So many buildings built in neo-classical style in cr. 1800-1850 in Russian empire are yellow (always the same shade of yellow) with white columns. There are some exceptions, e.g. grey or blue of beige with white columns, but maybe 90-95% of buildings built in this style are yellow and white, like on the first picture.

Was this colour scheme specific to Russian Empire or was it used elsewhere?

Why was it used in the first place? Antique buildings were all white when discovered, and originally they were brightly coloured (see the example of Parthenon below), I am not aware of such pastel-with-white-details colour scheme used in the antique world (was it?)






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    Are any of these buildings actually "painted" tho? Most look like there might be pigment in the stucco.
    – AllInOne
    Commented May 8, 2020 at 20:30
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    I will be very pedantic here and say that I have used the word "painted" when applied to Parthenon, and I believe it was made of marble then painted, no stucco involved! But certainly there were antique buildings that were covered with pigmented stucco.
    – Yulia V
    Commented May 8, 2020 at 20:42
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    I think, it is the same in Vienna and Potsdam (Sanssouci). Commented May 8, 2020 at 21:47
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    When I visited St Petersburg I was struck by this coloring, and mentioned to an art historian friend of mine that it reminded me of Venice as seen in the paintings by Canaletto. The reply: this was the plan, to make the then new city be like Venice. So an answer might be: Canaletto used yellow paint when painting Venetian buildings, and the Tsar ordered yellow paint to match Canaletto. Commented May 8, 2020 at 21:48
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    Are the Russian buildings actually painted? From the pictures, it looks as though those are the colors of the actual brick/stone or other building material. WRT the Parthenon, it (and other ancient Greek buildings) was apparently quite gaudily colored originally. The current white is the result of a couple of thousand years of no upkeep. Do a search for "parthenon original colors".
    – jamesqf
    Commented May 8, 2020 at 22:44

1 Answer 1


These were the hallmarks of the Rococo style of painting and building, that originated in central Europe around the middle of the 18th century, and found its way to Russia in the early part of the 19th century. According to Wikipedia, it featured "warm pastel colours (whitish-yellow, cream-colored, pearl greys, very light blues)."

This style evolved from the "Baroque" style of the 17th century that originated in southwest Europe, and was more symmetrical and formal than Rococo. Russia was relatively late in adopting European styles, so it is the later Baroque and Rococo of central Europe, and not the earlier Baroque style of Spain that was considered the (neo) "classical" style in Russia.

  • Thank you very much. I am 95% convinced by your rococo theory but need to confirm with friends. As for late adoption in Russia, I would somewhat disagree. St.Petersburg was founded in 1703, and we have many examples of early baroque (e.g. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domenico_Trezzini, St. Peter and Paul's fortress and Twelve Collegia buildings) and high baroque en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francesco_Bartolomeo_Rastrelli ("His major works, including the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg and the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo, are famed for extravagant luxury and opulence of decoration")
    – Yulia V
    Commented May 10, 2020 at 11:09
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    @YuliaV: I modified my answer to say that it was the later Baroque and Rococo style that was considered "classical" in Russia. My understanding is that early Baroque started in Spain, the later Baroque in Austria and Germany, and likewise the Rococo style in Central Europe. At any rate, I consider Russia as having been influenced by central Europe and not Spain.
    – Tom Au
    Commented May 10, 2020 at 11:16
  • The history (as we are taught it) says that in 1703 Peter the Great has invited the best European architects the virtually unlimited money could buy to build him a European city on what used to be a bog wasteland that belonged to Sweden. The city was planned from the beginning, many architects were from Italy, but some from France and the rest of Europe. Virtually no Russian architects in the beginning, only a few who were trained in Europe later. The only Russian-Russian building in SPb was started in 1883, and is viewed as kitsch... en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_the_Savior_on_Blood
    – Yulia V
    Commented May 10, 2020 at 11:21

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