Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli

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Portrait of Count Rastrelli painted by Pietro Rotari

Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli (Russian: Франче́ско Бартоломе́о (Варфоломе́й Варфоломе́евич) Растре́лли; 1700 in Paris, Kingdom of France – 29 April 1771 in Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire) was an Italian architect who worked mainly in Russia. He developed an easily recognizable style of Late Baroque, both sumptuous and majestic. His major works, including the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg and the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo, are famed for extravagant luxury and opulence of decoration.[1]


In 1716, Bartolomeo moved to Saint Petersburg, which became a new Russian capital just a four years before, accompanying his father, Italian sculptor Carlo Bartolomeo Rastrelli (1675–1744).[1] His ambition was to combine the latest Italian architectural fashion with traditions of the Muscovite Baroque style. The first important commission came in 1721 when he was asked to build a palace for Prince Demetre Cantemir, former ruler of Moldavia.

He was appointed to the post of senior court architect in 1730. His works found favour with female monarchs of his time, and he retained this post throughout the reigns of Empresses Anna (1730–1740) and Elizabeth (1741–1762).

Rastrelli's last and most ambitious project was the Smolny Convent in St. Petersburg where Empress Elizabeth was to spend the rest of her life. The projected bell-tower was to become the tallest building in St Petersburg and all of Russia. Elizabeth's death in 1762 prevented Rastrelli from completing this grand design.[1]

The new empress, Catherine II, dismissed Baroque architecture as an old-fashioned "whipped cream", and the aged architect retired to Courland, where he supervised the completion and decoration of the ducal palaces.

His last years were spent in obscure commerce with Italian art-dealers. He was elected to the Imperial Academy of Arts several months before his death.[1] A square in front of the Smolny Convent has borne Rastrelli's name since 1923. He is the subject of a composition, Rastrelli in Saint Petersburg, written in 2000 by Italian composer Lorenzo Ferrero.


He lived with his father and mother, also he had a wife Maria and three children (one son and two daughters) according to the 1737 census.[2]

Rastrelli's son (Joseph Jacob) died in December 1737 of cholera, and in January 1738 his daughter Eleanor died.[3]

Empress Elizabeth of Russia (1741–1761)[edit]

Peter I's daughter was suspicious of all those who served the court of her predecessors. After going through all the architects in St. Petersburg, the Empress was convinced that Francesco Rastrelli is the best. Therefore, Francesco started serving to the Empress only in 1744.

In the period 1744-1760 he built all his famous buildings:

  • Summer Palace (destroyed, built up by the Engineering Castle)
  • wooden Winter Palace on the Nevsky (destroyed, urban high-rise buildings)
  • stone Winter Palace (there is, the main building of the Hermitage Museum)
  • Smolny Cathedral and Monastery with four churches and cells
  • Palace for Chancellor Vorontsov (Vorontsov Palace in St. Petersburg, rebuilt as a military school)
  • Stroganov Palace, (it is a branch of the State Russian Museum now)
  • palace in Tsarskoe Selo (restored, Tsarskoe Selo (museum-reserve))
  • completion and decoration of the interiors of Anichkov Palace in St. Petersburg.

Ten extant buildings by Rastrelli[edit]

# Image Name Location Date
1 Rundale palace, still the most beautiful in the world. Latvia (10759228303).jpg Rundāle Palace Pilsrundāle near Bauska
2 Biron Rezidenz.jpg Jelgava Palace Jelgava
3 Peterhof Fountains 01 - Big Cascade 02.jpg Peterhof Palace Peterhof near St. Petersburg
PeterhofEastChapel.jpg Peterhof Palace chapels Peterhof near St. Petersburg
4 St. Andriy's Church in Kyiv.jpg Saint Andrew's Church Kyiv
5 Смольный собор 2.jpg Smolny Convent St. Petersburg
6 Spb 06-2012 Vorontsov Palace.jpg Vorontsov Palace St. Petersburg
7 DSC00991, Catherine’s Palace, Pushkin, St. Petersburg, Russia.jpg Catherine Palace Tsarskoe Selo (Pushkin)
Pushkin Catherine Park 01.jpg Hermitage Pavilion Tsarskoe Selo (Pushkin)
8 2005-08-10 Kiev Mariinsky Palace 123.JPG Mariinskyi Palace Kyiv
9 Строгановский дворец (24).jpg Stroganov Palace St. Petersburg
10 Spb 06-2012 Palace Embankment various 14.jpg Winter Palace St. Petersburg

Boris Vipper has speculated that Rastrelli's last (and unfinished) design was for the Neoclassical Zaļenieki Manor near Mitava.

Demolished buildings[edit]

# Image Name Notes Location Date
1 Muzej lefortovo.png Annenhof Built of wood, replaced by Catherine Palace (Moscow) Lefortovo District, Moscow
displaced 1736
burnt down 1746
2 Winter palace 1740s.jpg Anna's Winter Palace Replaced by Winter Palace Saint Petersburg
demolished 1754
3 Summer Palace St Petersburg.jpeg Summer Palace Built of wood, replaced by Saint Michael's Castle Saint Petersburg
demolished 1797
4 Kremlinduran.jpg Winter Kremlin Palace Replaced by Grand Kremlin Palace Moscow Kremlin
rebuilt 1798
demolished 1837

Posthumous glory[edit]

Rastrelli is a cult figure of the Russian Baroque. His engravings with landscapes of Tsarskoe Selo were spread throughout Europe during Rastrelli's lifetime, and there are some examples in the collections of Ukraine and Germany.

  • A bust of Rastrelli was installed in Tsarskoye Selo.
  • The second bust of the famous architect was installed on St. Manege Square in St. Petersburg.
  • In 1972, the documentary "Architect Rastrelli" was made (directed by Maria Kligman, Lennauchfilm, Russia).
  • One of the squares of St. Petersburg was called Rastrelli Square.
  • A quartet of Russian cellists, including Kirill Kravtsov, Mikhail Degtyarev, Kirill Timofeev, and Sergei Drabkin, is called Rastrelli. The quartet works in Germany and plays music from the Baroque to modern times.


  1. ^ a b c d Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli. Encyclopædia Britannica
  2. ^ Yu. Denisov, A. Petrov. Architect Rastrelli – P. 192.
  3. ^ Yu. M. Ovsyannikov. Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli.
  4. ^ Ring, Trudy; Watson, Noelle; Schellinger, Paul (28 October 2013). Northern Europe: International Dictionary of Historic Places. ISBN 9781136639449.

External links[edit]