Jean-Baptiste Vallin de la Mothe
Jean-Baptiste Michel Vallin de la Mothe (1729 – May 7, 1800) was a French architect whose major career was spent in St. Petersburg
Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea...

, where he became court architect to Catherine II..

He was born in Angoulême
-Main sights:In place of its ancient fortifications, Angoulême is encircled by boulevards above the old city walls, known as the Remparts, from which fine views may be obtained in all directions. Within the town the streets are often narrow. Apart from the cathedral and the hôtel de ville, the...

, a cousin of the architect-teacher Jacques-François Blondel
Jacques-François Blondel
Jacques-François Blondel was a French architect. He was the grandson of François Blondel , whose course of architecture had appeared in four volumes in 1683 -Biography:...

, under whom he is supposed to have studied, Beginning in 1750, Vallin de la Mothe spent two years studying at the French Academy in Rome
French Academy in Rome
The French Academy in Rome is an Academy located in the Villa Medici, within the Villa Borghese, on the Pincio in Rome, Italy.-History:...

, though not as an official pensionnaire. On his return to Paris he was one of the architects who presented projects for Place Lous XV (now Place de la Concorde
Place de la Concorde
The Place de la Concorde in area, it is the largest square in the French capital. It is located in the city's eighth arrondissement, at the eastern end of the Champs-Élysées.- History :...

. In 1759, Vallin de la Mothe accepted an offer extended through the Russian ambassador Aleksei Petrovich Bestuzhev-Ryumin
Aleksei Petrovich Bestuzhev-Ryumin
Count Alexey Petrovich Bestuzhev-Ryumin , Grand Chancellor of Russia, was one of the most influential and successful European diplomats of the 18th century. He was chiefly responsible for Russian foreign policy during the reign of Empress Elizaveta Petrovna.-Early life and career:Alexey was born...

, prompted by Blondel, to teach architecture in St. Petersburg
Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea...

. In St. Petersburg, Vallin de la Mothe adjusted Blondel's designs for a pet project of Shuvalov
Ivan Shuvalov
Ivan Ivanovich Shuvalov was called the Maecenas of the Russian Enlightenment and the first Russian Minister of Education...

, the Imperial Academy of Arts
Imperial Academy of Arts
The Russian Academy of Arts, informally known as the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts, was founded in 1757 by Ivan Shuvalov under the name Academy of the Three Noblest Arts. Catherine the Great renamed it the Imperial Academy of Arts and commissioned a new building, completed 25 years later in 1789...

 (1765-72), in the form of a large open square with a circular central court. As a professor at the Academy, Vallin de la Mothe taught many Russian architects who would themselves be prominent one day including Ivan Starov
Ivan Starov
Ivan Yegorovich Starov was a Russian architect from St. Petersburg who devised the master plans for Yaroslavl, Voronezh, Pskov, Dnipropetrovsk, Mykolaiv, and many other towns in Russia and Ukraine...

 and Vasili Bazhenov
Vasili Bazhenov
Vasily Ivanovich Bazhenov was a Russian neoclassical architect, graphic artist, architectural theorist and educator...

; under the impetus of Vallin de la Mothe, the promising young Russians were sent to Paris to apprentice with Charles De Wailly
Charles De Wailly
Charles De Wailly was a French architect and urbanist, and furniture designer, one of the principals in the Neoclassical revival of the Antique. His major work was the Théâtre de l'Odéon for the Comédie-Française...

, thus setting a distinctively French stamp on Russian neoclassicism
Neoclassicism is the name given to Western movements in the decorative and visual arts, literature, theatre, music, and architecture that draw inspiration from the "classical" art and culture of Ancient Greece or Ancient Rome...


Catherine the Great
Catherine II of Russia
Catherine II, also known as Catherine the Great , Empress of Russia, was born in Stettin, Pomerania, Prussia on as Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg...

 had been so impressed by his work at the Academy that she commissioned him to build an extension to her Winter Palace
Winter Palace
The Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg, Russia, was, from 1732 to 1917, the official residence of the Russian monarchs. Situated between the Palace Embankment and the Palace Square, adjacent to the site of Peter the Great's original Winter Palace, the present and fourth Winter Palace was built and...

, which sits across the Neva River
Neva River
The Neva is a river in northwestern Russia flowing from Lake Ladoga through the western part of Leningrad Oblast to the Neva Bay of the Gulf of Finland. Despite its modest length , it is the third largest river in Europe in terms of average discharge .The Neva is the only river flowing from Lake...

 from the Academy. This would be Vallin de la Mothe's most famous work. The structure he built, known as the Small Hermitage, became the home to Catherine's art collection. This collection would eventually grow to be one of the world's largest— today Russia's Hermitage Museum
Hermitage Museum
The State Hermitage is a museum of art and culture in Saint Petersburg, Russia. One of the largest and oldest museums of the world, it was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great and has been opened to the public since 1852. Its collections, of which only a small part is on permanent display,...

 holds over 3,000,000 pieces of art, and hundreds of thousands of tourists visit Vallin de la Mothe's Small Hermitage, along with the rest of the complex, every year.

From 1761 to 1767, he pursued a number of other projects. He designed St. Petersburg's market hall, Gostiny Dvor on Nevsky Prospekt
Nevsky Prospekt
Nevsky Avenue |Prospekt]]) is the main street in the city of St. Petersburg, Russia. Planned by Peter the Great as beginning of the road to Novgorod and Moscow, the avenue runs from the Admiralty to the Moscow Railway Station and, after making a turn at Vosstaniya Square, to the Alexander...

 (the main street of St. Petersburg), the palaces of Kirill Razumovsky
Kirill Razumovsky
Count Kirill Grigorievich Razumovsky was a Ukrainian Registered Cossack from the Kozelets regiment in north-eastern Ukraine, who served as the last Hetman of Left- and Right-Bank Ukraine until 1764; Razumovsky was subsequently elected Hetman of the sovereign Zaporozhian Host in 1759, a position...

, Ivan Chernyshyov, the House of Yusupov's Moika Palace
Moika Palace
The Moika Palace or Yusupov Palace was once the primary residence in St. Petersburg, Russia of the House of Yusupov. The building was the site of Grigori Rasputin's murder in 1916....

 (where Grigori Rasputin
Grigori Rasputin
Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin was a Russian Orthodox Christian and mystic who is perceived as having influenced the latter days of the Russian Emperor Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra, and their only son Alexei...

 was murdered), and the New Holland Arch
New Holland Island
New Holland Island in Saint Petersburg was created in 1720, when the newly built Kryukov Canal and Admiralty Canal connected the Moika River with the Neva...

. In 1766 he officially became the court architect.

He began, but did not complete, work on the Catholic Church of St. Catherine
Catholic Church of St. Catherine
The Catholic Church of St. Catherine in St. Petersburg is one of the oldest Catholic churches in Russia. It is part of the Archdiocese of Moscow headed by H.E. Msgr. Paolo Pezzi. It is located on the Nevsky Prospekt.- Construction :...

. Work on the church was completed by Antonio Rinaldi. In 1775, he returned to his hometown of Angoulême, where he lived for the remainder of his life. The neoclassical hôtel particulier
Hôtel particulier
In French contexts an hôtel particulier is an urban "private house" of a grand sort. Whereas an ordinary maison was built as part of a row, sharing party walls with the houses on either side and directly fronting on a street, an hôtel particulier was often free-standing, and by the 18th century it...

he designed in the 1780s for Louis Thomas de Bardines survives at 79 rue de Beaulieu.

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