Most of our time in Russia was spent touring the palaces in and around St. Petersburg, e.g. The Peterhof (above), The Hermitage, and "Catherine's Palace". Room after room was crammed with priceless objects, mostly collected by the art obsessed Russian rulers of the 17th and 18th centuries. There were heavy enamel chandeliers, trembling with thousands of glittery purplish Russian crystals; rare hand-painted silks from 17th century China; mosaics made entirely out of jewels; a vase made of lapis lazuli that was taller than me...
But more than anything else there was gold. There was so much gold that you started to get sick of it. And that was the inspiration for my "18th Century/Peterhof Palace Girl", below:
I really haven't seen such unapologetic use of opulence and color at any other 17th-18th century site I've visited, not even at Versailles in France or at the palaces of the Medici family in Italy. It's as if the Russian rulers visited Versailles, then went back to Russia and said to their interior decorators, "So, we want Versailles exactly. Except ten times crazier."
Below: "Catherine's Palace" in Pushkin, the favorite residence of Catherine the Great. She nicknamed it "Heaven on Earth", and had it painted to match the sky and clouds, and built near a natural lake that mirrors the sky. This palace also houses the famous "Amber Room", a painstakingly restored and recently reopened chamber nested within the "Suite of Golden Rooms". All four of its walls are completely inlaid with amber, from floor to ceiling.
Below: Three Russian "Nesting Dolls" & the colorful Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg.