The History and Restoration of Nicholas II’s Moorish Bathroom in the Alexander Palace

The Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II as it looked in the 1930s

The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve have announced that the restoration of the Moorish Bathroom – one of the most unique interiors in the private apartments of Nicholas II in the Alexander Palace – is nearing completion.

The Moorish (also called the Emperor’s Toilet, Basseinaya) acquired its original appearance in 1896-1897 when the interior was redesigned by the Russian architect Count Nikolai Ivanovich de Rochefort (1846-1905). The most famous project of Count Rochefort is the Bialowieza Palace, an imperial hunting residence, built in Poland between 1889-1894. His innovative interior included a bathroom with a small bathing pool, which served as a model for designing the Moorish Bathroom for Nicholas II in the Alexander Palace.

The interior harmoniously combined bright oriental-style tiles that adorned the fireplace and walls around the pool, metlakh tiles, which were used for the floor in front of the pool, a coffered ceiling, an openwork maple partition and a Japanese reed mat on the walls. The floor was covered with a colourful carpet. Masters of the Meltzer Trading House made the furniture for the bathroom, which included a sofa upholstered in leather, with pillows and bolsters, two types of Oriental style stools, a table with a trellis, a washbasin on the underframe, a horizontal bar for gymnastic exercises, and stands for walking sticks and hunting rifles.

The main part of the Moorish Bathroom was a bathing pool that could hold 7 thousand buckets of water, and lined with white tiles, which gave the second name to the interior – Basseinaya. Its design in the Alexander Palace featured Charcot shower jets for massage.

For the functioning of the pool, the architect created a complex engineering system, it consisted of water and waste pipes, a water-heating boiler with accessories, three water tanks located in a special room on the ground floor of the palace, located directly under the Basseinaya.

There was also a toilet located outside the door at the edge of the corridor wall.

The Moorish Bathroom’s interior decoration was lost during the Great Patriotic War (1941-45). In the summer of 1997, a permanent exhibition was opened in the eastern wing of the palace dedicated to the imperial family. The former bathroom was used as an exhibition space with parquet floors, painted walls and a white ceiling. Therefore, the restoration of the Moorish Bathroom began practically from scratch.

Photo © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve

In 2017, when dismantling the room, craftsmen discovered the Tsar’s bathing pool under the floor, and in it – a significant number of fragments of ceramic wall tiles, Metlakh tiles, belonging not only to the decoration of the Moorish, but also to other interiors of the residential half of the palace. The fragments provided restorers with the colour schemes of the interior decoration, which were reconstructed from black and white photographs taken in the 1930s. Thanks to this remarkable discovery, the restorers were able to recreate the wall cladding of the with the utmost precision.

Several fragments of the original tiles have been incorporated in the reconstructed Moorish Bathroom’s decoration; while the bathing pool and the steps leading into it have retained some of their historic tiling.

Also found during the restoration, several small fragments of the original frieze were revealed, which made it possible to clarify the colour scheme of the decorative painting, the drawing of which was determined from the black and white pre-war photographs.

In 2018–2019, the architectural elements of the interior decoration were recreated: wooden wall panels and ceiling cladding, wall tiles, a Moorish-style fireplace with decorative niches (they originally contained Faberge lamps, which were transferred to the Russian Museum in 1956), and a carved partition. The decoration of the toilet room has also been recreated. Curtains and a large carpet were made according to the historical documents and photos.

Thanks to the assistance of the Japanese Consulate General in St. Petersburg, an original mat similar to the one that adorned the walls of the Moorish Bathroom will soon be purchased in Japan.

At the moment, on the basis of existing museum inventory descriptions of 1938-1940, the design of non-preserved pieces of furniture and plumbing equipment (taps and mechanisms for introducing water into the pool) is currently underway.

