Photographer's Note

Summer Residence of the Duke of Courland,

Built: 1736-1740, 1763-1768
Architect: Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli

Rundāle Palace is one of the most outstanding monuments of Baroque and Rococo art in Latvia. It was built between 1736 and 1740 as a summer residence of Duke Ernst Johann of Courland.
The Duchy of Courland-Semigallia, a vassal state of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, was founded in 1561 and it existed until 1795.
In 1737 Ernst Johann Biron, a landlord in Courland and favorite of the Russian Empress Anna Ioannovna, became the Duke of Courland-Semigallia.
The Italian architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli designed Rundāle Palace and supervised construction work. After the death of Empress Anna Ioannovna, the Duke was arrested and sent to exile in Russia. Construction works in the palace were resumed after the Duke's return at the beginning of the reign of Empress Catherine II.
The major part of the interior was made in the period between 1765 and 1768.
The Italian masters from St. Petersburg Francesco Martini and Carlo Zucchi created paintings on the ceilings and walls while sculptor Johann Michael Graff from Berlin made stucco decorations on the background of artificial marble.
Following the annexation of the Duchy of Courland-Semigallia to the Russian Empire, Rundāle Palace became the property of Count Valerian Zubov. The next owner of the palace was the Count's brother Platon Zubov whose widow married Count Andrei Shuvalov. The Shuvalov family owned the estate until 1920 when the new Latvian government introduced the agrarian reform and, as a result, the palace became the property of the Republic of Latvia.
After World War I there were flats and an elementary school in the damaged palace. In 1933 the palace was taken over by the State Museum of History and some repairs were carried out there. The palace did not suffer damage during World War II but after the war some of its rooms were adapted for a granary. In 1972 the Rundāle Palace Museum was founded and restoration of the palace began. Restoration is not yet completed and is still going on.

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