Alexander Palace to Re-Open in Summer 2020

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Members of the media get their first look at the Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II

At long last, the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve have broken their long silence on the re-opening of the Alexander Palace. On 24th October 2019, a press tour of the Alexander Palace was held,  in which members of the media were given a first-hand look at the progress of the restoration of the former Imperial residence.

The Alexander Palace was closed to visitors in August 2015. Since that time, an army of craftsmen, artists, and other experts have been working diigently to recreate the historic interiors of the private apartments of  Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, who made the palace their permanent residence from 1905

After numerous delays, the first eight interiors located on the first floor in the eastern wing of the palace, are now expected to open by the summer of 2020. The renovations have so far cost some 2 billion roubles ($42.7 million). 

In 2011, specialists from the Studio 44 architectural studio, led by Nikita Yavein, developed a project for the reconstruction, restoration, technical re-equipment and adaptation of the Alexander Palace for museum use. According to the project, the palace will become a multi-functional museum complex, which will include: permanent exhibition halls, halls for temporary exhibitions, halls for scientific research and conferences, a library, a children’s center, and premises for administration. On the ground floor (basement) there will be a cafe, lobbies with ticket offices, a cloak room, a tour desk, a museum store, as well as technical and auxiliary rooms. 

Work on the reconstruction, installation and restoration work was carried out in the basement of the building (basement deepening, reinforcement and waterproofing of foundations), most of the general construction work was performed in the above ground part of the building, as well as work on the installation of external and internal engineering networks, equipment and automation systems. Strengthening the supporting structure of the building. These works were carried out between 2012-2016.

The first visitors to discover the new historic interiors, in which the bulk of the work has already been completed, include the Reception, Working Study, Valet ‘s Room, and the Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II, as well as the Suite, the Pallisandar (Rosewood) Room, the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, and the Imperial Bedroom of Alexandra Feodorovna.

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Map of the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace

In an effort to recreate the historic interiors, restorers have relied on amateur photographs of the rooms taken by members of the Imperial family, from the Russian state archives, and the 1917 auto-chromes, which provide them with the original colours of the interior elements and decoration. In addition, fabrics have been recreated for the decoration of the rooms, from original samples stored in the Tsarskoye Selo and Pavlovsk State Museum-Reserves. These include chintz (waxed cotton fabric with printed patterns) in the Imperial Bedroom, silk in the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, rep weaves (cotton and silk fabric) in the Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room.

During the restoration, original elements of the historical decoration of the interiors were preserved, including oak wall panels, coffered wooden plafonds, and ceramic tiles.

Work is being carried out at the expense of funds allocated by the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation; the museum’s own funds, as well as charitable donations (the Transsoyuz Charitable Fund allocated 17 million rubles for the restoration of the Marble (Mountain) Hall with a slide). Funds from the federal budget were allocated for general construction work between 2012-2017. Since 2016, the museum has been additionally investing money that it has earned from admission ticket sales to the nearby Catherine Palace. The final completion of work on the Alexander Palace is planned no earlier than 2022.

With the opening of the eight historic interiors, visitors will also have the opportunity to visit the Emperor’s New Study, as well as the rooms of the Library, Empress Alexandra’s Formal Reception Room, and the Maple Drawing Room, the latter of which will be recreated with a historical spatial solution (after the Great Patriotic War, this hall was divided into two), the mezzanine and plaster molding, built-in furniture have been recreated.

The personal apartments for Emperor Nicholas II (then Tsesarevich and Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich) and his wife Alexandra Fedorovna were placed in the former “retinue” half of the Alexander Palace. Alterations began in 1894 under the leadership of Alexander Vidov and Alexander Bach. Then, after the death of Vidov, they were briefly led by Silvio Danini, who, in turn, was replaced by Roman Meltzer.

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The main corridor in the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace

Reception of Nicholas II

From 1905, the Alexander Palace became the main imperial residence, and therefore the epicenter of the state, and the layout of the working premises strictly followed the court ceremonial. Officials who arrived for an audience with the tsar, arrived in the Reception Hall, where the adjutants were constantly on duty. The room was decorated by the company of the Meltzer brothers in 1899. The walls are surrounded by high massive oak panels with shelves; an oak coffered ceiling and a fireplace of dark green marble in an oak casing with a pyramidal finish in the corner of the interior complete its decoration. The reception has largely been preserved, the finish of which was completed after the German occupation of 1941-1944.