Photo © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve


Photo © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve


Photo © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve


Photo © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve

Click HERE to read my article Reconstruction of Nicholas II’s bathroom in the Alexander Palace + 13 PHOTOS, published on 16th June 2019

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The Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II is one of eight interiors to open in the eastern wing of the palace, scheduled to open in December 2020. The other interiors include: the Reception of Nicholas II, Working Study of Nicholas II, Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, Imperial Bedroom, Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room, and the New Study of Nicholas II.

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 is scheduled for completion no earlier than 2022.

© 16 September 2020. Paul Gilbert

“As if the door had just closed behind them” – Anastasia Timina on the restoration of the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: Studio 44 architect-restorer Anastasia Timina

Any museum restoration and reconstruction requires the expertise of specialists: researchers, curators, architects and designers. In particular is the restoration of the iconic Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo, which began in the autumn of 2015 and is not expected to be completed no earlier than 2022.

Anastasia Timina, an architect-restorer of the Studio 44 architectural bureau, a graduate of the Stieglitz Academy, and leading architect of the Alexander Palace restoration project.

What is the difference between an architect and an architect-restorer?

The work of an architect mainly affects modern buildings and structures, but we are dealing with history, with monuments of cultural significance which need to be preserved, reconstructed and at the same time treated with the utmost care. This involves certain restrictions and additional responsibilities.

The architects of our bureau are developing a project for the reconstruction of the Alexander Palace as a multi-museum complex for modern use, filling it with modern engineering networks and communications. The main task of the bureau’s restoration department is to reconstruct the interiors of the private rooms of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna and to restore their historic interiors.

The restoration of the lost interiors is almost complete. At the moment, our department is engaged in the design of free-standing pieces of furniture for the restored interiors of the Alexander Palace based on historical photographs, descriptions and surviving samples. Fortunately, a table from the Mauve Boudoir and a chair from the Imperial Bedroom have survived, which have become standards for the manufacture of other items.

How long have you been working on the project to recreate the interiors of the Alexander Palace?

My participation began in 2014 from the stage of a detailed design. At that time I came to Studio 44 from the oldest design and restoration organization in St. Petersburg – Lenproektrestavratsiya.

The project for the reconstruction of eight interiors, which I was assigned to work on, included detailed drawings for wall decoration, built-in wall furniture, as well as sketches for the recreation of curtains for window and doorways.

The development of design documentation is divided into several stages: first, a draft design is created, showing the development of a general view and the main concept, followed by a detailed design – this is the most detailed documentation, including types of products, fragments, details, nodes at a scale of 1:1, specifications taking into account the volume and nature of the materials used.

In 2013, a draft design was completed, but having studied all the iconographic material in detail, I came to the conclusion that the working documentation required significant changes. I worked as part of a large team of architects-restorers, under the leadership of Oleg Arnoldovich Kuzevanov – the chief architect of the restoration project of the Alexander Palace. From 2016 to the present, I have been supervising the recreation of the interiors.

PHOTO: The eastern wing of the palace (highlighted on the left)
will become the Museum of the Russian Imperial Family

It is clear that this is a very complicated process. What is the most difficult task?

The most difficult task is to recreate an interior “from scratch”, to work on the project only on the basis of black and white historical photographs, often of poor quality. In the pictures, only part of the room can be seen, a complex angle is taken, there are no frontal views of the walls and interior details. Based on these images, it is necessary to understand how the space in the photograph is distorted, and to calculate the real dimensions and proportions of the projected objects. In such work, any genuine detail that has survived to our time helps, for example, fragments of fabrics. Having measured the size of the rapport and the details of the drawing, we can scale the photo and calculate the dimensions of the interior details surrounding the fabric.

Of course, we would be happy to have more historical photographs at our disposal, but we try to use all available interior images. For example, to a non-specialist, the image of the Empress against the background of a fragment of a chair (possibly out of focus), a table or curtains will seem useless from a restoration point of view, but we can visualize the necessary detail that is hidden in photographs of the interior. Even if a photo is blurry, of poor quality, and seems useless, it can, oddly enough, also be of invaluable design help. By the way, in our work we are also utilizing items from the Alexander Palace, which have been kept in the Pavlovsk Palace Museum-Reserve since the 1950s.

