Peter I had the first building at Peterhof, which lay 13 miles outside St. Petersburg, errected in 1707 as his residence during the construction of the city. The first permanent house at Peterhof was know as Dutch House and renamed Montplaisir by Peter. The forest on the land was felled and re-planted to create a formal garden by J.F. Braunstein, while Jean-Baptiste Alexandre Leblond was entrusted with the building works. Although he died only three years after embarking on the project, he left a lasting mark as the principal author of the Peterhof complex. Leblond concentrated foremost on the system of fountains, cascades and water-falls that were to be at the front of the palace and later built the width of the palace to exactly the same size as the water displays. Soon after Leblond's death in 1719 it was realized that the present building was inadequate and Zemtsov was entrusted with the rebuilding in 1723. However, when Peter died in 1725 the works ceased and were only recommenced in 1746 with Elisabeth's ascension to the throne. Her chosen architect was Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli (1700 - 1771), who completed the building of this magnificent palace respecting the work previously started by Leblond.
BRONZE WORKS IN ST. PETERSBURG
The first bronze works appeared in St. Petersburg in the mid-18th century, although the material was not perfected for the use in casts and modelling until 1769. After the imperial bronze foundry was established in the late 1770s, Empress Catherine II decreed that no foreign bronze objects could be imported, so as to ensure the survival of the foundry. Soon private foundries were opened, among which one of the most important was that of the French immigrant Pierre Agi (1752 - 1828). Agi, however, sold his workshop in 1804, but the contents were bought by count Stroganoff, who was the president of the academy of arts. He founded the federal bronze foundry which manufactured a considerable number of bronze decorations for vases, stones, glass and porcelain after models by professors at the academy of arts. Aside from these main foundries, a number of private workshops survived and included those of Zech, Dreher, P. Schreiber, Fischer, A. Geren, de Lancry as well as Ivan Baumann, who not only manufactured furniture but also excelled in bronze casting.
RHINOCEROSES AS MODELS
The arrival of a live rhinoceros in Rotterdam in 1741, and its subsequent travel to Versailles in early January 1749 and then to Paris where it remained from February to April 1749, exemplifies how current events and fashion were so closely intertwined. Inevitably, the marchands-merciers were quick to seize upon the mania created by the exotic animal's presence, and proceeded to supply objects à la rhinoceros. The interest in rhinoceroses continued for decades and many models were based on the widely disseminated engraving by Albrecht Dürer of 1515.