VALLIN DE LA MOTHE, Jean-Baptiste-Michel
(b. 1729, Angoulême, d. 1800, Angoulême)


French architect whose major career was spent in St. Petersburg, where he became court architect to Catherine II.

He was a cousin of the architect-teacher Jacques-François Blondel (1705-1774), 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, 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). In 1759, Vallin de la Mothe accepted an offer to teach architecture in St. Petersburg.

As a professor at the Academy, Vallin de la Mothe taught many Russian architects who would themselves be prominent one day. The promising young Russians were sent to Paris to apprentice with Charles de Wailly, thus setting a distinctively French stamp on Russian Neoclassicism.

Catherine the Great had been so impressed by his work at the Academy that she commissioned him to build an extension to her Winter Palace, which sits across the Neva River from the Academy. This would be Vallin de la Mothe's most famous work. The structure he built, known as the Little Hermitage, became the home to Catherine's art collection. This collection would eventually grow to be one of the world's largest - the Hermitage Museum.

From 1761 to 1767, he pursued a number of other projects. In 1766 he officially became the court architect.

In 1775, he returned to his hometown of Angoulême, where he lived for the remainder of his life.