When restoring lost interiors, there is nothing more important than complete information and a large number of historical images in order to achieve maximum authenticity. Therefore, when new details (photos, inventories) and even small details appear, it is necessary to correct the project. We do this all the time.

What discoveries and interesting finds took place during the restoration work?

The most significant discovery is the original pieces of interior decoration found under the flooring of the Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II.

This is a very complex interior full of different elements, including Metlakh tiles on the floor, a tiled fireplace and tiles covering the walls and sides of the pool. In this interior, there are more than 40 different types of tiles that do not repeat in pattern, relief, and most importantly, in colour. But neither the inventory nor the archival data gave us a detailed idea of ​​the colour scheme of the interior. All historical photographs are black and white, the only assistant was a watercolour by the architect Bezverkhny. During the construction work, when opening the floors of the first floor, genuine fragments of ceramic tiles and Metlakh tiles, marble were found in the layers of construction dust. A large bathing pool was also found with preserved tiles and two steps leading to the pool. Until this moment, we had no idea it had survived.

This discovery in September 2016 was a real miracle for us. We have revised and supplemented the project documentation, we have already restored the missing fragments of the tile pattern from historical photographs. In addition, small fragments of ceramic tiles for the fireplace facings in the Working Study of Nicholas II and the Maple Drawing Room were also found.

The second significant discovery concerns the found fragments of alfrey painting. During the clearing of the Soviet plaster layer, a historical plaster layer was discovered on the lime mortar with traces of tempera painting. A picturesque frieze ran along three sides of the Moorish Bathroom, but, unfortunately, only small, but still very valuable fragments of it have survived, as they display to us the true color scheme – both for the frieze and for the smoothly painted wall. Fragments of the murals on the walls of the lobby of the eastern wing were also found.

A very valuable find – a fragment of a historical plaster layer with a plastered “rose” molding that once adorned the walls and the archway, found during the opening of the historic opening connecting the mezzanines of the Empress’s Maple Drawing Room and the New Study of Nicholas II. This allowed us to restore the stucco decoration, and the true color of the walls.

Is the restoration of interior decoration carried out using traditional materials or with the help of modern technologies?

The problem is precisely how to achieve historical similarity using modern technologies.

Of course, when restoring interiors, traditional materials are used – precious woods (walnut, rosewood, maple, oak), lime mortar plaster, oak parquet flooring, etc. Ceramic tiles are made by hand and in ovens. In the preserved interiors (the New Study and the Reception Room of Nicholas II), restoration work is carried out in compliance with the restoration methods.

The situation is more complicated in the restored interiors. More than a hundred years have passed, technologies have greatly advance, but, unfortunately, the skill of manual labor has almost been lost, finishing materials (varnishes, enamels, glazes) have changed significantly, wooden carved parts are made on CNC machines, only slightly modified by hand.

The Alexander Palace is the favorite home of the last Russian emperor Nicholas II and his family, a place with a special energy. Do you feel a special responsibility?

The responsibility is colossal. It is quite clear that this is not a private, closed residence, but a museum, in which thousands of visitors will want to visit. I wanted to create a unique atmosphere for the presence of representatives of the Imperial family, to convey the spirit of a lost era. As if the door had just closed behind them.

The first eight interiors are now scheduled to open at the end of 2020.

© Paul Gilbert. 9 September 2020

Reopening of the Alexander Palace now delayed to end of 2020

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Curtains featuring a pattern of pink ribbons entwined with green wreaths set
with flowers on a white background have been recreated for the Imperial Bedroom

The Director of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Olga Taratynova, announced in Russian media yesterday, that the long awaited reopening of the Alexander Palace has been further delayed due to restrictions made by the coronavirus. Russia remains one of the hardest nations hit by the pandemic with more than 362,000 cases reported to date.