Work in the Reception Room of Nicholas II : restoration of oak panels, parquet, fireplace, ceiling and fabric, manufacturing of a built-in sofa.

The Working Study of Nicholas II

Decorated in the years 1896-1897, it was here that the emperor received his ministers daily, listened to reports, and reviewed documents. The decoration and furniture of the Study – panels, built-in wardrobes, as well as a desk and chairs – were made of walnut wood. Here was the personal library of Nicholas II , which totaled about 700 volumes of military, historical literature, books on state affairs, fiction and periodicals. The interior was destroyed during the Nazi occupation.

Work in the office of Nicholas II : recreation of curtains, fireplace, panels, walnut furniture, carpet.

Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II

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Tsarskoye Selo Director Olga Taratynova discusses the tiles in the Moorish Bathroom © Fontanka.ru

Decorated in the Moorish style, the emperor’s bathroom was designed with a swimming pool with a capacity of more than a thousand buckets of water. The pool was filled with water of the right temperature in a few minutes. From the corridor, the pool was separated by an openwork partition made of maple, from which a ceiling was also made. On the site in front of the pool was a fireplace, tiled with oriental ornaments. The pool and the design of the bathroom were carried out according to the project and under the guidance of the architect and engineer Rochefort. In the apartments of Nicholas II, the Moorish was the only room for relaxation. The interior was lost during the Great Patriotic War.

Works in the Moorish restroom: during the cleaning of the room under the floor, fragments of the original ceramics were discovered, which allowed restorers to more fully and accurately recreate the pattern and determine the color of the tiles. Recreated: fireplace, pool, partition, fabrics, carpet.

Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room

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Rosewood or Pallisander Living Room © Press Service of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum

This interior was designed by Roman Meltzer in 1896-1897. The architect chose rosewood as the main finishing material – an expensive wood, which was imported from abroad. High wall panels with a shelf, framing of a fireplace installed in a corner and furniture were made of rosewood. In the first years of their life in the palace, Nicholas II and Alexandra Fedorovna often spent time in this room, which also became a favourite place for breakfast and dinner of the Imperial family.

Works in the Rosewood living room : fabric patterns of walls, drapes, panels and a rosewood fireplace decorated with fabric inserts and facets with special facets were recreated according to historical samples .

Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir

Over the two decades of Alexandra Fedorovna’s life in Russia, the Mauve or Lilac Boudoir – her favorite room in the Alexander Palace, created by Roman Meltzer – has never been redesigned, despite the change in artistic fashion at the turn of the century. To decorate the interior, silk – mauve with a pattern of interwoven vertical threads – was ordered from the Parisian company Charles Bourget. The wood panels at the bottom of the walls and the furniture designed by Meltzer in imitation of the Rococo style were painted in two colors resembling ivory. Many furnishings, a corner sofa, half cabinets are built-in and connected with wall panels. Here the emperor and the empress with their children often drank coffee after breakfast, gathered for evening tea, and it was in this room where Alexandra Feodorovna spent many hours working and reading.

Works in the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir: according to historical patterns, fabric upholstery of walls, curtains, built-in furniture, carpet, wood panels, fireplace, picturesque frieze were recreated.

Imperial Bedroom

In 1873, mother of Alexandra Fedorovna, Princess Alice stayed here, who travelled to Russia for the wedding of her brother, the Duke of Edinburgh, and Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna. The bedroom was arranged in this room without significant alterations. The architect tightened the walls and the partition with the English chinet ( Charles Hindley ) chosen by Alexandra Fedorovna .

Work in the Bedroom : recreated alcove, fabric upholstery, curtains, carpet.

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Detail of the Maple Drawing Room © Anastasia and Denis Smirnov

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The New Study of Nicholas II © Press Service of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum

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Staircase in the New Study of Nicholas II © Anastasia and Denis Smirnov

Other rooms which are also being restored include the New Study of Nicholas II, in which the balcony connecting it to the Maple Room will be reconstructed, the Marble or Mountain, which once housed a great slide, taking up half of the room, as well as the Small and Large Libraries.

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Marble or Mountain Hall © Fontanka.ru

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Marble or Mountain Hall © Fontanka.ru

REFERENCE

The Alexander Palace was constructed in 1792 by order of the Empress Catherine II, for her beloved grandson, Grand Duke Alexander Pavlovich (future Emperor Alexander ) and Grand Duchess Elizabeth Alekseevna. The creator of the project is the Italian architect Giacomo Quarenghi. From 1905, the palace became the permanent residence of Emperor Nicholas II, who was born here in 1868. The last 12 years of the reign of the Russian emperor and his family were spent here, It was from here that the Imperial family were sent into exile to Tobolsk on 1st August 1917.

In 1918, the Alexander Palace was opened to visitors as a state museum. Later, the NKVD (People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs) used the west wing as a rest home, and the orphanage was located on the second floor of the east wing, in the former rooms of the children of Nicholas II .

During the fascist occupation of the city of Pushkin, the German headquarters and the Gestapo were located here, in the cellars there was a prison. The square in front of the palace was turned into a cemetery for SS soldiers.

After the war, the palace was mothballed and in 1946 transferred to the USSR Academy of Sciences to store the collections of the Institute of Russian Literature. The building was being prepared for a large-scale exhibition dedicated to the 150th anniversary of A.S. Pushkin. In this regard, in 1947-1951, restoration work began in the building, during which it was planned to restore the preserved interiors of Quarenghi and surviving fragments of decoration. During the work, many elements of the Maple and Rosewood living rooms, as well as the Moorish restroom, were destroyed. In 1951, the Alexander Palace was transferred to the Naval Department, and the palace collection, which was part of the evacuated items in the Central repository of museum funds of suburban palaces-museums, was received at the Pavlovsk Palace Museum.

The palace was transferred to the jurisdiction of the Tsarskoye Selo Museum-Reserve in October 2009, and in June 2010, during the celebration of the 300th anniversary of Tsarskoye Selo, three State Halls were opened after restoration.

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The Alexander Palace remains surrounded by a fence

Source: Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve. Translated from Russian  by Paul Gilbert

© Paul Gilbert. 31 October 2019

 

 

NEW photos reveal progress of the reconstruction of historic interiors in the Alexander Palace

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The Alexander Palace in Tsarskoye Selo surrounded by the colours of autumn

These are indeed exciting times for those of us, who share an interest in the last Russian Imperial Family. The recreation of the historic interiors of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna in the Alexander Palace, has to rank among the most exciting restoration projects since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The restoration and reconstruction of the Alexander Palace has generated tremendous interest since the palace-museum was closed in August 2015. There is much optimism that several historic interiors will be open to the public at the end of 2019, or early 2020. I for one, am looking forward to travelling to St. Petersburg next year, to see these rooms in all their glory.

NOTE: these four photographs reveal the most recent results of the reconstruction of the Alexander Palace interiors, courtesy of 66salomon1986@Instagram

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The curtains have been installed in the Imperial Bedroom in the Alexander Palace
PHOTO: 66salomon1986@Instagram

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The corner fireplace in the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room in the Alexander Palace
PHOTO: 66salomon1986@Instagram

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The corner fireplace in the Tsar’s Working-Study in the Alexander Palace
PHOTO: 66salomon1986@Instagram

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Stunning view of Nicholas II’s Bathroom, includes the fireplace and bath in the Alexander Palace
PHOTO: 66salomon1986@Instagram

Click HERE to review more articles, news and photos about the history and restoration of the Alexander Palace from Nicholas II. Emperor. Tsar. Saint. and HERE from Royal Russia News

© Paul Gilbert. 26 September 2019

Photos of the Reconstruction of the Historic Interiors of the Alexander Palace

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I am pleased to present these new photographs of the ongoing reconstruction of the historic interiors and the recreation of their respective furnishings and elements of the Private Apartments of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, situated in the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace.

These images are courtesy of Studio44, ArtCorpus interiors, and Stavros (St. Petersburg), the firms commissioned to carry out this important project.

According to Stavros, the reconstruction of the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir is nearing completion, including the installation of the wall panels, doors and furniture. The next stage is the launch of the production of furniture for the Maple Drawing Room.

Reconstruction of the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir

Reconstruction of the Maple Drawing Room

Reconstruction of Nicholas II’ Bathroom

The Alexander Palace, has been closed for restoration since August 2015. The palace was scheduled to reopen in July 2018,  however, numerous delays have pushed now back the reopening date to the end of 2019.

