The beginning of the 18th century was a time of momentous change which affected all aspects of Russian life. From the 1710s, St Petersburg, the fortress city and port, began to play an ever-increasing role in the political life of the country. In 1712, the capital was shifted from Moscow to the banks of the Neva. The royal court moved to St Petersburg, and the Senate began to meet there in 1713. The desire for Europeanisation also made itself felt in a revision of the ceremonial for procession, which became increasingly close to West European standards. Royal and other state processions were now accompanied by music, fireworks and the iridescent flicker of lanterns. The ceremony for processions connected with coronations and military victories began to include the ritual of ‘passing through the triumph arch’. The artistic ornament found on carriages and harnesses became increasingly European in style.

Same as before, the ceremonial departures performed exaggeratedly representative function in the life of the Russian court. They symbolized the power and wealth of the country capable to play the first fiddle at the global stage. In 1732-1733s, the Stables Prikaz was substituted by the Palace Stables Chancellery and the Court Stables Office in Saint Petersburg. In the middle and the second half of the 18th c., they were in charge of ceremonies organization and related questions. The scale of processions, the number of guests and the means of artistic decoration were defined here. There were attracted the renowned masters of high art: architects, artists, and famous sculptors. The atmosphere of the departures was created with the help of various methods and means of artistic expression, where the decoration of equipages played a particularly important role.

In the 18th century, the Court Stables Yard in Saint Petersburg became the main centre of carriage-building. Written sources testify that from 1711-1712s the finest masters from the Kremlin chambers were gradually moved there. The Coach, Carriage, Sledge-coach and Sledge chambers of the Stables Prikaz were not closed down, and did not cease production. In 1732-1733s, the new departments were set up instead of the Stables Prikaz, and in 1737 the new structure for it was established. At different time artists and masters were invited here to supervise the artistic work.

According to all found documents, the carriage-building workshops of the Saint Petersburg Stables Yard determined the development of the art of carriage-making and represented its official line, although other carriage workshops existed in Moscow, Saint Petersburg and the local artistic centres, continued their activity. The 18th century is reputed as a classical century of this art when the masterpieces of the highest artistic level were created. The well-known specialists worked in this sphere: E. Dorofeyev, S. Yakimov, K. Stepanov, N. Nikiforov, Stafeyev, Yakovlev, Myakishev, Ilyin and others. Nevertheless, even large workshops in capital looked up to the works of famous carriage-builders of Saint Petersburg Stables Yard.

The middle and second half of the century was a time of rapid economic development in Russia, which became one of the strongest and most influential powers in Europe. The growing authority and might of the Russian rulers was accompanied by the increased opulence of items connected with court ceremonial. New fashions in carriages appeared. Their artistic expressiveness increasingly approximated to West European standards. The organization of the departures was still managed centrally in Saint Petersburg according to the established court etiquette. There survived the decrees of the Senate and orders of the Stables department that instructed on the decorative solution of the equipages, the colour of painting, colouring and tone of inner upholstery and shed.

The carriage workshops of the Court Stables yard in Saint Petersburg became a major artistic centre. They employed masters of the most varied specialities: from carriage-builders, saddlers, wheelwrights to painters, architects and even lantern-makers. The young men studied these specialities in the court carriage workshops of Moscow and Saint Petersburg, the Admiralty, and also from ‘free masters’. The artistic schools were opened and, as the documents show, many of the masters of Saint Petersburg Stable Yard and Kremlin Reserve Master Yard in the Moscow were educated in the Academy of Arts or even the best European carriage workshops of the time. The majority of the masters were high-class specialists, known not only in Russia, but also abroad. Among them are carvers Nikolay Gavrilov, Matvey Zimin, carriage masters Yagan Biller, Lorenz Brunberg, Gotfried Stobe, Johan Coenrad Buchendal, painter Chritopher Daviday and many others.

The masters of fine art: distinguished architects, painters, masters of bronze leafing were recruited for the carriage-building. The activity of the French architect Nicholas Pineau and the German decorative artist and carver J.M. Hoppenhaupt has gone down in the history of European carriage-building.

The artistic decoration of the 18th century’s equipages continued to be improved together with technical innovations. The overall artistic composition of the carriages reflected to some extent the special stylistic features of the particular country and to a greater extent the ornament received a specifically national interpretation.

Features characteristic of a major artistic centre or the strikingly individual manner of a well-known master frequently dominated within the framework of a certain style. Since the range of persons who received the right to use equipages expanded, the new types of carriages came into common use. Light, fine coupes – two-seater carriages with one seat and big glass in front - and the berlins – four-seater elegant equipages with small body became widely used. In the middle of the century, the enormous equipages of ‘the grand carriage’ type could still be seen. Two such French carriages are among the collection of the Armoury Chamber. In the 18th century, the so-called kolyaskas were widely spread in Russia and the West. Two exhibits of the Moscow Kremlin’s collection can serve an example: the Russian kolyaska of 1730 and the English one of the 1770-ies. In winter, the sledges and sledge-coaches continued to be used.

