Nicholas II’s canine companions

PHOTO: Nicholas II walking his dogs in the Alexander Park. 1908

According to Romanov historian Igor Zimin, Nicholas II maintained a kennel of nearly a dozen English collies – his favourite breed – to accompany him on his daily walks through the Alexander Park at Tsarskoye Selo.

His two favourite dogs were Raven / Ворон [Voron] and Иман [Iman]. Raven was presented to Nicholas when he was 17 years old, the canine becoming the Tsesarevich’s constant companion during his long daily walks.

Less than a year later, Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich embarked on a journey to Egypt, India and the Far East (1890-1891), during which Raven was left behind, in the care of his parents. His father Emperor Alexander III regularly reported in letters to his son about Raven, with whom he walked in the garden of the Anitchkov Palace in St. Petersburg.

On 24th October 1890, Empress Maria Feodorovna wrote to her son: “Ella was waiting for us to go for a walk and poor Raven came to; he now spends a lot of time with me and seems to like my room, for he lies quietly at my feet and we try to console each other”.

In January 1891, Alexander III wrote to Nicholas: “Raven is getting fat, because stupid people continue to feed him all day so that he is no longer a dog, but a barrel of some kind!” Naturally, the overly pampered dog became ill.

After the death of his father on 1st November [O.S. 20th October] 1894, Nicholas ascended the throne. Less than a year later, his beloved Raven died on 27th September 1895.

Following the tradition of his predecessors who buried their faithful canine companions, Nicholas II created a small cemetery for his dogs on the Children’s Island, situated near the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo. A granite obelisk was erected over Raven’s grave, upon which the dates of his birth and death were engraved.

On 28th September 1895, Nicholas wrote his mother: “I have only just received your telegram in reply to mine about poor Voron’s [Raven] death, which made me so sad. I buried him on the Detski [Children’s] Island and placed a tombstone over his grave. Now it is so lonely and sad whenever I take my walks, especially when Alix does not come along . . .”.

Maria Feodorovna replied: “the death of good old Voron [Raven] is very painful – I did not know he had been ill for so long. You will miss him very much, and so shall I, my poor Nicky. It is so sad to lose such a good and faithful old dog, a real friend in life”.

On 1st October 1895, Nicholas again remembered his first dog: “I took a long walk alone, it is terribly sad to walk without poor Raven.”

PHOTO: Nicholas II with his collies in the Alexander Park, Tsarskoye Selo

The emperor’s personal mourning for Raven lasted about two months. On 6th December 1895, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna presented Nicholas with a collie puppy. Nicholas II immediately wrote in his diary: “Ella gave me a wonderful collie, similar to Raven.”

The following day, 7th December 1895, the tsar was already walking with his new canine companion: “In the morning I took a walk with my new dog, whom I will name Iman.” The tsar liked the dog immensely, and made numerous references to him in his diaries and letters. The young dog was in good shape and was able to accompany Nicholas II on his bicycle rides: “After reading, I had a good bike ride with Iman.”

Since Nicholas II was physically a very strong man and tolerated the cold Russian winters well, he walked with Iman in all kinds of weather. On 9th December he noted: “The temperature is 16°. Nevertheless, I took a walk with Iman. He amuses me very much on walks, he is remarkably agile, jumps a lot and chases crows.” From time to time they had their own adventures. On 28th December 1895, the tsar wrote, “the fool Iman fell through a hole in the pond, but he immediately got out and looked like a large icicle, since his fur froze immediately. It was 12° with the sun.” On 16th February 1896, he wrote in his diary: “We played at the rink. My Iman cut his paw quite badly.” The skating rink had been arranged for the 28-year-old Tsar in the garden of the Anitchkov Palace.

Iman died from heart disease in October 1902. On 20th October 1902, the grieving Emperor wrote to his mother: “I have just suffered a very heavy grief – the loss of dear old Iman – it happened right at the beginning of October, almost on the same day as with poor Raven. He had been ailing since the summer and on arriving here I had the veterinary to attend to him. He was isolated and lived in the basement. The sores on his body were healing rapidly, but one day his strength began to fail and he died last night. I must confess the whole day after it happened I never stopped crying – I shall miss him dreadfully when I go for walks. He was such an intelligent, kind and loyal dog!”.

In the spring and autumn Nicholas and his family lived in the Alexander Palace of Tsarskoye Selo, and spent the summer in Peterhof with its large parks. During the long winter months, the Imperial Family resided in the Winter Palace, which from 1896 to 1904 served as the imperial residence in the capital.