The Alexander Palace, the last residence of Emperor Nicholas II, was scheduled to open to the public on 20th August, however, Taratynova has now confirmed that the reopening of the palace to the public has been delayed until the end of 2020 – although the exact date has yet to be confirmed.

“As for the Alexander Palace, unfortunately, there is a ban on restoration work, including the transfer of museum items during the quarantine. At first we thought that we could open the first eight restored rooms in the summer months, unfortunately, however, work has come to a standstill due to strict quarantine measures. The recreation of the historical interiors is done, but we now need to prepare each room for the exposition. Once our experts have decorated the rooms with objects of applied art, the interiors can then be showcased to visitors in all their glory,” said Taratynova.

The Alexander Palace in Tsarskoye Selo was built by the Italian architect Giacomo Quarenghi on the orders of Catherine II for her eldest grandson Alexander, the future Emperor Alexander I. From 1905, it became the permanent residence of Emperor Nicholas II and his family. It was from the Alexander Palace that the Imperial Family were sent into exile to Tobolsk on 14 August (O.S. 1), 1917. After the October Revolution, the palace housed a sanitarium for NKVD employees and later an orphanage. In 1951 the building was transferred to the Navy of the USSR, and the palace collection was transferred to Pavlovsk Museum. In 2009, the palace was transferred to the authority of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve.

The palace has been undergoing restoration since 2011, which includes reconstruction work, the installation of internal engineering networks, and restoration of interiors. The Pavlovsk State Museum  have agreed to return “some items” for the exposition; while furniture for the halls has been recreated according to original samples and archival materials.

The first eight interiors to open in the eastern wing of the palace include: the Reception of Nicholas II, Working Study of Nicholas II, Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II, Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, Imperial Bedroom, Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room, and the New Study of Nicholas II.

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 is scheduled for completion no earlier than 2022.

Click HERE to review more articles, news, photos and videos of the history and restoration of the Alexander Palace

© Paul Gilbert. 26 May 2020

20th March 1917 – Provisional Government decrees that Nicholas II and family should be held under house arrest in the Alexander Palace

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Iconic image of Emperor Nicholas II in the Alexander Park at Tsarskoye Selo

On this day – 20th March (O.S. 7 March) 1917 – the Provisional Government decreed that Emperor Nicholas II, his wife and five children should be held under house arrest in the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo.

The Tsar joined the rest of the family there two days later, having travelled from Stavka at Mogilev. He was addressed by sentries at the gate of his home as “Nicholas Romanov”.

On Alexander Kerensky’s order, Nicholas and Alexandra were kept apart in the palace for a period of 18 days. They were permitted to see each other only during meals, and only in the presence of soldiers. Kerensky conducted an investigation of the Imperial couple’s documents and letters. He failed to find any evidence which would incriminate either of them.

Kerensky interviewed Alexandra regarding her involvement in state affairs and Rasputin’s involvement in them through his influence over her. She answered that as she and her spouse kept no secrets from each other, they often discussed politics and she naturally gave him advice to support him; as for Rasputin, he had been a true holy man of God, and his advice had been only in the interest of the good of Russia and the imperial family. After the interview, Kerensky told the tsar that he believed that Alexandra had told him the truth and was not lying.

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Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna sitting in the Alexander Park, June 1917

The family had total privacy inside the palace, but walks in the grounds were strictly regulated. Members of their domestic staff were allowed to stay if they wished and culinary standards were maintained.

Even in the Alexander Park, their movements were restricted. The photo at the bottom of this post, show the prisoners at the frontier of their domain. They were not permitted to cross the bridge which led them to the big park, to the outside world and freedom.

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Nicholas II working in the vegetable garden behind the Alexander Palace in 1917

Colonel Eugene Kobylinsky was appointed to command the military garrison at Tsarskoye Selo, which increasingly had to be done through negotiation with the committees or soviets elected by the soldiers.

