Giacomo QuarenghiGiacomo Quarenghi (1744-1817) was born September 20, 1744 in the village of Rota Fuori at the foothills of the Alps close to Bergamo in north Italy. At first, he was solely occupied by painting, which he studied in Rome under Raphael Mengs. Subsequently, the multi-talented young man took up architecture, literature, and music. By the age of 30, he was already a famous architect, and built the manege in Monaco, as well as the dining hall at the residence of the Archduchess of Modena in Vienna. In Italy, the only building by Quarenghi is the church in Subiaco.

At the age of 35, in January 1780, Quarenghi arrived in St Petersburg at the invitation of Catherine II to become ``Architect to the court and Her Majesty.’’ Quarenghi’s first significant structure in Russia was the palace in the English Park in Peterhof. The architect later considered the Smolny Institute to be his finest work.

Quarenghi worked in the spirit of Palladio and the new Italian school with its elegant and noble, but cold and dry style. This was not very suitable for northern countries where columns, that were so loved by Quarenghi, blocked out a lot of light, which already was in short supply due to the nature of the North. However, Quarenghi’s buildings were always made with taste and harmonious proportions. His works are the ultimate examples of mature classicism in Russian architecture.

Construction of the Trading stalls in the Cabinet building in 1803 – 1805 led to attacks from Quarenghi’s detractors who accused him of grossly mixing various architectural elements. ``I know too well my own faults to consider this project a masterpiece… common sense and logic should not meekly submit to existing rules and examples, slavishly following one theory and the principles of great masters without consideration to the location, circumstances and customs of the country. In this case, the architect is prone to create something mediocre.’’ (from Quarenghi’s letter to the sculptor Canova.)

At the end of 1810, Quarenghi for the last time left St. Petersburg for Bergamo, where he was welcomed with great fanfare. However, in 1811 Quarenghi hurried to return to Russia. Due to Napoleon’s preparation for an invasion of Russia, all Italians serving in Russia were ordered to return to Italy. Quarenghi refused this order and was sentenced in absentia to death and his property confiscated. During the last years of his life, the great architect built the temporary wooden Triumphal Arch at the Narvsky Gate, which was built to honor the victory over Napoleon.

Today, about 30 works by the great architect remain in the city. Quarenghi didn’t plan our city, and didn’t create its architectural ensembles, but he created buildings without which it is impossible to imagine St. Petersburg.

Giacomo Quarenghi died on February 18 (March 2), 1817, and was buried in the Volkov Lutheran cemetery. In 1967 his remains were moved to the Lazarev Cemetery in St. Petersburg’s Alexander Nevsky Lavra.

Quarenghi’s works in St. Petersburg

1780 ‑ 1783: the Chicherin Mansion, Nevsky Prospect 15

1781 ‑ 1794: the English palace at Peterhof, (destroyed in 1942)

1782 ‑ 1784: Church of the Smolensk Mother of God Icon in Pulkovo, (destroyed in 1943)

1782 ‑ 1786: the Concert Pavilion in Tsarskoe Selo

1783 ‑ 1785: Academy of Sciences, University Embankment 5

1783 ‑ 1787: Hermitage Theater, Palace Embankment 32

1783 ‑ 1799: The Russian National Bank, Sadovaya Street 21

1792 ‑ 1796: Alexander Palace in Tsarskoe Selo

1800 ‑ 1801: Pavlovsk Palace, apartments of Empress Maria Fedorovna

1804 ‑ 1807: the Ekaterina Institute, Fontanka River Embankment 36

1804 ‑ 1807: Konnogvardeisky Manege, Yakubovich Street 1

1806 ‑ 1808: Smolny Institute, Smolny Proezd 1

1814: wooden Triumphal Arch at Nevsky Gate, (in 1827-34 it was rebuilt as a stone and metal structure by V. P. Stasov)