For more articles and photographs of the reconstruction and recreation of the historic interiors of the Private Apartments of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna in the Alexander Palace, please refer to the following:

Reconstruction of Nicholas II’s Bathroom in the Alexander Palace + 13 PHOTOS

Recreation of Furniture for Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir Underway + 7 PHOTOS

Furniture for Interiors of the Alexander Palace to be Recreated + 6 PHOTOS

Will the Alexander Palace Open in 2019?

If you found this post interesting, please support my research by purchasing one of my Nicholas II 2020 Calendars

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© Paul Gilbert. 31 August 2019

Controversy over portrait of Empress Alexandra Fedorovna in Pavlovsk

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Portrait of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. Artist: A. Muller-Norden. Canvas, oil. 1896

This lovely portrait of the Empress Alexandra Fedorovna is among my favourites. It reflects the Empress’s youth and beauty, years before the burdens of Court life and her son’s illness took their toll on her health.

Before the 1917 Revolution, the portrait hung in the Tsar’s Reception Room in the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo. It is currently in the collection of the Pavlovsk State Museum.

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Muller-Norden originally hung in the tsar’s Reception Room in the Alexander Palace

Given that neither Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna lived at Pavlovsk, how did this portrait end up the palace-museum collection?

‘In 1951 a government decision handed the Alexander Palace to the Ministry of Defense. The Naval Department used the building as a top-secret, submarine tracking research institute of the Baltic Fleet. As a result, the former palace would be strictly off-limits to visitors for the next 45 years.

‘The palace’s stocks that were among the evacuated items in the Central Repository of Museum Stocks from the Suburban Palace-Museums passed to the Pavlovsk Palace Museum. A total of 5,615 items were moved from the palace to Pavlovsk. Of these, nearly 200 pieces were originally from the Alexander Palaces’ three ceremonial halls: the Portrait, Semi-Circular and Marble Halls. These include 39 pieces of porcelain, 41 paintings, 73 decorative bronze pieces, and 28 pieces of furniture.’

Source: ‘My Russia. The Rebirth of the Alexander Palace’ by Paul Gilbert. Published in ‘Royal Russia No. 3 (2013), pgs. 1-11

Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, and in particular since the restoration of the Alexander Palace, the return of these objects has been a bone of contention between the two palace-museums. During a visit to Pavlovsk several years ago, I raised the subject with one of the Directors at Pavlovsk. “If we return these exhibits to the Alexander Palace, then we [Pavlovsk] will have nothing,” he declared.

Personally, I believe that Pavlovsk have a moral responsibility to return all of the items transferred there in 1951. Their history belongs to the Alexander Palace. It seems that the Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation Vladimir Medinsky will have the final say. Let us hope that he does the right thing, and order the return of these items to the Alexander Palace, where they can be put on display in the rooms from which they originated.

© Paul Gilbert. 20 August 2019

The Alexander Palace as a Museum 1918-1951

During the Soviet years, the Alexander Palace was established as a museum. This video shows a group walking through the former rooms of Nicholas II and his family. The year of 1918 is noted in the video, however, this is incorrect – PG

In 1918 the former residence of Tsar Nicholas II and his family was established as a museum and open to the public. The exhibit included the historical interiors
in the central part of the building and the private apartments of the last tsar and his family located in the east wing of the palace.

In 1919, the west wing was turned into a rest home for staff of the People’s commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD), while on the second floor of the east wing the former rooms of Nicholas II’s children became an orphanage named after the “Young Communards”.

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Enfilade of ceremonial halls of the Alexander Palace. 1920s

The Soviet regime were hostile towards the ‘Romanov Museum,’ and made constant threats throughout the 1930s to close the museum and sell off its treasures. Luckily, the museum staff managed to dissuade the government from this step and the museum operated up until the beginning of the Second World War.

In the first months after the Nazi invasion chandeliers, carpets, some items of furniture, eighteenth-century marble and porcelain articles were evacuated from the Alexander Palace. Most of the palace furnishings remained in the halls.

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A cemetery for members of the SS was established in front of the Alexander Palace 

During the occupation of Pushkin the palace housed the German army staff and the Gestapo. The cellars became a prison and the square in front of the palace a cemetery for members of the SS.