Dogs traditionally accompanied their master on all his journeys. But in the Winter Palace, walking opportunities were very limited. The dogs were apparently kept in the basement. To organize safe walks for the tsar, a private garden was set up on the north-western projection of the Winter Palace. Nicholas II walked his dogs almost every day in the garden, which was surrounded by a two-meter granite wall with a lattice. On 11th November 1896, he wrote: “Today, we [Empress Alexandra Feodorovna] walked together with all the dogs.”

In February 1898, a boy passing by the garden of the Winter Palace looked through a crack of the fence and watched the tsar playing with two dogs in the garden; the tsar running threw a stick, which the dogs caught.

PHOTOS: Nicholas II with his collies in the garden of the Winter Palace. Winter 1902

On 6th November 1896, Nicholas II wrote in his diary: “We walked together with a new dog – also a collie”. It is noteworthy that Nicholas referred to the new dog as simpy “dog.” Nicholas II had other dogs, again without names. In his diary, he simply referred to them as “dogs”. One can only speculate as to why, perhaps he had so many of the same breed, that he simply could not tell one from the other?!

These dogs continued to accompany the Imperial Family during their seasonal travels to their suburban palaces. In January 1904, the Imperial Family stayed in Tsarskoe Selo, and Nicholas II noted in his diary: “I took a long walk without the dogs, since they had already been transported to the city.” And in March 1904 he wrote: “During the day I walked with the dogs for a long time.” In the summer of 1904, the family, as usual, moved to Peterhof and again noted in his diary: “I was playing with the dogs by the sea.”

In 1905, the Imperial Family moved permanently from the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg to the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoye Selo. This palace was surrounded by a beautiful, well-groomed park, where excellent conditions were created for the dogs. The personal dogs of the Imperial Family were traditionally kept at the expense of the Ministry of the Imperial Court. Since there were a lot of dogs, the so-called “Dog’s Kitchen” was arranged for them directly in the basement of the Alexander Palace. They were fed on a diet of oatmeal, milk and meat, and all products had to be fresh. Nicholas II himself was always accompanied by his collies on his walks through the vast Alexander Park. According to the memoirs of Anna Vyrubova, there were eleven of them. A special “Dog House” was built for them, next to the Alexander Palace. They were strictly forbidden to go inside the palace itself. As the maid of honour Sophia Buxhoeveden observed: “After drinking a glass of tea, smoking a cigarette, he [the Tsar] went out into the park for a short walk with his favourite purebred dogs”.

There were other dogs associated with the Imperial Family. In 1906, by order of the palace commandant D.F. Trepov, who was responsible for the security and safety of the Imperial Family, a kennel for guard dogs was set up near the Alexander Palace, in the village of Alexandrovka. Later, a similar kennel was organized in Peterhof. These kennel dogs were bred and trained to guard the perimeter of the Alexander Park in Tsarskoye Selo and other suburban imperial residences.

PHOTO: From left to right are the graves of four dogs: Shilka, Iman, Raven and Era [Shilka and Era were Empress Alexandra’s dogs].

The pet cemetery on the Children’s Island, which is situated a near the Alexander Palace, has miraculously survived to the present day. A small path leads from the Children’s House to four graves marked by small pyramids, which are hidden from view on the western side of the island.

The names and dates of each of the family dogs are still clearly visible:

Шилка [Shilka]
1894-1910

Иман [Iman]
6 December 1895 – 2 October 1902

Ворон [Voron / Raven]
December 1889 – September 1895

Эра [Era]
1894-1906

NOTE: the Children’s Island has not yet been restored, so it is not open to the public. It is only accessible on foot during the winter months when one can walk across the frozen pond, however, one does so at one’s own risk. This author has done so on two separate occasions, and taken many photos of the Children’s Island and House, as well as the pet cemetery.

© Paul Gilbert. 22 May 2021

Historic chandeliers installed in the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: Chandelier for the Reception Room of Nicholas II

According to a press release from the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum, workers have now completed the restoration and recreation of the historic interiors of the private apartments of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna, situated in the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace.

Objects for the decoration of the interiors are now being moved into the palace. One of the first items of decoration to take their place are the lighting fixtures. Many of the graceful chandeliers and lanterns created in the St. Petersburg workshops during the 18th to 19th centuries have been preserved in the historical collection of the museum for more than a century.

