Palladian architect Quarenghi was the most celebrated in Imperial Russia under Catherine the Great, officially being appointed court architect to the Empress not long after arriving in St Petersburg from Italy in 1779. His first high profile commission was the English Palace in Peterhof. Other celebrated examples of his work are Alexander Palace at Tsarskoe Selo, the Hermitage Theatre and the Smolny Institute of Noble Maidens in St Petersburg. He produced a large number of designs for the Empress and her court during the two decades he spent in Russia.
Born in Naples, Antonino Maresca Donnorso di Serracapriola was an eminent career diplomat. As Ambassador of the Two Sicilies to Russia from 1782, he was intimate with Catherine the Great, Paul I and finally with Alexander I. He negotiated a trade agreement between Russia and Naples. After the fall of the Bourbon family in Naples in 1806 as a result of the battle of Campo Tenese, he refused to serve Murat, the new King placed in Naples by Napoleon and his residence became a hotbed of opposition to the French. During the French invasion of Russia in 1812, he was entrusted by the Tsar with secret missions to Persia, the Ottoman Empire and England. At the Congress of Vienna he supported the reinstatement of the Bourbon family in Naples and when at last they returned to the throne, he settled back into his birthplace after nearly thirty two years’ absence only to be posted immediately back to St Petersburg where he died in 1822.
The two designs for palace chambers can be compared to no.183 and no.89 in Giacomo Quarenghi disegni architettonici, St Petersburg: Ermitage,1999.
We are grateful to Emmanuel Ducamp for providing additional cataloguing information.
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