The history and restoration of the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room in the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: view of the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room, as it looked in 1917

Among the living quarters of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna located in the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace is the Pallisander or Rosewood Drawing Room. The room got its name from its elegant rosewood interiors. Rosewood is a valuable tropical tree species of the genus Dalbergia, which has a high density and rich colour range, which can vary from light brown with a pinkish tint to dark brown with purple veins. A characteristic feature of this particular tree is its extreme slow growth – a full-fledged mature trunk taking almost two hundred years to mature. Rosewood has high moisture and wear resistance, high decorative qualities, and lends itself well to mechanical processing. The wall panels, fireplace, cornices and furniture were made of this material for the interiors in the Empress’s living room.

The upper part of the walls of the interior was covered with a yellowish silk fabric without a pattern, which was specially ordered in France from the famous Charles Burger company. The work carried out by Roman Feodorovich Meltser’s (1860-1943) firm was completed in 1895.

PHOTO: view of the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room, as it looked in 1917

The shelves and tables in the living room, were filled with collectibles and memorabilia, among which were figurines and vases. In addition, the interior was decorated with family photographs, paintings and watercolours with views of Hesse-Darmstadt – the Empress’s homeland.

Books in German, English and French, arranged on shelves, were mainly classics of foreign literature. Among them – The Necklace of Princess Fiorimonde by Mary de Morgan, Miss Esperance and Mr. Wycherly by Lizzie Allan Parker, The Innocence of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton, The Side Of the Angels: A Novel by Basil King, Rosalind in Arden by Henry Marriott-Watson, The Valley of Fear by Arthur Conan Doyle, The Antiquary by Sir Walter Scott, and Laocoon: An Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry by Gotthold Lessing.

Two telephones were installed in the Pallisander Drawing Room, one of which connected the palace with the Headquarters during the First World War.

Since the dining room in the Emperor’s half of the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace was converted to the Reception Room, family dinners were often served in the Pallisander Drawing Room.

PHOTOS: detail of the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room fireplace

The recreation of the interior of the Pallisander Drawing Room is based on historical samples preserved in the palace-museum’s archives, including samples of wall fabric, curtains, and panels. The rosewood fireplace which once dominated the interior, decorated with bevelled mirrors has been recreated. Colour autochromes as well as vintage black and white photos also helped recreate the interiors.

During the restoration, a decision was made to recreate the frames for the paintings that were in this living room and preserved in the palace-museum collection. The difficulty in reconstructing these frames was that, like many frames in the palace, they were made according to individual orders of artists, and their sketches or drawings were not preserved, therefore, historical documents, photographs and descriptions were used to recreate them. Click HERE to read my article Original works of art will decorate recreated rooms in the Alexander Palace, published on 9th January 2020

PHOTO: the current look of the recreated Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room

Work on the interiors of the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room continues. The production of a set of furniture for the living room will soon begin. The scientific staff of the museum are currently engaged in the search and selection of household items, porcelain, paintings, interior sculptures to replace those lost during the Great Patriotic War and the occupation.

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The Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room 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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Dear Reader: If you enjoy all my updates on the restoration of the Alexander Palace, then please help support my research by making a donation in US or Canadian dollars – donations can be made by GoFundMe, PayPal, credit card, personal check or money order. Click HERE to make a donation. Thank you for your consideration – PG

© Paul Gilbert. 11 November 2020

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