The palace survived World War II with minor damage, according to military records—unlike the Catherine Palace, the Palace of Pavlovsk and the Grand Palace of Peterhof, which were almost completely destroyed during the German occupation. Although the exterior was damaged, the majority of the interiors were reported as unharmed, with the exception of some rooms which received moderate to serious shell damage.

The palace had been looted by the retreating Nazi’s which resulted in many of the palaces works of art, furniture and other items being stolen. According to the Ministry of Cultural Affairs of the Russian Federation, registered inventory for the Alexander Palace had—30,382 items, of which 22,628 items were recorded as lost or stolen at the end of World War II.

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Representatives of the State Emergency Commission and museum workers examine the destruction of the large central hall of the Alexander Palace. Photo by S. G. Gasilov. May 1944.

At the end of the war the Alexander Palace was mothballed. Conservation work was carried out in the palace and in 1946 it was handed over to the USSR Academy of Sciences for the storage of the collections of its Institute of Russian Literature and to house a display of the All-Union Pushkin Museum. As a consequence in 1947-51 refurbishment began in the palace, in the course of which it was intended to restore the surviving Quarenghi interiors and extant fragments of décor and also to recreate the interiors from the time of Nicholas I and Nicholas II. However, during the work many elements in the décor of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna’s Maple and Palisander Drawing-Rooms, as well as Nicholas II’s (Moresque) Dressing-Room were actually destroyed. These rooms of the palace were recreated to a project by the architect L.M. Bezverkhny (1908–1963) “in accordance with the architectural norms of the time of Quarenghi and Pushkin”.

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Opening day of the All-Union Museum of A. S. Pushkin (Alexander Palace), on
10th June 1949

In 1951 a government decision handed the Alexander Palace to the Ministry of Defense. The Naval Department used the building as a top-secret, submarine tracking research institute of the Baltic Fleet. As a result, the former palace would be strictly off-limits to visitors for the next 45 years.

The palace’s stocks that were among the evacuated items in the Central Repository of Museum Stocks from the Suburban Palace-Museums passed to the Pavlovsk Palace Museum. A total of 5,615 items were moved from the palace to Pavlovsk. Of these, nearly 200 pieces were originally from the Alexander Palaces’ three ceremonial halls: the Portrait, Semi-Circular and Marble Halls. These include 39 pieces of porcelain, 41 paintings, 73 decorative bronze pieces, and 28 pieces of furniture.

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Pavlovsk’s collection today includes Imperial gowns originally from the Alexander Palace

It is also interesting to note that the Pavlovsk Palace Museum also have a large number of elegant evening gowns, dresses, shoes, hats, umbrellas, gloves, handbags, fans among other personal items of the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna and the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, neither of whom ever resided in Pavlovsk. They are from the Alexander Palace, however, they are now on permanent display in the Museum of the Emperor’s Dress, which is located on the ground floor, of the northern semicircular wing of Pavlovsk Palace, the ground floor.

NOTE: this text has been excerpted from ’My Russia. The Rebirth of the Alexander Palace,’ published in Royal Russia No. 3 (2013), pgs. 1-11.

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The Museum of the Russian Imperial Family in the Alexander Palace is expected to reopen at the end of 2019, or early 2020. Under restoration since August 2015, the new multi-museum complex will feature a number of reconstructed historic interiors of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna. Click HERE to read more articles about the history and restoration of the Alexander Palace

© Paul Gilbert. 8 August 2019

Photo Exhibition: Tsarskoye Selo. Residence of the Last Emperor of Russia

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The opening of the photo exhibition Tsarskoye Selo. Residence of the Last Emperor of Russia was held on Friday, 5th July in the Russian Spiritual and Cultural Orthodox Center (RDPC) in Paris. The exhibit features reproductions of unique colour images of the interiors of the Alexander and Catherine Palaces, taken several months after the abdication of Nicholas II.

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“Although the Imperial palaces had been nationalized by the Bolshevik government, they were left virtually intact,” said Victoria Plauda, ​​senior researcher at the Tsarskoye Selo Museum-Reserve, at the opening of the exhibition. According to her, it was thanks to the efforts of the creative intelligentsia of Petrograd, which included the artist Alexander Benois (1870-1960), the writer Maxim Gorky (1892-1936) and the singer Fedor Chaliapin (1873-1938), who collectively managed to achieve a thorough inventory of the former Imperial residences during which these photographs were taken.

