Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli a brilliant Italian architect

Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli Great Catherine Palace
Great Catherine Palace

Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli a brilliant Italian architect who became the greatest master of Russian architectural art of all time

Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli is often confused with his namesake father, who, unlike his son, devoted most of his professional career to sculpting and created the first equestrian monument in Russia. Nevertheless, both of them made a significant contribution to the development of national culture and will forever remain great masters of art for posterity.

Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli Great Peterhof Palace. 1945.
Great Peterhof Palace. 1745.


Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli was born in 1697 (according to other sources in 1700) in Paris, where his father served at the court of Louis XIV. Unfortunately, historians have not yet been able to establish the exact date of birth of the architect. The boy from early childhood was fond of drawing and helped his father in the workshop. For five years, Bartolomeo Francesco worked with his father on the creation of several palaces for His Serene Highness Prince Menshikov. Returning a year later to St. Petersburg, Rastrelli Jr. began an independent career as an architect. Nevertheless, the young Italian architect gained fame among the metropolitan elite. And then a happy chance brought him together with the all-powerful Biron, the favorite of Anna Ioannovna, who ascended the Russian throne in 1730.

Vorontsov Palace, 1949.
Vorontsov Palace, 1749.

The duke, who had great power, was able to discern a great master in Rastrelli and instructed him to build two palaces in Courland. Bartolomeo brilliantly coped with the responsible task, which earned Biron’s favor and was soon introduced to the Russian Empress. On behalf of Anna Ioannovna, in the early 1740s, he visited Moscow several times to get acquainted with the ancient masterpieces of national architecture. After these trips, the master finally developed his own style of architecture, which brought him well-deserved recognition in the future.

Mitavsky Palace.
Mitavsky Palace.

Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli created most of his famous masterpieces.

He became a very respected person, amassed a decent fortune and developed a grandiose project for the tallest bell tower in Russia in front of the Smolny Monastery in St. Petersburg. But the sudden death of the 52-year-old Empress Elizabeth in December 1761 ruined the artist’s plans. Catherine II, who had a negative attitude towards the style of architecture of Rastrelli, soon came to the Russian throne. The queen brought the young master Antonio Rinaldi closer to her, appointing him court architect.

In the shortest possible time, Rastrelli’s life changed beyond recognition. He stopped fulfilling the orders of the imperial court, lost his position in society and began to experience serious financial problems. In desperation, he submitted a letter of resignation to the empress and was immediately dismissed from service with an annual pension of 1,000 rubles awarded for services to the Fatherland.

Palace in Rundale Rastrelli
Palace in Rundale Rastrelli

The elderly master went to Europe in search of new customers, but his efforts were in vain. Having visited Italy and Prussia, in 1763 Rastrelli arrived in Courland, where he was sheltered by Duke Biron, who had returned from exile after a long period of disgrace. In the last years of his life, the master was engaged in the reconstruction of two luxurious palaces that he had built earlier. Forgotten by all, Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli died on April 29, 1771 at the estate of Biron and was buried in the cemetery of the town of Mitava next to his wife, his grave has not survived to this day.

Smolny Rastrelli Palace 1754 Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli
Smolny Rastrelli Palace 1754
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