During his captivity, the Tsar was subject to constant harassment and humiliation from the soldiers – most of whom were thugs – stationed in and around the Alexander Palace.

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Nicholas II and his family under guard in the Alexander Park, August 1917

On the morning of 14 August (O.S. 1), 1917, the former Tsar and his family left the Alexander Palace for the last time. They exited from the Semicircular Hall of the palace, and travelled by car to the Alexandrovskaya Station where they were sent into exile to Tobolsk. 

For an eye witness account of Nicholas II and his family under house arrest in the Alexander Palace, please refer to the following book The Romanovs Under House Arrest: From the 1917 Diary of a Palace Priest, the memories of Archpriest Afanasy Belyaev, who served as priest and confessor to the Russian Imperial family.

© Paul Gilbert. 20 March 2020

Tender issued for next stage of reconstruction of the Alexander Palace

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The western wing of the Alexander Palace

The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve has issued a tender for the next stage of reconstruction of the Alexander Palace, the initial (maximum) price of the contract was announced at 778 million rubles ($11.6 million USD).

The project in two phases are envisaged for the western wing of the palace. Note: the restoration of the private apartments of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna, are located in the eastern wing of the palace.

The list of works includes, general construction work, restoration of floors, doorways and facades, installation of engineering networks, installation and commissioning of security systems and other equipment, including elevators, installation of plasterboard walls inside the building and the installation of a terrace.

The contract requires that work must be completed before 1st December 2021. The funding of 778 million rubles will come from the federal budget. Applications for participation in the tender will be accepted until 23rd March, consideration of proposals is planned for 25th March and 2nd April 2020.

The Alexander Palace was built in 1792-1796 near the Catherine Palace and was intended for the grandson of Empress Catherine II – Alexander Pavlovich (future Emperor Alexander I). It became the permanent residence of Emperor Nicholas II and his family in 1905. The restoration of the palace began in 2012, and has been closed to visitors since autumn 2015.

The first 8 of total of 14 rooms, which will be known as the Museum of the Russian Imperial Family are scheduled to open on 18th August 2020.

Upon completion of the restoration work – sometime in 2022 – the Alexander Palace will become a multi-functional museum complex, which will include exhibition halls, temporary exhibition halls, rooms for research and conferences, as well as a library and a children’s center. On the ground floor there will be a cafe, lobbies with ticket offices, a coat check, a tour desk, a museum store, as well as technical and auxiliary rooms.

© Paul Gilbert. 28 February 2020

Alexander Palace will officially open on 18th August 2020

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The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve announced today, that the Alexander Palace will officially open on 18th August 2020.

They note that Russian President Vladimir Putin will attend the opening. Also, effective 19th August 2020, the museum will charge a separate entrance fee to tour the Alexander Park.

Eight rooms of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna, located on the first floor of the east wing of the Alexander Palace will open to visitors – the result of almost five years of work, including the Reception of Nicholas II, Working Study of Nicholas II, Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II, Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, Imperial Bedroom, Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room, and the New Study of Nicholas II.

A total of 14 rooms will be restored in the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace, which will be known as the Museum of the Russian Imperial Family in the Alexander Palace. All work in the palace will be completed by 2022.

Click HERE to review 15 additional articles on the history and restoration of the Alexander Palace, which include more than 110 photos + 2 videos

© Paul Gilbert. 22 February 2020

Original works of art will decorate recreated rooms in the Alexander Palace

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The Rosewood (Pallisander) Drawing Room in the Alexander Palace in the 1930s. ‘The Annunciation
can be seen to the left of the mirror, and ‘The Madonna and Child’ to the right of the mirror.
Photo © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve

The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve has announced that they will recreate picture frames for paintings, that originally hung in the interiors of the Alexander Palace. The project of creating the frames, will be based on historic photographs and inventory descriptions.

