PHOTO: View of the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir in the Alexander Palace, as it looked in 1917
Popillon’s painting “The Dream of the Virgin” can be seen hanging on the wall
The favourite room of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna in the Alexander Palace was the Mauve (aka Lilac) Boudoir. This interior was designed by Roman Feodorovich Meltser (1860-1943). According to legend, the empress gave him a lilac branch, her favourite flower, so that the architect could choose the colour scheme for the decoration of the room.
As a result, the walls were upholstered in mauve silk and crowned with a frieze decorated with an iris styled pattern. An ornamental Louis XV style painting decorated the ceiling of the room.
PHOTOS: views of the Mauve (Liliac) Boudoir in the Alexander Palace, as it looked in 1917
The furniture and upright piano by J. Becker were been painted with ivory enamel paint. Some of the furniture items were included in the composition of the walls and fastened to the wall panels. On the shelves, cabinets and fireplace were glass vases, mainly produced by the workshop of Emile Gallé, porcelain figurines and handmade souvenirs presented as gifts to the Empress, as well as family photographs. The room was decorated year-round with fresh flowers from the gardens or hothouses at Tsarskoye Selo.
Alexandra Feodorovna spent a lot of time in the Mauve Boudoir: it was here that she rested, read, and carried out her correspondence. In the evening, the whole family gathered here. The cabinets contained books from the empress’s personal library, sheet music, drawing supplies, and board games.
Thus, at the beginning of the 20th century, the room personified the comfort of a home.
Like many other rooms in the Alexander Palace, the Mauve Boudoir suffered a sad fate – the decoration and the interior were lost during the Great Patriotic War (1941-45).
PHOTO: the current look of the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir after an extensive restoration
PHOTO: Recreated doors of the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir in the Alexander Palace
During the current restoration, fabric upholstery for the walls and curtains (fragments of fabric had been preserved in the Pavlovsk State Museum-Reserve), furniture, carpets, wood panels, a fireplace, and a picturesque frieze were recreated, based on historical samples, archival documents and photographs.
A huge amount of work has been done to recreate the doors: first, models were made, then the doors were recreated from wood.
The collection of the Alexander Palace Museum contains Alexandra’s writing table from the Mauve Boudoir, found in the park in a ruined state after the war. In 2018, test cleanings of a paint layer of the writing table were carried out, thanks to which the initial colour of the finishing of the entire interior was determined, as well as the colour scheme for the panels, built-in furniture and cabinet doors. The museum plans to restore Alexandra’s writing table to its original, thanks to descriptions and old photographs.
A painting (see first photo above in this article) by the French artist Edouard Jerome Popillon “The Dream of the Virgin” which once hung in the Mauve Boudoir will be returned to the Alexander Palace from the Pavlovsk Museum-Reserve, where it has been held for many decades. Upon the reopening of the palace next year, the painting will be on display in the room for visitors to enjoy.
PHOTO: Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna seated in the corner of the Mauve Boudoir
The Mauve Boudoir is now one of 15 interiors in the eastern wing of the palace, scheduled to open in 2021. Among the other interiors are the New Study of Nicholas II, 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, the Imperial Bedroom, among others.
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.
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© Paul Gilbert. 4 November 2020