Recreation of the textile decoration for the Imperial Bedroom in the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: detail of the English chintz recreated for the Imperial Bedroom

This is the second of two articles on the Imperial Bedchamber, one of the personal rooms of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna situated in the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace. The first article The History and Restoration of the Imperial Bedchamber in the Alexander Palace, was published on 14th October 2020.

The decoration of this room is highlighted by the rich use of the same fabric: the walls and furniture are upholstered in an English chintz pattern in the form of wreaths of small pink flowers and ribbons, specially made by the English manufacturer Hindley. The same material was used to make the curtains for the windows and doors, as well as the alcove.

PHOTO: sample of the original pattern made by Charles Hindly & Sons

Charles Hindley & Sons had existed since the early 19th century. In 1909 the company filed for bankruptcy and was resold twice. The latest information about the Hindley manufactory dates back to 1921, when the company ceased to exist. Unfortunately, the museum’s hopes of finding a “historical” manufacturer for the fabric in Great Britain did not materialize.

Since the end of the 19th century, the term “chintz” has been used to describe a cotton decorative fabric in plain weave – usually with a large floral pattern and a glossy front side. This fabric was mainly suitable for interior decoration.

Chintz, along with unwaxed chintz, was used in the decoration of the Alexander Palace, notably for the interiors of the Imperial Bedchamber and Children’s Rooms, the latter of which were located on the second floor of the east wing of the palace.

PHOTO: detail of the English chintz recreated for the Imperial Bedroom

A sample of the original chintz, which was discovered in the funds of the Pavlovsk State Museum Reserve, served as a direct analogue for reproducing the pattern and texture of the fabric. It was important to achieve an exact match between the colour scheme and the degree of waxing.

The recreation of the textile decoration for the Imperial Bedchamber (draperies for the alcove, doors and windows) were based on this surviving sample. Thus, it became possible to reproduce the historic ambiance of the elements of the windows, doors and alcove thanks to the original drapery samples of the Imperial Bedchamber. In addition, when working on the drapery project, the craftsmen relied on numerous colour autochromes taken in 1917, as well as pre-war black and white photographs.

PHOTO: detail of the English chintz recreated for the Imperial Bedroom

To recreate the lining fabric and lace for decorating the walls and ceiling inside the alcove, as well as the trimmings, historical samples of the same time were used. When recreating the color scheme of trimmings and carpets, the main reference point was the color palette of the chintz. Fragments of historical carpets in the halls of the Alexander Palace served as an example of the degree of pile height and density of the structure of the carpet base.

The fabrics, trimmings and carpets were made by the specialists of Renaissance Workshops for the Restoration of Antiquities (St. Petersburg). The production and hanging of curtains, marquises and draperies for the alcove – by the master of the company “Le Lux” (St. Petersburg).

The work on the reconstruction of the fabric decoration for the Imperial Bedchamber – from the preliminary design to the implementation in the material – lasted more than two years.

PHOTO: colour autochrome of the Imperial Bedroom, taken in 1917

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The Imperial Bedroom 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, 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. 18 November 2020

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