The first two paintings will be The Annunciation by Susanna Renata Granich and The Madonna and Child by Paul Tuman. Both canvases will be placed in the Rosewood (Pallisander) Drawing Room, where they originally hung before the Imperial Family were sent into exile in 1917. The Rosewood Drawing Room is among first eight rooms of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna, which will open to visitors in the summer of 2020.

The frames for the two paintings from the Rosewood Drawing Room were made by the specialists of the Rokail workshop of Pavel Yankolovich (The Annunciation) and Svetlana Fedorova (The Madonna and Child). Photographs taken in the 1930s from the museum’s collection and descriptions from the 1939 Inventory Book helped in the reconstruction of the picture frames, including the sizes, material, and decor technique. The recreated frames are made of two types of wood – beech and pine, ornament – using the technique of mastic moulding.

The Rosewood Drawing Room of the Alexander Palace was decorated 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 also made of rosewood. In the first years of their life in the palace, Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna often spent time in this room. It was here that the Imperial family took breakfast and dinner together. In recent months, the Rosewood Drawing Room has been transformed into its historic original, including wall finishes, drapes, panels and a rosewood fireplace.

The selection and acquisition of porcelain, household items, and paintings to replace those that were lost during the Great Patriotic War (1941-45) is currently underway.

In addition to the two frames recreated for the Rosewood Drawing Room, the museum’s collection was replenished in 2019 with seven additional paintings: six were purchased from their owners along with a seventh painting, which was presented with a photograph.

© Paul Gilbert. 9 January 2020

Olga Taratynova on the restoration of the Alexander Palace

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Director of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Olga Taratynova

According to the Director of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Olga Taratynova, historic documents and photographs have been extremely useful resources for restorers in the recreation of the private apartments of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna in the Alexander Palace.

In the summer of 2020, eight rooms located on the first floor of the east wing of the Alexander Palace will open to visitors – the result of almost five years of work. The building was seriously damaged not so much from the Great Patriotic War (1941-45), but as a result of the destruction of the palace during the Soviet years. Experts are currently attempting to restore the interiors as close to their historic original as possible.

As Olga Taratynova, noted during a recent interview with The Art Newspaper Russia, almost 90% of the private apartments of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna will be recreated. The scrupulous use of all available iconographic material has been utilized to aid restorers to bring the project to fruition. “It was decided to restore the interiors as they looked at the beginning of the 20th century,” said Olga Taratynova. “We hope that the Alexander Palace will become as popular as the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo.”

The Alexander Palace was commissioned by the Empress Catherine II in the early 1790s for her beloved grandson, Tsearevich and Grand Duke Alexander Pavlovich (the future emperor Alexander I), by the architect Giacomo Quarenghi. In 1905, Nicholas II made the palace his permanent residence, and it was then that the interiors underwent major changes – they were adapted for life in accordance with the fashion of their time, sadly little of the early 20th century interiors have been preserved.

In August, immediately after the Imperial Family were sent into exile to Tobolsk, the famous art historian Georgy Lukomsky took numerous photographs of the interiors – black and white and color, the so-called auto-chromes. These along with newsreels taken during the Soviet years, have provided restorers the basic material for their work.

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The eastern wing will house the Museum of the Russian Imperial Family in the Alexander Palace

Not long after the departure of the Imperial Family for Siberia, a museum was established within the Alexander Palace. It operated until the beginning of the Great Patriotic War (1941-45). From 1951, the Ministry of Defence occupied the building until 2009, when the palace was transferred to the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve.

In the autumn of 2015, the palace was completely closed for restoration. The project of reconstruction, technical re-equipment and adaptation was the studio of Nikita Yavein Studio 44, the general contractor was LLC PSB ZhilStroy.

