The History and Restoration of the Maple Drawing Room in the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: view of the Maple Drawing Room, as it looked in 1917

The Maple Drawing Room in the Alexander Palace is a vivid example of the Russian Art Nouveau Style. This interior, as well as the New Study of Nicholas II and the children’s rooms on the second floor, was created on the site of the former Concert Hall, built according to the design of Giacomo Quarenghi (1744-1817), which had not been used for its intended purpose for many years.

The works were carried out by the Meltzer brothers’ firm in 1902–1904. The walls were painted a warm pink colour and decorated with mouldings of rose stems, foliage and flowers unfolding along the upper walls and ceiling.

Roman Meltzer proposed an original solution for lighting the Maple Drawing Room: along the perimeter of the room, separating the walls from the ceiling plafond, there was a large cornice that masked about two hundred electrical lamps.

PHOTO: former Concert Hall before its demolition

A mezzanine was installed which connected the room to the Emperor’s New Study. Its decoration was a “Tiffany style” mantel mirror in a metal frame with multi-coloured glass inserts featuring stylized roses.

The interior had several cozy corners where the Empress could do needlework, reading and painting. The children often played or did their homework in this room, the family often joined the Empress in this room at five o’clock for tea..

The Maple Drawing Room was decorated with a showcase, the walls and a door made of mirrored glass.  It contained Faberge’s Imperial Easter Eggs from the collection of Alexandra Feodorovna, as well as Italian Venetian glass vases.

The drawing room was always decorated with fresh flowers: tropical plants and palms were placed in tubs, cut flowers of different varieties from the garden and nursery were placed in vases year-round.

PHOTO: post-war view of the Maple Drawing Room

The interior decoration was significantly damaged during the Great Patriotic War (1941-45). In the post-war period, during the adaptation of the palace as the Pushkin Museum, some of the surviving elements of the Maple Drawing Room – including parts of the mezzanine and wall mouldings – were destroyed as objects of “no value”.

Researchers, architects, designers and restorers have carried out a large and complex work to recreate the stucco decoration of the room’s historic interior, including the carved mezzanine and built-in maple furniture, returning the interior to its original appearance.

PHOTOS: the current look of the recreated Maple Drawing Room

PHOTOS: the current look of the recreated Maple Drawing Room

The stucco decoration was recreated from surviving colour autochromes, vintage photographs and rare analogs, for example, the preserved decoration in the mansion of Heinrich Gilse van der Pals on Angliysky Prospekt in St. Petersburg, where the same decorative technique was used.

The mezzanine which originally connected the Maple Drawing Room to the Emperor’s New Study had been sealed off when the Alexander Palace reopened as a museum in the 1990s. During the current restoration process, when the walls were opened which connected the two rooms, a small fragment of the original decoration of the Maple Drawing Room was discovered, which assisted experts with regard to the original shade of pink and the design of the rose-stucco reliefs used in the original interior.

The unique lighting system used in the Maple Drawing Room will also be restored.

PHOTO: Empress Alexandra Feodorovna on the Alexander Palace balcony

It was from the Maple Drawing Room that Empress Alexandra could step out onto her iron balcony, through a door in one of the room’s large windows. The famous balcony was created in 1896 by the Court architect Silvio Amvrosievich Danini (1867-1942). The balcony was a favourite place for the Empress and her family year-round, even during the cold Russian winters. They often took their meals and teas here Heavy curtains were hung between the columns of the balcony to provide protection from sun or bad weather. It was here that many iconic photos of the Imperial Family were taken.

Sadly, the balcony did not survive to the present day, and despite the extensive restoration work carried out in the Alexander Palace, there are no plans to recreate the balcony at this time. Having said that, let us hope that if funding should be made possible, that the palace administration will reconsider such a project for the future.

***

The Maple Drawing Room is one of 15 interiors situated 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.

***

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 or click HERE to buy one of my Nicholas II calendars – the net proceeds help fund my work. Thank you for your consideration – PG

© Paul Gilbert. 25 November 2020

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s