In the 18th century, the carriage-building continued to improve the constructive and technical characteristics of the equipages. In the 1760s, plate, vertical and horizontal semi-elliptic springs appeared. In the first half of the century, the production of equipages with side poles at both sides of the body began. The horizontal springs and side poles made them stable and prevented the body from swaying and bumping.

Despite the fact that Russian equipages were no inferior to the foreign ones by the quality and artistic features, carriages made by French, Viennese, English and German masters were in favour. The foreign equipages had been brought to Russia by trade representatives and foreign envoys The carriages were produced in the largest European workshops and also upon special orders of the Russian court. The regular renovation and repair of the existing equipages was connected mainly with long-lasting and frequent departures of the monarchs and court from Saint Petersburg to Moscow and other towns of the country. Such works were carried out both in Saint Petersburg and Moscow.

A large collection of equipages belonged to the Kremlin Stables Yard by the 1740s. According to the archive documents, the content and organization of works there was close to the museum. Following ‘the lists’ of Carriage Yard of the second half of the 18th century, in the 1770s and 1780s ‘all manner of old carriages’ were concentrated here. A special decree obligated to keep this collection most carefully. It was placed under the supervision of a special official, who was known as a ‘Proviant-Meister’. 9 equipages from the collection of the Armoury Chamber had been located in the Kremlin Carriage Yard from 1740 till the 1790s. It was here, in the Kremlin Carriage Yard, where the nucleus of what is now the Moscow Kremlin Museums collection originally grew up. Thanks to the surviving documents of the Armoury Chamber, we know that in Moscow the carriages from the Kremlin Carriage Yard were moved to the Coach Yard close to the Kremlin at the end of the 18th century. In the 1760s-1790s, a large number of carriages were sent there from Saint Petersburg, although the documents do not state the reason for this. Probably, it was connected with the preparations to Catherine II’s coronation, and later to the Paul I’s. Obviously, at this time the Kremlin equipage workshops and the Carriage Yard ceased their activities. By the beginning of the 19th century, there were already several hundred carriages in the Moscow Coach Yard. The old ones were treasured because of their historical connections. Although they were used when the emperor was in Moscow, the 18th-century carriages were also kept under ‘special supervision’.

In the 1840s, the yard was turned into barracks for cavalry squadron upon the order of Nicholas I, and the Coach Yard itself with the administration was moved to the Alexandrinsky Palace in Neskuchny Sad in Moscow. The carriages of the most historical and artistic value were handed over to the Armoury, the rest were sold out. The survived documents and equipages that are now a part of the Armoury Chamber collection give right to state that their choice was made on professional level.

The building of the Armoury Chamber, where the equipages were placed, had been erected in 1810 by architect I.V. Egotov. Here in the museum, in the 1834-1835s, the restoration works were held. Their materials on restoration of fourteen equipages of the 16th-18th cc are highly valued.

In 1851, when the new building of the Armoury Chamber was erected after the project by architect K.A. Thon, the equipages along with the other collections were moved to the museum.

In the second half of the 19th century, the best equipages brought from abroad and produced in the Saint Petersburg Stables Yard workshops were consolidated in the Court Stables Museum in Saint Petersburg. On the first floor, there were exhibited the ‘city’ carriages for everyday departures of the emperor and the court; the second floor placed the ceremonial carriages. In 1918, four equipages of high artistic value from the Court Stables Museum were transferred to Moscow and placed in the manège of Neskuchny Sad, where the Carriages Museum opened. Later, in April-May 1926 they were passed to the Armoury Chamber due to the closure of the museum. State Museum of Fine Arts named after A.S. Pusknin (Museum of Fine Arts at that time) and from former Rumyantsev Museum –on more later transferred to the Historical Museum. In 1928, the sledges were acquired from the Museum of Furniture. Thus, how the current collection of equipages in the Armoury Chamber was formed.

In the 1960s, four equipages were delivered to the other museums of the country (State Historical Museum, Yaroslavl Museum Preserve, Estate Museum ‘Kuskovo’) since the exhibition venue of the Armoury was extremely limited.

Thanks to its precious art pieces, the collection of the Armoury Chamber allows tracing the evolution of the carriage-building through the centuries: improvement of forms and constructions, new elements’ emergence, development of decoration. A special place belongs to the carriages, produced in the court workshops of Moscow and Saint Petersburg by a constellation of remarkable masters of Russian decorative art.