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The photos were taken by military photographer Andrei Zeest. The corresponding task was entrusted to him by the architect and art historian George Lukomsky, who headed the Tsarskoye Selo Artistic and Historical Commission created to preserve and protect the property of the former Palace Administration. Filming in the Catherine Palace began in June 1917, and in the Alexander Palace in August, immediately after the family of the last Russian emperor Nicholas II was exiled to Tobolsk, and continued until October of the same year.

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Precision Technology

The reproductions which are currently on display in the RDPC, reflect “stunning clarity and brightness of colours” – which were amazing for that time – are particularly noteworthy. The organizers also brought 11 black-and-white photographs from the collection of the Imperial family (the originals are kept in the library of Yale University in the USA), as well as 27 auto-chromes, not made with ordinary camera film, but with the aid of special glass dies with a special coating. Due to the microscopic size of the elements (about 0.015 mm), the structure of the image is not visible even with an increase in the resulting transparency. Some visitors even asked representatives of the museum if it was just a question of copies of authentic photographs of those times, and not about modern digital photographs.

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“These photos are invaluable material for us, because we have already been working on reconstructing the historic interiors of the Alexander Palace for several years. And very soon, after a few months, our visitors will see the first restored halls of the former private apartments of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna,” the museum representative added. She also noted that the auto-chromes were invaluable to restorers and artists in the recreation of decorative items and furniture for the rooms.

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The photo exhibition Tsarskoye Selo. Residence of the Last Emperor of Russia runs until Sunday, 25th August 2019, in the Russian Spiritual and Cultural Orthodox Center (RDPC) in Paris. 

Difficult fate of a unique collection

The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve currently has more than 90 auto-chromes in their collection. In fact, there were many more of them, but after 1918 the trail of some of them was lost. After Lukomsky left the post of chairman of the Artistic and Historical Commission and went abroad, 843 images from black and white negatives and 83 color slides were transferred to the Kopeyka publishing house for reproduction in a publication prepared by Lukomsky but which never came to fruition. According to Plauda, ​​Lukomsky took some pictures after he left Russia.

Only in the post-war years (late 1950s- early 1960s) was it possible to form a collection of 45 images, transferred to the Tsarskoye Selo Museum by the heirs of the photographer Zeest and a member of the Oxford club by the Englishman G. Barrat. In June 2012, the museum acquired another 48 auto-chromes at an auction organized by the Drouot auction house in Paris.

Click HERE to view MORE colour auto-chromes of the Alexander Palace

© Paul Gilbert. 8 July 2019

Reconstruction of Nicholas II’s bathroom in the Alexander Palace

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PHOTO: Stavros and Artcorpus Interiors firms in St. Petersburg

My latest report on the reconstruction of the private apartments of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna in the Alexander Palace, and the recreation of their historic interiors, provides an update on the Tsar’s Bathroom – PG

The reconstruction and restoration of Nicholas II’s Bathroom, situated in the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace is nearing completion. The main feature is a giant heated swimming tub – where the Tsar, and Tsesarevich Alexei liked to swim. “This was all lost, but now the restorers, have completely recreated the interior, based on pieces of ceramics from the walls, and photos from the palace-museum archives,” said Director of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Olga Taratynova.

Once completed, Nicholas II’s Moorish-style Bathroom will be one of a series of rooms showcasing the private apartments of the last emperor and empress of Russia. Work is being carried out by the Stavros and Artcorpus Interiors firms in St. Petersburg.

According to Bob Atchison’s Alexander Palace Time Machine, “the Tsar’s Bathroom had a giant heated swimming tub on a platform which also led, via a glass and wood door, to his toilet, which was a dark room hung with an assortment of pictures including a humorous cartoon of Nicholas driving a car.

“The bathroom was designed in the Moorish style by Robert-Friedrich Meltzer (1860-1943). The millwork of the room was intricately fabricated in fragrant woods. The ceiling was particularly complex. Meltzer added many interesting touches to the room including hanging glass lanterns in the shape of old mosque oil lamps. For practical reasons they were wired for electricity. He also installed magnificent antique Turkish tiles around the top of the bath. In the arcade of the tub-platform he designed elaborate patterns in Arab style.

