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

World Monument Fund Reports on the Alexander Palace

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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 published on 20 April 2019 in my Royal Russia News blog – PG

The Alexander Palace

Designed by the Italian architect Giacomo Quarenghi and completed in 1796, Alexander Palace housed three generations of Russian monarchs before it was abandoned by the Imperial family in the months preceding the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Built on the order of Catherine the Great as a gift to her grandson Alexander I, the palace is in Tsarskoye Selo, a 1,500-acre imperial estate near St. Petersburg. The building was later used as a summer residence by Alexander’s brother, Nicolas I, and then by his nephew, Tsar Nicolas II. In 1917, the Imperial family was expelled from the palace by order of Alexander Kerensky, head of the provisional government. Nicholas II and his family were murdered by the Bolshevik regime one year later. From then until World War II the palace remained uninhabited; it functioned as a museum until occupying German forces converted the building into their military headquarters. Alexander Palace later served as a naval command base and research station, until the mid-1990s when we assisted with efforts to convert the palace into a museum.

Parts of Alexander Palace had fallen into serious disrepair by 1994 when it garnered local interest as a potential museum. We provided funds toward assessments and planning for public access to a suite of rooms to be used as museum space. Shortly after its inclusion on the 1996 World Monuments Watch, the palace was added to the list of institutions operated by the Museum-Preserve of Tsarskoe Selo, which agreed to manage the upkeep of the property and its tourist facilities. In September 1996, we helped with emergency renovations to the roof over the Nicholas II wing of the palace, comprising approximately one-third of the building’s total roof structure. Alexander Palace is now an exhibition space dedicated to the final years of Tsarist Russia, and houses a collection of Nicholas II’s personal effects and historical documents.

An important national heritage site (1995)

One of the few Tsarist residences left relatively intact following World War II, Alexander Palace provides a window into Imperial life during pre-communist Russia. For its historical value as the setting of Nicholas II’s final years, and for its artistic merits as a much-celebrated work of sumptuously decorated neoclassical architecture, the palace is an important national heritage site.

NOTE: the following three reports, published in 1995, 1996 and 1997 respectively, although now dated, still provide readers with some interesting facts on the history of the Alexander Palace, and the challenges presented with it’s restoration – PG

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CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE TO DOWNLOAD AND REVIEW REPORT

Alexander Palace: Restoration and Adaptive Re-Use as a Museum (1995 – 112 pages)

Describes an investigation into the prospect of adapting the 18th century Alexander Palace in Tsarskoye Selo near St. Petersburg for use as a house museum interpreting the history and life of the last Romanovs, the last imperial dynasty to rule over Russia. The neoclassical palace was designed by Giacomo Quarenghi and built between 1792 and 1796, a gift from Catherine the Great to her eldest grandson Alexander before he acceded to the throne. Following the Bolshevik Revolution and the execution of Nicholas II and his family the palace was used as a museum, until World War II, when it was damaged during the German occupation. In 1995-1996, World Monuments Fund conducted three missions to the palace. The first mission, described in this report, had an exploratory and fact-finding character and took place over five days in February 1995. During this mission the potential for repairing the structure, restoring its interiors, and returning to it original furnishings from the collections of Russian museums was studied. Two subsequent missions are described in separate reports.

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CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE TO DOWNLOAD AND REVIEW REPORT

Alexander Palace: Groundwork for Restoration and Museum Adaptation (1996 – 47 pages)

This report provides a bilingual summary of the research later compiled into the report entitled “The Alexander Palace: Preliminary Assessment Report for Restoration and Adaptive Re-Use,” published by World Monuments Fund in 1997.Designed by Giacomo Quarenghi and built between 1792 and 1796, this neoclassical palace near St. Petersburg was a gift from Catherine the Great to her eldest grandson Alexander before he ascended to the throne. Alexander I, Nicholas I and Nicholas II all spent their summers living in the palace.

Following the Bolshevik Revolution and the execution of Nicholas II along with his family, the palace was converted into a museum, which it remained until World War II, when it was damaged during the German occupation. From the end of the war until 1995, the building served as administrative offices for the Russian Navy. Over the first half of 1995, a team from the World Monuments Fund conducted three missions to the palace, evaluating the potential for repairing the structure, restoring its interiors, and returning its original furnishings then in the collections of three different Russian museums. During the course of these missions, the World Monuments Fund established the scope of work necessary to convert the palace into a historic house museum focused on the life of Nicholas II and his family and secured funding for the site through American Express as part of the inaugural World Monuments Fund Watch List. This grant provided for emergency repairs to the roof over the southeast wing of the palace.

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CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE TO DOWNLOAD AND REVIEW REPORT

Alexander Palace: Preliminary Assessment Report for Restoration and Adaptive Re-Use (1997 – 85 pages) 

Designed by Giacomo Quarenghi and built between 1792 and 1796, this neoclassical palace near St. Petersburg was a gift from Catherine the Great to her eldest grandson Alexander before he ascended to the throne. Alexander I, Nicholas I and Nicholas II all spent their summers living in the palace. Following the Bolshevik Revolution and the execution of Nicholas II along with his family, the palace was converted into a museum, which it remained until World War II, when it was damaged during the German occupation. From the end of the war until 1995, the building served as administrative offices for the Russian Navy. Over the first half of 1995, a team from the World Monuments Fund conducted three missions to the palace, evaluating the potential for repairing the structure, restoring its interiors, and returning its original furnishings then in the collections of three different Russian museums. During the course of these missions, World Monuments Fund established the scope of work necessary to convert the palace into a historic house museum focused on the life of Nicholas II and his family and secured funding for the site through American Express as part of the inaugural World Monuments Fund Watch List. This grant provided for emergency repairs to the roof over the southeast wing of the palace.

© World Monuments Fund / Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 20 April 2019

New photos of the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna

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Photo © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve

The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve have released these new photos of the progress of recreating the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna in the Alexander Palace.

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Photo © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve

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Photo © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve

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Photo © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve

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.

© Paul Gilbert. 26 November 2019

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