According to the Chief Architect of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Maria Ryadova, the project for reconstructing the interiors had to be adjusted after the Lukomsky autochromes were acquired for the museum at an auction in Paris in 2012. “When we saw these colour photographs, we saw for the first time, exactly how the apartments actually looked in 1917,” said Maria Ryadova. “Unfortunately, the ceiling lights and floors were not visible in them, therefore, we left them the way they were.”

Aside from the numerous photographs of the interiors, were the preserved albums with samples of fabrics for decorating walls and furniture. This made it possible to recreate the upholstery as accurately as possible. The room-by-room inventories made by Vsevolod Yakovlev, the keeper of the palace, have also survived to this day. Restorers had many doubts about the Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II (after the military vacated the palace in 2009, only the plastered walls remained). But when work began on the room, excavation of the floor revealed fragments of ceramics. A vintage Soviet newsreel showed the general appearance of the room. As a result, the interior of this room has been restored in all its beauty and with historical authenticity.

The first eight rooms are now scheduled to open to visitors in the summer of 2020. A total of 14 rooms will be restored in the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace, which will be known as the Museum of the Russian Imperial Family in the Alexander Palace. All work in the palace will be completed by 2022.

Click HERE to review 14 additional articles on the history and restoration of the Alexander Palace, which include a total of 110 photos + 2 videos

© Paul Gilbert. 5 January 2020

The Romanovs Under House Arrest: From the 1917 Diary of a Palace Priest

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CLICK HERE TO ORDER YOUR COPY

NOTE: All of the articles pertaining to Nicholas II and his family which were originally published in my Royal Russia News blog, have been moved to this Nicholas II blog. This article was originally posted on 16 May 2018 in my Royal Russia News blog – PG

Archpriest Afanasy Belyaev served as priest and confessor to the former Russian Imperial family. On the occasion of the Tsarevich’s thirteenth birthday in July 1917, he wrote this description of their faith and piety:

. . . for the last time the former rulers of their own home had gathered to fervently pray, tearfully, and on bended knee, imploring that the Lord help and intercede for them in all of their sorrows and misfortunes.

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The interior of the Alexander Palace chapel (1930s)

These selected excerpts from the chaplain’s diary open a window into the souls of the now sainted Romanov family and vividly recall the struggles they endured during the first five months of their confinement following the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II. One sees the love and independence of a family whose life was centered on Christ; whose very existence was bound up with the defense of the Orthodox Faith. In the spirit of the Gospel the Tsar conveyed to the Russian people from his captivity “that it is not evil which conquers evil, but only love . . .”

Of particular interest are Fr Afanasy’s personal impressions of Nicholas II, members of his family and retinue, all of whom were under house arrest in the Alexander Palace. Fr Afanasy not only served as priest and confessor to the Imperial family, but also had opportunities to chat with the Tsar. This first English translation of Fr Afanasy’s diary is of immense historic value. It presents his personal observations of the Imperial family’s daily life during their house arrest at Tsarskoye Selo.

Russian cultural historian Marilyn Pfeifer Swezey sets Fr Afanasy’s diary in its historical context and offers an epilogue to complete the story of the Romanov’s journey to martyrdom at the hands of a Bolshevik firing squad in a Siberian basement in July 1918. Also included is a short life of Fr Afanasy and biographical information regarding the various persons appearing in the work. This anniversary edition has been illustrated throughout with colour and black and white photos (some rarely or never published before) as well as charts and maps.

An excerpt from the diary is also available at Orthodox Life or click HERE to order your copy of The Romanovs Under House Arrest 136 pages, $29.95 USD, published by Holy Trinity Publications, Jordanville, NY.

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Archpriest Afanasy Ivanovich Belyaev 1845-1921

Archpriest Afanasy Ivanovich Belyaev was the scion of a St Petersburg priestly family who became the rector of the Tsar’s Feodorovsky Cathedral at Tsarskoye Selo, and subsequently the father confessor of the Russian Imperial family during their first five months of confinement following Nicholas II’s abdication in early 1917.