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Nicholas II posting in front of the his elevated swimming tub in the Alexander Palace

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“It was great fun for the Tsar’s children, when they received permission from their father, to use his bath. A thick cord prevented falling into the bath by accident. The swimming bath was huge, it held 500 pails of water [1000 according to the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve-PG] and had its’ own powerful special hydraulics to rapidly pump hot water from the basement boiler up into the tub. Nicholas ordered the bath to be constructed in the palace in 1896 after seeing a similar bath on one of his estates. He used it almost every day. A special servant was assigned to maintain the equipment below and a second servant was assigned to keep the bath spotless after every use.

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“Outside the tub platform, Nicholas installed a chinning bar (seen in above photo), seen in a photograph, taken in 1917. The Tsar was passionate about exercise and also had a similar chinning bar in his train. He also had weights in his bathroom for working out. 

“On the back wall, by the left hand side of the door leading to the Tsar’s Working Study, was a collection of ions and hanging Easter eggs. To the right was draped an embroidered cloth with a double-headed eagle, probably the work of Alexandra or one of the girls. [The embroidered cloth with a double-headed eagle, can also be seen in the 1917 posted above-PG]

“Nicholas kept a large collection of Fabergé cigarette cases on the table in front of the window. He put up a display of gifts and small objects from his children in the bathroom. These included porcelain penguins and dancing girls. A floral watercolor painted by his daughter, Marie, and dated May 1917, hung on the door from the bathroom to the Working Study.”

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Reconstruction of the Tsar’s Bath or swimming tub

The Alexander Palace, has been closed for restoration since August 2015. The palace was scheduled to reopen in July 2018,  however, numerous delays have pushed now back the reopening date to the end of 2019. 

“We really want to make everyone happy for the new year. But in any case, the recovery process is underway and has already progressed significantly. So if not at the end of December 2019, then in the first quarter of 2020, the Alexander Palace will open its doors,” says the Director of the Tsarskoye Selo Palace Museum.

For more information on the reconstruction and restoration of the Alexander Palace, please refer to the following articles:

Recreation of Furniture for Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir Underway

Furniture for interiors of the Alexander Palace to be recreated

© Paul Gilbert. 16 June 2019

Recreation of Furniture for Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir Underway

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Two views of the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir in the Alexander Palace, as it looked in 1917

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Note the many photos of the Imperial family on the side table and shelves above the sofa

For those of you who have been following the restoration of the Alexander Palace, I am pleased to announce that work on the recreation of furniture for the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna’s Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir is now underway.

According to Stavros (St. Petersburg), the firm commissioned to recreate the furniture for the historic interiors of the Alexander Palace: “We are now creating pieces for the Lilac Room. These include the frame of the sofa and wall panels.”

The Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir suffered greatly during the Second World War. It was located in the suite of rooms, between the Imperial Bedroom and the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room, and did not have a separate exit to the corridor. At one time, the walls were covered with high-quality gorgon lilac silk fabric, with vertical narrow paired stripes, and the lower part was decorated with wooden panels. During the war years, the room was completely burned out, only a few photographs remind us of it’s former luxury. 

The project is part of a recreation of the Private Apartments of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, situated in the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace. 

Since the closing of the Alexander Palace in 2015, the Tsarskoye Selo Palace Museum have been very tight lipped about the restoration itself. Very little information has been released to the media, and barely mentioned on their official website. As a result, it has been an endless source of frustration trying to obtain any reliable updates on progress of the restoration. Dates for the reopening of the palace have been delayed on numerous occasions, often simply due to the lack of funding.

According to the latest information, the restoration of the Alexander Palace as a multi-museum complex is not expected to be completed until 2022 – at the earliest!

For more information on the restoration of the Alexander Palace, please refer to my article Furniture for the interiors of the Alexander Palace to be re-created (9th March 2019)

© Paul Gilbert. 22 May 2019

Photos 37 – 40 of Nicholas II

PHOTOS: Four views of Nicholas II seated in the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir

Situated in a corner of the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir of the Alexander Palace, was a large, plush arm-chair with a high backing, and covered with the Moscow-made silk. This chair is among the most photographed spots in the Alexander Palace. There are countless photos of the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, and her five children posing in the now infamous arm-chair.

Other family members who have been photographed in this spot include the Empress’s sister Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna with her husband Grand Duke Alexander “Sandro” Mikhailovich, and Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna.

