The History and Restoration of the Working Study of Nicholas II in the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: view of the Working Study of Nicholas II, as it looked in 1917

The Working Study of Emperor Nicholas II was decorated in 1896-1897, by Roman Meltzer (1860-1943) and furniture master Karl Grinberg. Grinberg was invited to repair the existing furniture from the mid-1870s. He had previously performed work on the decoration of the apartments of the daughter of Emperor Alexander II (1818-1881) Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna (1853-1920) and her husband the Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (Duke of Edinburgh, 1844-1900).

The interior was decorated in the English style, with the upper walls painted a dark red and walnut panels on the bottom. The furniture was also made of walnut and upholstered in green morocco leather. One side of the room was occupied by a large ottoman (a copy of the one in the study of Emperor Alexander III), upholstered with a Persian carpet, as well as an L-shaped writing desk. Above it, a lamp was attached to a special rod, which easily rose and fell to the desired height. Next to the table was an Italian Savonarola armchair, decorated with carvings and upholstered in brown leather.

As the name implies, this business-style room was intended for work – here the Emperor read papers, including numerous correspondence, received foreign ministers and dignitaries and listened to reports.

PHOTOS: views of the Working Study of Nicholas II, as it looked in 1917


The interior was decorated with vases, mantel clocks, jubilee and souvenir glasses, miniature watercolours and photographs of the Imperial family and their relatives. Since Nicholas II loved to smoke, the Study was also filled with objects for smoking – pipes, cigarette cases, lighters, and ashtrays.

The Working Study featured special built-in cupboards with shelves which held about one thousand books from the Emperor’s library. Among these were biographies and memoirs, Russian and military history, as well as politics and religion, as well as albums, magazines, manuscripts and brochures.

Between 1918-1930s, the Study along with the other private apartments of the Imperial family was part of the museum, created by the Bolsheviks, unfortunately, it was completely lost during the Great Patriotic War (1941-45).

PHOTO: the current look of the recreated Working Study of Nicholas II

The recreated interior features wood paneling, built-in furniture and a carpet. The curtains were restored according to the samples preserved in the museum’s funds. Thanks to the pieces of tiles found in the pool of the Emperor’s Moorish Bathroom, it was possible to accurately restore the finish of the fireplace. The recreation of items of furniture will include an ottoman, a desk with a a lamp, and armchairs. Paintings and mantel clocks preserved in the funds of the Pavlovsk Museum-Reserve will be returned to the Alexander Palace to decorate the study.

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The Working Study of Nicholas II 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, Reception Room of Nicholas II, Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, Maple Drawing Room, 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 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

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