PHOTO: the portrait of Emperor Nicholas II, painted by Nun Emeliana (Batalov), still bears the cuts made by Bolshevik bayonets in 1917
During his reign, Emperor Nicholas II never visited the Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent in Ekaterinburg, however, when a request was made by one of the nuns to paint his portrait came, the Emperor granted this favour. It was Nun Emeliana (Batalov), who painted the portrait of the Emperor wearing the uniform of the Life-Guards Hussar Regiment. The portrait – a gift marking the 1896 coronation – was sent to Moscow, where it was presented to the new Emperor at a reception held in the Grand Kremlin Palace. Nicholas was so pleased with the portrait, that he ordered that it be sent to St Petersburg, where it was to be hung in one of the rooms of his private apartments in the Winter Palace.
In October 1917, during the assault on the Winter Palace, the portrait was cut by the bayonets of Bolshevik thugs. For the next 12 years, the portrait sat gathering dust in the attic of the Winter Palace, until it was transferred to Museum of the October Revolution in Leningrad. During the Soviet years, the portrait hung in the museum or more than 70 years. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the portrait was restored, leaving, however, the cuts made by the bayonets as a poignant reminder of the dark days of the Bolshevik Revolution which swept Russia and the monarchy into an abyss.
Today, the portrait hangs in the Museum of Political History of Russia (located in the former mansion of Mathilde Kschessinska) in St. Petersburg.
© Paul Gilbert. 29 November 2022