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Copy of the now famous chair in the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir of the Alexander Palace

The original chair did not survive, however, a copy of the chair was made in 2000, and used by Russian director Gleb Panfilov to shoot a scene for Романовы. Венценосная семья (The Romanovs: An Imperial Family), a film on the last days of Tsar Nicholas II and his family. The copy of the chair remains part of the collection of furniture in the Alexander Palace to this day.

I must apologize for the quality of some of the photographs, however, this is something which I have no control over. Where possible, photographs have been chosen for their visual impact, but historical accuracy has made it vital to include a number of photographs whose quality is poor, but whose value as historical documents is considerable. Sadly, during the Soviet years, many photographs of the Imperial family were stored under poor conditions and their standard is low – PG

© Paul Gilbert. 18 March 2019

Furniture for interiors of the Alexander Palace to be recreated

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PHOTO: The corner fireplace is being recreated (right) for the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room (left) in the Alexander Palace. © Stavros

The following update on the restoration of the Alexander Palace is sure to be of great interest to those of you who are following this important project in Tsarskoye Selo

The Imperial Bedroom, the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, and the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Rooms of the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoye Selo will soon be furnished with exact replicas of their lost furniture. The work is being carried out by Stavros (St. Petersburg), a firm who manufactures fine wood furniture and interiors. 

This project is part of the recreation of the Private Apartments of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, situated in the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace. The total amount for the recreation of furniture for these rooms is currently estimated at 16 million rubles ($240,000 USD).

Not long after the Imperial family were exiled to Siberia in August 1917, a museum was established within the Alexander Palace. It operated until the beginning of the Second World War. At the beginning of the war, the most valuable furnishings were evacuated to the interior of the country. The remaining parts of the collection were hidden in the basement. During the Nazi occupation, the palace was used as headquarters for the German military command, the basement was used as a prison. The area in front of the palace was turned into a cemetery for SS soldiers. Artistically and historically unique collections were partially destroyed. As the Nazi German forces were leaving the Soviet Union, many of the former imperial palaces were set ablaze. The Alexander Palace was spared, however, according to the testimony of the Soviet military leader Anatoly Kuchumov, many interiors were destroyed, and many pieces of their remaining collections stolen by Nazi soldiers.

During the years after the war, as interest in Nicholas II and his family was discouraged by the Soviet regime, so too was interest in the palace that had been their residence.

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The Imperial Bedroom (above) was situated between the Dressing Room of Alexandra Feodorovna and the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir. The walls and furniture were lined with pink English Chintz print. Two vitrines contained jewellery, including the famous Fabergé Imperial Easter eggs. Set in an alcove was the Imperial bed made up of two gilt-bronze twin beds. Behind it were hundreds of icons and religious items hung on cords. To the right of the bed was an icon-stand. Most of the icons and other items, totaling 700, were gifts to the Imperial family from important monasteries, churches, religious organizations, military units and private persons. The room and its furnishings have did not survive the war.

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The Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir (above) suffered greatly during the Second World War. It was located in the suite of rooms, between the Imperial Bedroom and the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room, and did not have a separate exit to the corridor. At one time, the walls were covered with high-quality gorgon lilac silk fabric, with vertical narrow paired stripes, and the lower part was decorated with wooden panels. During the war years, the room was completely burned out, only a few photographs remind us of it’s former luxury. 

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The Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room (above), was located between the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir and Maple Drawing Room. Nicholas II called it the “Chippendale Room” because of several furniture pieces made in the Chippendale style, including the fireplace. At the same time, the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room also served as a dining room, where the Imperial family gathered for afternoon tea. After the occupation, only the doors and the upper part of the fireplace survived, the upholstery of the walls and wall panels disappeared, and the beautiful stucco cover partially collapsed. 

The restoration of the Alexander Palace will be carried out in three stages over the next year and a half. Other historic interiors to be recreated include the Library, the Maple Drawing-Room and the Corner Drawing-Room of Alexandra Feodorovna.

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In 2000, the New (State) Study of Nicholas II (above) was used by Russian director Gleb Panfilov to shoot a scene for Романовы. Венценосная семья (The Romanovs: An Imperial Family), a film on the last days of Tsar Nicholas II and his family. Reproductions of furniture were made for the film and remain on display in the room to this day.

For more information on the restoration of the Alexander Palace, please refer to my article 1.2 Billion Rubles Allocated for Restoration of the Alexander Palace – published 20th January 2019

© Paul Gilbert. 9 March 2019