The winter of 1739-40 was incredibly harsh all over Europe and especially brutal in Russia. Temperatures plummeted to forty degrees below zero and the mighty Neva River completely froze over, as it did every winter. But this year the Tsarina Anna Ioannovna had ordered blocks of ice to be cut from the frozen Neva and a magnificent ice palace be built on the riverbank.
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Wedding of the Court Jester in the Ice House by Valery Jacobi, 1878