Passing the Main Staircase of the Catherine Palace we reach the White State Dining Room by Rastrelli that was formerly intended for grand banquets and also evening meals taken by the empress in a small company of intimates.
Since Empress Elizabeth’s time the walls of this room were lined with white damask that in combination with the gilded carvings gave the interior a special elegance. Nowadays the walls are hung with still lifes by Johann Friedrich Grooth (1717–1806), part of a large series that this court painter produced for the Monbijou pavilion at Tsarskoye Selo in the 1740s. The ceiling painting of The Triumph of Apollo (a nineteenth-century copy of a work by Guido Reni) complements the decoration of the interior.
The furniture in the White State Dining Room consists of gilded console tables and chairs, some of which are authentic, others recreated in imitation of mid-eighteenth-century prototypes. In the centre of the room is an oval table laid with an exquisite porcelain service that was made at the famous Meissen factory in Germany. This service was already recorded in the palace stocks in Elizabeth’s reign and undoubtedly adorned the tables during the Empress’s festive banquets. In keeping with eighteenth-century tradition, the table is covered with elaborately draped tablecloths, decorated with garlands of flowers and also a porcelain composition that resembles the Large Caprice pavilion in the Tsarskoye Selo Park. This item, created in the late 1760s at the Imperial Porcelain Manufactory (founded in 1744) is evidence of Russia’s high technical achievements in the field of ceramics.
The “trick” butter-dishes in the forms of a flower, a peach, a lemon, a pear, a pomegranate and an artichoke that further adorn the elegant table were also made at Meissen in the second half of the eighteenth century. The same factory produced the decorative scent vases standing on the tables between the windows. They are known as boule-de-neige (“snowball”) on account of the blooms that decorate them.