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The Gatchina palace collection was begun by Count Gregory Orlov, the palace’s first owner and a collector of hunting weapons, paintings and objects of decorative arts from Western Europe and the East. After his death, the Grand Duke Paul Petrovich came to own the Palace, which later served as an imperial residence from 1796 through 1917. Throughout this time, the collection continued to expand.

Following the October Revolution, the Palace was opened to the public as a museum and until the WWII remained the largest museum among the suburban palaces outside of St Petersburg both in terms of its spaces and the scope of the collection. The Museum holdings included 54,030 artworks on view or in storage.

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