PHOTO © Tsarskoe Selo State Museum-Reserve

Among the lamps characteristic of the era of Catherine II’s reign, one can distinguish chandeliers of the late 18th century by their crystal headgear and coloured glass; their main feature is a multitude of faceted pendants of various shapes, connected in garlands, crystal obelisks and a “fountain” crowning the chandelier, reminiscent of a column of water … Such chandeliers adorn the Empress’s Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, Alexandra Feodorovna’s Corner Reception Room and the Large Library.

PHOTO © Tsarskoe Selo State Museum-Reserve

Among the unique lighting fixtures s is a chandelier from the Reception Room of Nicholas II. This interior was designed by the architect Roman Melzer in 1895-1896: walls and ceiling are finished with oak panels and furniture ordered from the F. Melzer & Co. factory. An electric chandelier was installed, with twelve bulbs in the form of a hanging openwork rim on six chains with hemispherical shades decorated with a fringe of yellow beads. The chandelier was not evacuated during the war years and remained in its place for almost a hundred years: it was removed in 1997. In 2015, specialists of the Yuzhakova Studio workshop in St. Petersburg carried out a restoration of the chandelier, which involved cleaning the metal surface, replaced the lost beads and installed new electrical wiring.

PHOTO © Tsarskoe Selo State Museum-Reserve

The pride of the collection are three chandeliers for a hundred candles each – from the State Halls of the Alexander Palace, which have been preserved in the museum’s funds. In 1796, an order for the production of eight identical chandeliers according to the design of the architect Giacomo Quarenghi was received by the St. Petersburg bronze-maker Johann Zech. They were intended for the St. George Hall of the Winter Palace. The master managed to make only three chandeliers, which adorned one of the halls of the Mikhailovsky Castle; subsequently they were transferred to the Alexander Palace. An interesting fact is that the “Karengiev” chandeliers were made for 50 candles each, but in 1829 the number of horns was increased to one hundred for better lighting of the halls. These large two-tiered chandeliers with ruby ​​glass balusters will take their historical place after the completion of the restoration of the central building of the palace.

Click HERE to read my article Restoration of Lighting Fixtures for the Alexander Palace, published on 16th December 2020

© Paul Gilbert. 14 April 2021

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Fifteen interiors situated in the eastern wing of the palace, are now scheduled to open to visitors in the Spring of 2021. Among the recreated interiors are the New Study of Nicholas II, Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II, Working Study of Nicholas II, Reception Room of Nicholas II, Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, Maple Drawing Room, Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room, the Imperial Bedroom, among others.

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, which includes the Western wing is scheduled for completion no earlier than 2024.

***

Dear Reader: If you enjoy my articles on the history and restoration of the Alexander Palace, then please help support my research by making a donation in US or Canadian dollars to my project The Truth About Nicholas II – please note that donations can be made by GoFundMePayPal, credit cardpersonal check or money order. The net proceeds help fund my work, including research, translations, etc. Thank you for your consideration – PG

Roman Melzer: architect and designer of the Alexander Palace interiors

PHOTO: Roman Fedorovich (Robert Friedrich) Melzer (1860-1943)

Roman Fedorovich (Robert Friedrich) Melzer was born in St. Petersburg, on 1st April (O.S. 30th March) 1860. He was the eldest son of the coachman Johann Friedrich Meltzer (1831-1923), who later became the owner of his own furniture factory, and Sophie Christine Meltzer – nee Tatzky (1837-1915).

At the age of thirteen, Roman Meltser entered the St. Petersburg Commercial School, after graduation he continued his studies at the Academy of Arts. In 1888 he received the title of class artist of the first degree in architecture. One of his early projects was the front gate and ramp fences of the Winter Palace, created in collaboration with Nikolai Alexandrovich Gornostaev. In the late 1890s – early 1900s, Melzer worked on the construction of the Emmanuel Nobel (1801-1872) mansion in St. Petersburg.

In 1900 he was appointed chief architect of the Russian exhibition pavilions at the World Exhibition in Paris. The main building, the Pavillon des Confins Russes, looked like an old Russian town, complete with a bell tower. The architecture resonated with the images of the Moscow Kremlin. This ensemble, unusual for a European capital, was located just fifty meters from the Trocadero Palace.

