Treasures of the Yusupov Palace

Saint Petersburg is rich in sights. Its palaces and museums are not only full of real treasures, works of art and historical artifacts, but also keep many secrets and mysteries. They excite the imagination and create a special mystical, magical atmosphere which leaves an unforgettable impression. The palace of the ancient princely family of the Yusupov is situated on the Moika river embankment.  It is famous not only for its luxurious interiors and richness of the stored items, but also for being a landmark in Russian history.

Yusupov Palace
Nicholas Yusupov

Territory on the banks of the Moika river, where the Yusupov Palace is located, in the early XVIII century belonged to the niece of Peter I, Praskovia Ivanovna. Then the estate passed to the Semenov regiment, and later to count Peter Shuvalov, who built here a mansion in the baroque style. Having changed several owners, the manor in 1830 became the property of Nicholas Yusupov, who originated from an ancient princely family of the descendants of the Sultan of Nogai Horde. The family was famous for its wealth, and the prince could afford to spend huge funds to rebuild the palace. He invited the best Italian masters to work on the interiors. 

“In Yusupov times the palace was not just a luxurious mansion, but a kind of a benchmark for fashion in the XIX century interiors.”

In Yusupov times the palace was not just a luxurious mansion, but a kind of a benchmark for fashion in the XIX century interiors. It housed art galleries, home theater (which could accommodate up to 180 spectators) and greenhouses with rare plants. After the revolution the Yusupov Palace became a museum, though a part of its collections was transferred to the Hermitage. Currently, it is possible to visit this amazing building and to feel the atmosphere of the aristocratic salons of the last century.

The Yusupov family has always been distinguished not only for wealth, but also for passion for collecting rare and often fabulously expensive paintings, sculptures and works of decorative art. Contemporaries remember the endless suites of rooms that were literally littered with treasure. Priceless statues, snuffboxes, mirrors, jade and malachite jewelry boxes stood on the tables inlaid with mother-of-pearl and ivory, mantel shelve and secretaries. There remained a description of the Venus statue, carved from a single sapphire, and the ruby Buddha. No less impressive were the paintings by famous artists: Boucher, Watteau, Rembrandt and others. No wonder that the last owner of the palace prince Felix Yusupov considered his house to be a museum.

Yusupov Palace
Yusupov Palace
Yusupov Palace
The Emergency Commission at work

In 1917 the Yusupov family was leaving St. Petersburg, but, hoping to return soon, took a relatively small amount of money with them. The treasures were carefully packed and hidden in several specially equipped hiding places. Some of them have been found, for example, 70 chests of silverware, the collection of ancient musical instruments and manuscripts of some famous people. But, of course, that was not all. In 1918 the Emergency Commission was created to search for treasure in Yusupov Palace, but they failed to find the most valuable ones. For example, the fate of the unique pearl of “La Pelegrina” is still unknown.

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