2014, I found the door to the balcony in St. George Hall. Aware now of the ingenious way Stasov solved hidden entrances, I finally located the door in a 1902 photograph of the Military Gallery.

Photographs (below) of the surrounding choir balcony

The Military Gallery remained unchanged from 1840 until the late 19th century when crystal chandeliers were hung on brackets between the columns.

Photograph (below) of the chandeliers

There is another hidden door at the northern end of the Gallery on the right of Franz Kruger’s portrait of Alexander I. I will be describing in my forthcoming book what is behind the door.

Photograph (below) of the hidden door on the right of Alexander I’s portrait

Photograph (below) of the Military Gallery leading to the Large Church


  1. The door is so well hidden I cannot see it. Thank yo for your Winter Palace Research!

  2. Thank you very much. On the lower right of AI's portrait, you can barely see a line of light in the red wall. That is the door.

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  4. Joanna: so when is this book coming out?

  5. My book will be published in the fall of 2017.