Paul I had first had the idea to build a residence for his younger son Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich. When the young Duke turned twenty-one, Alexander I, his older brother, took the decision to build Mikhailovskii Palace.
The architect Carl Rossi was entrusted with the project of the new town building. Rossi linked Mikhailovskii Palace with Nevskii Prospect by way of the new Mikhailovskaia street, which intersected directly into Mikhailovskaia Square which lay in front of the palace. Construction was finished in 1825.
After the death of Mikhail in 1849, the palace was passed down by right of succession; first to his wife the Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna, then to their daughter Catherine Mikhailovna and finally to her children.
On the 20th January 1895 the palace was bought by the Treasury and on the 13th April of the same year, by order of Nicholas II, the Russian Museum of Alexander III was established and took over the entirety of the palace complex. The opening of the museum took place in March 1898 and Grand Duke Georgii Mikhailovich became its first director.
From the mid-1820s, at the Imperial Porcelain Factory, scenes of ancient mythology thrived side by side with landscape compositions by the painter J.-F.-J. Swebach. Swebach had been brought over from the Sèvres Porcelain Factory by Catherine II. Formerly, G. Adam had been master of his genre at the factory and his artistic technique always distinguished his compositions. However, the historical paintings of two Russian artists, V. Meshcheriakov and S. Golov, (now found in the collections of larger museums) surpassed Adam's mythological paintings.