The History and Restoration of the Imperial Bedchamber in the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: the Imperial Bedroom as it looked in the 1930s

The Imperial Bedroom or Bedchamber was among one of the first apartments prepared for the arrival of the Imperial couple to the Alexander Palace.

Nicholas was very fond of their new home at Tsarskoye Selo, On first seeing the newly decorated apartments in September 1895 he wrote to his mother:

“our mood . . . changed to utter delight when we settled ourselves into these marvellous rooms: sometimes we simply sit in silence wherever we happen to be and admire the walls, the fireplaces, the furniture… .”

Between 1894-1895, the bedchamber was redesigned from the bedroom furnished for the wedding in 1874 of Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna (daughter of Alexander II) to Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh. The interior was renovated according to the project of Roman Melzer. The furniture, which had been preserved from the previous decoration, was repainted in white and covered with an English chintz pattern in the form of wreaths of small pink flowers and ribbons. The same fabric was used to make the drapes and alcove curtains for the room.

To carry out the finishing work, the furniture manufacturer Karl Greenberg was invited, who had designed the interior for the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh. In addition, Greenberg designed the dressing room adjacent to the Bedchamber and the Empress’s small Dressing Room.

PHOTO: the Imperial Bedroom as it looked in the 1930s

Gradually, in the autumn of 1895, the furniture began to be replaced. In 1897, the double walnut bed was replaced by two gilded copper beds made by the Moscow firm Tyapunov and Son.

In September 1901, “a thick raspberry velvet carpet which covered the entire floor,” was purchased for the Bedchamber from the merchants Korovins, suppliers of the Imperial Court, for the sum of 747 rubles 50 kopecks.

As can be seen in photographs from the early 20th century, the alcove wall was filled with icons. Over the years, the number of icons steadily increased, many of them gifted to the Imperial family. Among them were many unique images: an icon made by craftsmen on a cut of a tree, or an icon depicting Christ blessing Nicholas II, Alexandra Feodorovna and Tsesarevich Alexei with the inscription: “The Lord Himself blesses and has mercy on them.” Unfortunately, many of these icons were lost: having been sold in the 1930s or disappeared during the war and occupation of the palace by the Nazis. The museum funds preserved the icon “St. Nicholas the Wonderworker”, presented to Nicholas II on the day of his coronation by the abbess of the Seraphim-Ponetaevsky monastery in the Nizhny Novgorod province, as well as two icons presented to Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, among several others.

After the completion of the current restoration work, several hundred icons will once again appear in the alcove of the Bedchamber interior. Unfortunately, due to the numerous losses of the original icons which once hung here, the historic recreation of this collection will never be fully restored.

During the Great Patriotic War, the interior of the Bedchamber was seriously damaged. The alcove had collapsed, the wall decorations and the furniture were all lost. Only one chair survived, which is now in the collection of the Pavlovsk State Museum-Reserve.

PHOTO: the Imperial Bedroom as it looks today

Reliable reconstruction of the original historic look of the Bedchamber, structural elements and furniture finishing details became possible thanks to preserved historical photographs from the collections of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve, the Pavlovsk State Museum-Reserve, the Central State Archive of Film and Photo Documents (St. Petersburg) and the State Archive of the Russian Federation  (Moscow). In these pictures, the interior is presented from different angles. Fragments of chintz and silk twill from the collection from the museum collection, as well as the one chair from the Bedchamber, have been miraculously been preserved, thus becoming invaluable resources for the reconstruction of furniture.

PHOTO: the Imperial Bedroom as it looks today

Since the beginning of the restoration work in the Bedchamber, in addition to architectural elements (alcove, frieze), fabrics on the walls, carpeting, curtains have all been recreated. The project for the production of furniture for this interior has already been completed and work will soon begin on the production of items for the Bedchamber on the Empress’s half of the room.

PHOTO: detail of the Imperial Bedroom as it looks today

***

The Imperial Bedroom of Nicholas II is now one of 15 interiors in the eastern wing of the palace, scheduled to open in 2021. Among the other interiors are the Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II, Working Study of Nicholas II, Reception Room of Nicholas II, Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room, and the New Study of Nicholas II.

In the future, the Alexander Palace will become a memorial museum of the Romanov family – from Catherine the Great to Nicholas II, showcasing the private, domestic life of the Russian monarchs who used the palace as an official residence. The eastern wing of the palace will be known as the Museum of the Russian Imperial Family. The multi-museum complex, which includes the Western wing is scheduled for completion no earlier than 2024.

© Paul Gilbert. 14 October 2020

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