Quick facts

  • In 1716 Prussian King Fredrik Wilhelm I presented the Amber Study to Peter I. It was placed in the Winter Palace during the reign of Peter’s daughter Elizabeth.
  • In 1746 under direction of genius architect Rastrelli the Amber Room was transferred into the hall for official receptions in Winter Palace.
  • In 1755 it was decided to bring the amber panels to the Big Palace in Tsarskoye Selo. Having enriched the interior with gilded carving, amazing bronze lamps, mirrors, picturesque plafond and parquet made of precious types of wood, Rastrelli coped with the task brilliantly.
  • By 1770, during the reign of Empress Catherine II, the Amber Room got its final look. Almost two centuries this interior survived in Tsarskoye Selo.
  • For summer 1941 a large-scale restoration of this masterpiece of the world culture was planned. The outbreak of the Great Patriotic War interfered with these plans. The evacuation of the Room did not succeed.
  • In November 1941 the Amber Room was looted by the Nazi soldiers and taken to Konigsberg where it was until the spring of 1945.

 Seventeenth century was destined to go down into history as the Golden Age of amber-working in Europe. In that period of time East Prussia emerged as one of the foremost centers for the artistic processing of this stone. The region possessed enormous reserves of raw amber. Control over its extraction was held by the Teutonic knights. Manufacture of amber objects was concentrated in Konigsberg, Danzig and Lübeck. In the middle of 17th century a revolution in technology of amber art took place – a new technique of incrustation and amber mosaic appeared. It enabled the craftsmen to produce much larger objects, such as wardrobes. Frederick I, inspired by the idea of court architect Andreas Schlüter, decided to decorate his study in Charlottenburg Palace outside Berlin with amber.

Creation of amber decor of the study began in 1701 under the direction of Gottfried Wolfram, the court master of Danish King. In 1707 Danzig carvers Gottfried Turau and Ernst Schacht joined the process.

In 1713 Peter I came to Prussia with a visit. He met Frederick Wilhelm I, who became King of Prussia after the death of his father Frederick I. In the Royal Castle in Berlin Peter saw the «amber wonder». In 1716 Peter I received the Amber Study from Frederick Wilhelm as a present. The Prussian monarch gave it away with no regret, relieving himself from further expenses on finishing the decoration of the study. Peter who was so much interested in overseas wonders was incredibly happy. The Amber Study was supposed to become the gem in his collection of curiosities.

Although the Study was brought to Russia with great care, it was never installed anywhere during Peter’s lifetime. Peter’s daughter Elizabeth recalled the Prussian King’s gift after she herself came to the throne. By her order one of the greatest Russian architects of Italian origin Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli was commissioned to work with the Amber Study.

It was decided to place the amber panels in one of the halls of the Winter Palace. Magnificent amber frames with mirrors were to become center-points of the panels. But the hall in the Winter Palace was much smaller than the room in Scharlottenburg, so Rastrelli lacked one amber frame to fit in the interior. Fredrik II heard about this problem from his ambassador. Prussian King waited for an occasion to secure with Elizabeth's friendship for a long time. In 1745 he presented a missing amber frame to the Russian Empress. The frame was decorated with allegories glorifying Russian statehood. But still, even with the frame the room where the Amber Study was supposed to be placed was too big. Having suggested inserting into amber decor mirror pilasters, Rastrelli solved this difficult problem with his head up high.

In 1746 the Amber Study was placed in the hall for official receptions. But how it looked like in Winter Palace is not known as no images have survived. Eight years later Elizabeth decided to reconstruct her palace and in 1755 amber panels were sent to her summer residence - Tsarskoe Selo. Rastrelli once again coped brilliantly with one more difficult task - adjusting the chamber to a new gala hall. He devised an alternating arrangement of amber panels and mirror pilasters, murals imitating amber on the upper part of the walls and sumptuous gilded woodcarving.

The main new element introduced into the rich décor of the room was, however, the Florentine mosaics that replaced the paintings that had occupied the amber frames. These mosaics allegorically depicted the five senses: Taste, Sight, Hearing and Touch and Smell. These pictures, made up of slices of semi-precious stones conveyed graphic details and shades of colour with such precision that they gave the complete impression of easel paintings. The mosaics in the Amber Room were created in 1752 by Giuseppe Zocchi in the workshop in Florence. They almost certainly came to Russia as a diplomatic gift from the Austrian ruling house.

Only in 1770, during the rule of Empress Catherine II. After some embellishments into the design were introducing by Prussian amber craftsman Friedrich Roggenbuk, the Amber room got its final look. Roggenbuk, and later his son Johann were keepers of the Amber room up to 1813.

The history of creation of the Amber room lasted for seven decades. Amber "world wonder" amazed all who ever visited the Big Palace in Tsarskoe Selo.

For almost two centuries the interior survived in Tsarskoye Selo. During numerous restorations (1833, 1893-1897, 1933-1935), losses, distortions and accretions inevitably took place in the amber decoration of the room. The next large-scale restoration of this masterpiece of the world culture was planned for summer 1941. The outbreak of the Great Patriotic War interfered with these plans. Evacuation of exhibits of the Catherine palace began on June 22, but all attempts to dismantle amber panels were not successful. Escaping from fascists on September 17th employees of the museum had to leave works of art so dear to their hearts, including the Amber room, to the mercy of fate.

To export values from Russian museums the Nazis created special fascist organization which in November 1941 carried the Amber room to Konigsberg. The director of city art collections - Doctor Alfred Rohde had an article published about this event in "Pantheon" magazine. Five photos which gave extensive information on the condition of the Amber Room in 1942 were published too. These photos show that one Florentine mosaic was absent which proves the fact that it was stolen when the amber panels were being dismantled in Tsarskoye Selo. Pictures also testified to presence of large-scale damage of the Amber Room decor elements.

After the war Pushkin city was all ruins, stones and ashes. Its pearl – the Catherine palace remained with scorched walls, spoilt floors and ceilings, and empty gaping windows. In May 1945 Doctor of history, professor A.Y. Brusov was entrusted to find art values stolen during the War and to return them from East Prussia. Right after Konigsberg capitulation search of the Amber Room was begun. Many damaged furniture and decoration objects which used to be in the Catherine palace and the inventory book of the Prussian museum with notes about transferring the Amber Room to some safe location were found in the Royal Castle of Konigsberg. Nevertheless, the Room itself was not found.