Marilyn Pfeifer Swezey is a specialist in Russian cultural history and decorative arts. Her previous works include The Romanov Family Album, Fabergé Flowers and museum exhibitions At Home With the Last Tsar and His Family and The Tsar and the President, Alexander II and Abraham Lincoln.

Director of Holy Trinity Publications Nicholas Chapman sat down with Russian cultural historian Marilyn Swezey, editor and contributor to the new release, The Romanovs Under House Arrest: From the 1917 Diary of a Palace Priest. Watch the 15-minute interview below!

Note: Marilyn Pfeifer Swezey is one of five speakers at the Nicholas II Conference on Saturday, 27th October 2018, at St John’s Orthodox Church in Colchester, England. Her talk was reprinted in Sovereign No. 9 2018. Click HERE to order your copy of this special issue of my semi-annual journal dedicated to the life and reign of Nicholas II.

© Holy Trinity Publications, Jordanville, NY / Paul Gilbert. 11 December 2019

Colour Autochromes of the Alexander Palace in 1917 Presented in Kazan

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NOTE: All of the articles pertaining to Nicholas II and his family which were originally published in my Royal Russia News blog, have been moved to this Nicholas II blog. This article was originally posted on 8 August 2018 in my Royal Russia News blog – PG

The following exhibition ran from 17 July to 17 August 2018

On 17th July, the exhibition Tsarskoye Selo: the Last Residence of the Last Emperor, opened in the E.A. Boratynsky Museum (a branch of the National Museum of the Republic of Tatarstan) in Kazan. The exhibition presents unique autochromes from the collection of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve. The exhibition is timed to mark the 100th anniversary of the murder of Russia’s last Imperial family in 1918.

The life of the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II is closely connected with Tsarskoye Selo: on 18th May (6th May in the old style) in 1868, he was born in the Alexander Palace. From 1905, Nicholas II made the palace his permanent residence, in which he spent the last 12 years of reign. After his abdication on 15th March [O.S. 2nd March] 1917, the Emperor spent the first months of his house arrest in the palace. On 1st August 1917, the Emperor and his family left the Alexander Palace for the last time, his family was sent into exile to Tobolsk.

Immediately after the departure of the imperial family, the Kunsthistorico-Historical Commission, headed by Georgy Lukomsky, began work in the Alexander Palace. Photographer Andrey Zeest took 140 colour autochromes of the palace interiors.

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Colour autochromes of the Alexander Palace taken in 1917
© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve

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The fate of this unique collection is interesting. In November 1918, 843 images from black and white negatives and 83 color transparencies (autochrome) were transferred to the Kopeyka Publishing House. The pictures were supposed to be transferred to the Detskoye Selo department of artistic property, however, the transfer never took place.

Now the collection of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve now consists of 93 autochromes, shot by Zeest in 1917. Thirty-three autochromes were acquired by the museum in 1968, from the heirs of a photographer, twelve – in 1958, from a British tourist from Oxford, England. In 2013, members of the Friends of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve Club Michael Piles and Mikhail Karisalov, financed the acquisition of another 48 autochromes at an auction in Paris.

The exhibition is complemented by documents relating to the links of Georgiy Lukomsky with Kazan, from the funds of the National Museum of the Republic of Tatarstan, and printed editions issued for the coronation of Nicholas II from the Kazem-bek family collection courtesy of the Department of Manuscripts and Rare Books of the Lobachevsky Libraries.

The exhibition Tsarskoye Selo: the Last Residence of the Last Emperor marks the beginning of cooperation between the National Museum of the Republic of Tatarstan and the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve.

The exhibition Tsarskoye Selo: the Last Residence of the Last Emperor, ran from 17th July to 17th August 2018, in the E.A. Boratynsky Museum (a branch of the National Museum of the Republic of Tatarstan) in Kazan.

© Paul Gilbert. 6 December 2019