Roman Melzer took part in the decoration of the interiors of numerous imperial palaces: the Winter Palace and Anitchkov Palace in St. Petersburg; Livadia Palace in Crimea; and the Cottage Palace in Peterhof. Among the buildings created according to his designs, included his own dacha on Kamenny Island (1901-1904), the building of the Orthopedic Institute (1902-1906), the palace of the Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich (1910-1913), the complex of buildings of the Psychoneurological Institute (1910-1913), among many others.

PHOTO: Colour autochrome of the Emperor’s Reception Room taken in 1917

At the end of 1894-1895, the renovation of the interiors of the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoye Selo began. Roman Melzer was invited to prepare the personal apartments of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna in the eastern wing of the building. The work took place in several stages. The first interiors created were: the Dining Room (later known as the Reception Room) and the Working Study on the Emperor’s half of the wing, as well as the Imperial Bedchamber, the Mauve (Lilac) Drawing Room and the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room on the Empress’s half.

In the Emperor’s Reception Room, the walls were decorated with oak panels, and above they were covered with printed fabric. The interior decoration included a corner fireplace made of oak, trimmed with dark green marble. In the upper part of the windows, the architect used stained glass. The F. Meltzer & Co. in St. Petersburg, which was co-owned by Roman Melzer, produced a set of furniture for the room, which included a sofa with two folding tables, a round table for tea, a dining table consisting of a table and twenty-four chairs, a serving table, and a snack table.

PHOTO: the Working Study of Nicholas II

At the same time, the Working Study of Nicholas II was in progress. The interior was designed in the English style, with walls painted in dark red at the top and walnut panels on the bottom. The room featured a large ottoman, in imitation of the cabinet of Alexander III, as well as an L-shaped writing table.

The Imperial Bedchamber was also renovated according to the architect’s project. The furniture, which was preserved from the previous decoration (a bedroom prepared in 1874 for the marriage of Alexander II’s daughter Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna to the Duke of Edinburgh), was repainted in white and draped with English chintz, and a pattern of wreaths of small pink flowers and ribbons. The same fabric was also used to make the curtains and alcove curtains for the room.

Roman Melzer also created the interior for the Mauve (Lilac) Drawing Room, which was to become one of the Empress’s favorite interiors. Here the walls were upholstered in mauve silk and crowned with a frieze bearing an iris flower pattern, furniture and a piano painted with ivory enamel paint. Some of the pieces of furniture were built-in, connected to the panels, forming comfortable corners.

PHOTO: Colour autochrome of the Mauve (Lilac) Drawing Room taken in 1917

Melzer was engaged in the creation of the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room, which was located next to the Mauve (Lilac) Drawing Room. Rosewood was chosen for decorating the wall panels and fireplace. The upper part of the walls was covered with a simple yet elegant yellowish silk fabric.

During this period, the children’s half on the second floor began to take shape, as the emperor’s family gradually grew and the “august children” needed their own bedrooms and classrooms.

Between 1898–1902, there were no major changes to the interiors of the Alexander Palace. In 1902, however, the decision was made to demolish the double-height Concert Hall and create in its place the Emperor’s New Study and the Empress’s Maple Drawing Room. Roman Melzer’s firm carried out not only the construction, but also the finishing and furnishing of these interiors. A mezzanine was also added, which connected the New Study with the Maple Drawing Room.

PHOTO: Colour autochrome of the Maple Drawing Room taken in 1917

Thanks to Melzer, the interiors of the Alexander Palace underwent a stunning transformation, one which provided a cozy residence for the Emperor and his family. A far cry from the luxurious and ostentatious interiors of the nearby Catherine Palace, the redesigned interiors of the Alexander Palace reflected the simple tastes of Nicholas and Alexandra.

After the 1917 Revolution, Roman Melzer left Russia, and lived for several years in Germany, from there in 1921 he moved to the United States, where he died in 1943.

In 2020, the square at the corner of Bolshoy Sampsonievsky Prospekt and Nobelsky Lane began in St. Petersburg, was renamed Meltserovsky Ploschad – in memory of the court architect. His work reflected the new trends of the turn of the late 19th to early 20th centuries, the emergence of the Art Nouveau style, which was becoming fashionable at the time.

© Paul Gilbert. 2 April 2021

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Fifteen interiors situated in the eastern wing of the palace, are now scheduled to open to visitors in the Spring of 2021. Among the recreated interiors are the New Study of Nicholas II, Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II, Working Study of Nicholas II, Reception Room of Nicholas II, Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, Maple Drawing Room, Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room, the Imperial Bedroom, among others.

