Antique arms from the 16th through 19th centuries

Amidst a wide selection of artworks, the Gatchina Palace holds one of Russia's finest collections of antique arms. It includes over 1,000 firearms and edged weapons dating from the 16th to 19th centuries. Many of these have both artistic and historical significance and provide an insight into the evolution of armor-making across Europe and Asia.

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The initial owner, who started the collection, was Count Orlov. On his death in 1783, Grand Duke Pavel Petrovich (the future Emperor Paul I) and the imperial family acquired the collection.

The firearms were hung on the walls in the Crimson Gallery in 1823 and remained untouched until the treasures had to be evacuated from the palace in 1941.

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It is important to note that in the 1920s the Gatchina arsenal decreased in size as quite a few pieces of military armor were removed, many of these were sold later abroad. In the postwar period, the collection remained at Tsarskoye Selo and did not make it back to Gatchina until 1988, when a permanent exhibition was installed showcasing the fine pieces.

In addition to arms, also displayed in the exhibition are watercolours by the painter M. Zichy, depicting scenes of royal hunting at the Menagerie.

The permanent exhibition "The Arms Collection of the Gatchina Palace" was made available to the public for a long time on the ground floor of the Main Building, but in December 2013, it was moved to its historic location – the Armor Gallery. Its interiors, like those of many other rooms at the Palace, were destroyed by fire of 1944 and have not yet been restored. The current exhibition has an improved design with numerous historical connections. The return of the exhibition to the Armor Gallery is seen as a tribute to historic events and an expectation for the prompt revival of the former grandeur of the imperial residence.

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