PHOTO: the fireplace and mirror recreated for the mezzanine connecting the New Study of Nicholas II and the Maple Drawing Room of Alexandra Feodorovna in the Alexander Palace
Specialists of the Yuzhakova Studio in St. Petersburg have completed complex and painstaking work on the glass lighting fixtures in the various interiors of the Alexander Palace. Among their recreations are the replenishment of the blue overflow on the Moorish plafond in the Tsar’s Bathroom, the restoration of crystal pendants, obelisks and the reconstruction of the lost cobalt balusters on the Catherine chandelier, the restoration of a crack on the 18th century flask of the lantern of the Great Library, as well as the replenishment of the lost yellow beads on the fringe of the chandelier in the Reception Room of Nicholas II.
The interiors of the Alexander Palace were originally decorated with glass products and objects – large mirrors, luxurious chandeliers, girandoli and sconces, as well as vases and glass clock cases. These items were objects of the 18th-19th centuries of complex manufacture, demonstrating the technical achievements of Russian (Nazinskie glass factories, Irbit glass factory) and foreign glass production.
From 1895, Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna gradually filled their private apartments with objects created by Russian and foreign firms. The highest orders for the interiors of the Alexander Palace were made with the St. Petersburg imperial porcelain and glass factories, the factory of mirrors, and window. The interiors featured vases and other items from glass factories in Silesia, as well as the French glassmakers Emile Galle (Nancy), and the Brothers Dom firm.
During the decoration of the private interiors of the August couple in the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace, the architect Roman Feodorovich Meltser’s (1860-1943) continued the tradition of using the best modern glass products, decorating the transom windows with cathedral glass, for both the Reception Room and Working Study of Nicholas II.
For the lighting fixtures of the Emperor’s New Study, 25 coloured glass shades were used for the design of the Tiffany-style “tulip lanterns”.
According to Meltzer’s plan, the New Study of Nicholas II and the Maple Drawing Room of Alexandra Feodorovna were united by a mezzanine. In the Maple Drawing Room, the architect arranged a mezzanine in the design of a balcony, the side rails of which in the upper part were decorated with stylized floral ornament glazing. According to Melzer’s project, the stained-glass frame of the mezzanine fireplace mirror was manufactured and electrified. A high screen, also decorated with stained glass stood near the door of the room. Sadly, these exquisite decorative glass elements of the Maple Drawing Room did not survive.
PHOTO: view of the fireplace mirror recreated for the mezzanine connecting the New Study of Nicholas II and the Maple Drawing Room of Alexandra Feodorovna in the Alexander Palace
The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum decided to recreate them on the basis of design documentation developed by the Studio 44 architectural bureau, prepared from photographs from the early 20th century and 1930s. The reconstruction of the decorative glass with facet and the stained glass frame of the fireplace mirror was carried out in 2020 by the masters of the Yuzhakova Studio. The lack of historical fragments and clear photographs complicated the work: it was necessary to study analogs – coloured glass of the Art Nouveau era. Natalia Yuzhakova selected and used glasses identical in texture and colour. Since the stained-glass frame was convex, the cut-out elements from the layers of stained glass were heated in an oven and bent to the desired configuration. During manufacture, the tin frame was checked against a pre-made template.
The work on the manufacture of the frame was carried out by the master Valery Matrosov. Natalia Yuzhakova selected and used glasses identical in texture and colour. Since the stained-glass frame was convex, the cut-out elements from the layers of stained glass were heated in an oven and bent to the desired configuration. During manufacture, the tin frame was checked against a pre-made template.
In the same workshop, mirrors of complex configuration with facet were made for the Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, and the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, as well as a glass vase of the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir chandelier.
The chandelier for twelve candles from the historical collection of the museum was made in 1858 at the factory of the famous St. Petersburg bronzer Felix Chopin and was originally located in the rooms of Empress Maria Alexandrovna (1824-1880) in the Zubov Wing of the Catherine Palace. A special decoration of this lighting device was a central vase in the form of a jug made of coloured glass (lost during the war) with a bronze openwork lid (preserved). When recreating the glass part with the shape and size of the vase, there were no difficulties – it was clearly visible on archived black-and-white photographs, and with the colour of the glass, designated as “purple” in the inventories, it was more difficult. During the discussions, a mauve shade was approved, corresponding to the colour of the wall upholstery and furniture set in the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir.
In the process of recreating the chandelier vase, experts made several attempts to blow out the glass piece. It was not immediately possible to obtain the desired shade of colour and saturation, since manganese oxide, used as a dye, can change its colour at high temperatures, which, in turn, affects the colour of the finished product. In addition, the base and neck of the vase should fit snugly against the adjacent parts of the chandelier – the lower bronze rosette and the openwork lid, taking into account that the lower part of the vase is held together by six gilded bronze holders in the form of narrow leafy shoots. Therefore, in the manufacture of chandeliers, bronze masters, as a rule, first acquired finished blown glass parts of the required size, shape and colour.
© Paul Gilbert. 15 July 2021