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, which includes the Western wing is scheduled for completion no earlier than 2024.

***

Dear Reader: If you enjoy my articles on the history and restoration of the Alexander Palace, then please help support my research by making a donation in US or Canadian dollars to my project The Truth About Nicholas II – please note that donations can be made by GoFundMePayPal, credit cardpersonal check or money order. The net proceeds help fund my work, including research, translations, etc. Thank you for your consideration – PG

UPDATE on the reopening of the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: Director of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve Olga Taratynova

According to the Director of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve Olga Taratynova, the Alexander Palace will receive its first visitors in late May – early June 2021.

“The first stage, which includes 15 interiors of the private rooms of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna is nearing completion, and I hope that within the coming weeks, we will be able to confirm the opening date. Once open to visitors again, we will organize tours for small groups, since the interiors themselves are small. The private life of Nicholas II and his family will be shown from a completely different perspective,” noted Taratynova.

More than 2 billion rubles ($26 million USD) were allocated for the first stage of the restoration of the Alexander Palace, which include the fifteen interiors situated in the eastern wing of the palace. The recreated interiors include the New Study of Nicholas II, Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II, Working Study of Nicholas II, Reception Room of Nicholas II, Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, Maple Drawing Room, Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room, the Imperial Bedroom, among others.

Taratynova noted, that the second phase of the restoration of the palace will take about three more years. “We assume that the second stage will be approximately 2.5-3 years. Work on the second stage is already underway”.

The restoration of the Alexander Palace began in 2010, in which three State Halls were opened to visitors  marking the 300th anniversary of Tsarskoye Selo. In August 2015, the palace was closed for a comprehensive restoration and reconstruction project.

In the future, the Alexander Palace will become a memorial museum of the Romanov family – showcasing the private, domestic life of Nicholas II and his family, who used the palace as an official residence from 1905. The eastern wing of the palace will be known as the Museum of the Russian Imperial Family.

The restoration of the Alexander Palace, which includes the Western wing is scheduled for completion no earlier than 2024. After the completion of the work, the Alexander Palace will become a multifunctional museum complex, which will include exhibition halls, halls for temporary exhibitions, halls for research work and conferences, as well as a library and a children’s center. The basement floor will house a ticket booth, a museum shop, a café, a cloakroom, a tour desk, as well as technical and ancillary facilities.

© Paul Gilbert. 23 March 2021

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Dear Reader: If you enjoy my articles on the history and restoration of the Alexander Palace, then please help support my research by making a donation in US or Canadian dollars to my project The Truth About Nicholas II – please note that donations can be made by GoFundMePayPal, credit cardpersonal check or money order. The net proceeds help fund my work, including research, translations, etc. Thank you for your consideration – PG

 

Recreation of the interiors of the Maple Drawing Room in the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: view of the sofa, recreated for the Maple Drawing Room
© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve

This is the second of two articles on the recreation of the Maple Drawing Room, one of the personal rooms of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna situated in the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace. The first article The History and Restoration of the Maple Drawing Room in the Alexander Palace, was published on 25th November 2020.

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PHOTO: view of the recreated Maple Drawing Room
© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve

The recreation of the textile decoration for the Maple Drawing Room in the Alexander Palace is nearing completion, The craftsmen relied on small fragments of fabrics and historical photographs which had been preserved in the storerooms of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum.

The interior decoration of the Maple Living Room is a classic example of Art Nouveau. The room features: moulding, carving, stained glass framed by a fireplace mirror and artistic textiles, which are best described as a “vividly manifested synthesis of the arts”.

The Art Nouveau style is also reflected in the design of the fabric textiles: curtains on the windows and the doorway to the adjacent Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room, furniture upholstery, in particular, on the corner sofa under the mezzanine and the bracket-shaped sofa – elements which add elegance to this room.. 

PHOTO: view of the recreated Maple Drawing Room
© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve

The corner sofa under the mezzanine is covered with greenish-olive moire silk with a pattern of stylized lilies and leaves in the form of hearts. The same fabric upholstered the panel of the wall under the mezzanine with a jardiniere [flower box].

The brace-shaped sofa, situated in the center of the room is covered with a pink silk lampas fabric decorated with a fawn pattern of plant shoots and roses.

