Peterhof


After (or before) Moscow and Tsarskoe Selo, Bernard DeCou also made a series in the garden of the Summer Palace of Peterhof, of which hitherto twenty-five glass slides have been found.


The Peterhof garden and palace complex stands to the south-west of Saint-Petersburg, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland. It was founded by Peter the Great in 1714, just some years after he conquered the area from the Swedes.


Peter’s first palace was the intimate Monplaisir, right on the seaside. But it was him who started to build the Grand Palace, which was linked with the sea by an almost hundred meter long canal so the Czar and his entourage could disembark immediately at the foot of the palace.


Peter designed on the model of Versailles the palace complex which was gradually extended by the subsequent czars. The most important contribution was that of Elizabeth who between 1745 and 1755 ordered the present day grandiose appearance of the Grand Palace and of the Grand Cascade to be created. The architect was the same Bartolomeo Rastrelli who also built the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoe Selo.


The idea of the cascade naturally came from the realities of the terrain. About a hundred meters from the seashore a sixteen meters high rock plateau emerges. The Grand Palace was built on the edge of the plateau, where the Grand Cascade falls down through several scales from the Upper Garden to the Lower Garden. The water pours into the pond created at the end of the canal arriving from the sea, in the middle of which a monumental fountain was established in 1735. The water jet gushes fort from the mouth of the lion subdued by Samson, and as the lion was the in the coat of arms of Sweden, the statue reminded the visitors of the victories over the Swedes, the greatest of which was won on the day of Samson, on 27 June 1709 at Poltava.






On the rock plateau behind the palace lies the Upper Garden, established as a French garden. Its central ornament is the Baroque statue of Neptune which was ordered by the city of Nuremberg in 1650 for the main square of the city in memory of the end of the Thirty Years War. However, in lack of money they never managed to set it up. Finally it was purchased in 1797 by Czar Paul I, explicitly for the Upper Garden of Peterhof.



According to the evidence of the hitherto digitized glass slides, DeCou made his photos mainly around the Grand Cascade and in front of the main facade of the palace where he also made some genre pictures. He took some further photos in the Upper Garden and two more in the Lower Garden, on the Roman Fountain. We do not know whether he managed to take photos in the lavishly furnished Grand Palace. It would be a great loss if he did not, as in 1941 Peterhof shared the fate of Tsarskoe Selo: it was occupied, plundered and burnt down by the German army. It was first restored in 1947, and for a second time in 2003, in preparation for the 300th anniversary of its foundation.

Wonderful baby carriages! (also in the previous garden of Tsarskoe Selo)


We have localized the photos of DeCou on the central part of the 1909 map of Peterhof. The subsequent map and the air photo show the images of the current status of the garden for the sake of comparison.

Bernard DeCou’s photos on the 1909 map of Peterhof

The current images of the palace complex on the 1909 map of Peterhof and on the following aerial photo


Fortune teller with client in front of the Grand Palace

In the next post we will show the photos taken by DeCou in the city of Leningrad.