PHOTO: recreated knurled white silk curtains with lace ornaments
© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve

On the windows are knurled white silk curtains with lace ornaments and pink silk curtains with gold ornaments, made at the Sapozhnikov brothers factory in Moscow. Fabulous motifs in fabric ornamentation are highlighted with lily branches, rose bushes, and sirin-birds.

The floor in Empress Alexandra Feodorovna’s Maple Drawing Room was covered with a stitched gray-green beaver carpet. This design made it possible to replace individual elements of the carpet, which over time wore thin. The recreated stitched carpet of New Zealand wool covers an area of ​​182 m2 and weighs 400 kg. A fragment of the reseda-green carpet from the early 20th century, which had been preserved in the palace storerooms, allowed experts to recreate the carpet.

PHOTO: recreated fabric for the Maple Drawing Room
© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve

PHOTO: recreated fabric for the Maple Drawing Room
© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve

PHOTO: recreated fabric for the Maple Drawing Room
© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve

The fabrics for curtains and upholstery were made by RUBELLI in Italy. Models were made from the recreated fabrics and the curtains were sewn at the “Le Lux” factory in St. Petersburg. The carpet, metallic braid and lace inserts were made at the “RE KON ART” factory in Poland.

Various pillows for the sofas and armchairs complemented the upholstered furniture for this room. The brocade pillows were made by the Sapozhnikov brothers’ manufactory, and velvet pillows decorated with peacock feather ornaments, are the works of students of the Stroganov School, as well as a purple pillow made of a veil-type shawl. 

In the future, various pieces of furniture will be recreated for the Maple Drawing Room, with fabrics made according to historical patterns.

NOTE: all photos © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve

© Paul Gilbert. 11 March 2021

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Fifteen interiors situated in the eastern wing of the palace, are now scheduled to open to visitors in 2021. Among the recreated interiors are the New Study of Nicholas II, Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II, Working Study of Nicholas II, Reception Room of Nicholas II, Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, Maple Drawing Room, Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room, the Imperial Bedroom, among others.

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, which includes the Western wing is scheduled for completion no earlier than 2024.

***

Dear Reader: If you enjoy my articles on the history and restoration of the Alexander Palace, then please help support my research by making a donation in US or Canadian dollars to my project The Truth About Nicholas II – please note that donations can be made by GoFundMePayPal, credit cardpersonal check or money order. The net proceeds help fund my work, including research, translations, etc. Thank you for your consideration – PG

 

Furniture recreated for the Corner Reception Room in the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: Colour autochrome of the Corner Reception Room, taken in 1917

The restoration of the gilded furniture set (armchairs, chairs and sofas), which will decorate the Corner Reception Room of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna in the Alexander Palace has been completed.

The Corner Reception Room was originally connected to the Concert Hall by a door located along its central wall. In 1895, a fundamental restructuring of the eastern wing of the palace began, whereby the private apartments for Nicholas II and his family would be created. In 1902–1904, when the Maple Drawing Room and the New Study of Nicholas II were created on the site, the Corner Reception Room was connected to the corridor, becoming part of the personal imperial apartments, but at the same time retained its ceremonial function.

PHOTO: recreated chairs, armchairs and sofas for the Corner Reception Room

The furniture of the Corner Reception Room was almost completely lost during the Great Patriotic War (1941-45). For the new recreated interior set, the selected items were made in the classic style, since most of the gilded furniture that adorned this interior at the beginning of the 20th century – until 1941 – was executed in this style.

The set was restored by specialists from the Tsarskoye Selo Amber Workshop. The restored gilded chairs and armchairs with oval backs and seats were made in the 1770s. Before World War II, these items decorated interiors of the Catherine Palace, in the foyer of the Chinese Theater (in the Alexander Park) and in the White Hall of Gatchina Palace. Two sofas from the second half of the 19th century, also included in the furniture set, were transferred to the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum from the State Hermitage in 1959.

PHOTO: original upholstery sample for the furniture in the Corner Reception Room

In the process of restoration, the craftsmen removed all types of dirt, restored the gesso and gilding, recreated the lost carved details with the subsequent summing up of gesso, diverging and gilding, and upholstery works. In the seat cushion of one of the sofas, the craftsmen found fragments of the original  horsehair, used to fill it. Due to the fact that one of the fragments clearly reads the date – 1865, as well as the fact that the sofa was upholstered once, the object can be dated to that year.

The chairs, armchairs and sofas share the same stylistic unity, as well as the upholstery fabric. In the an old 1917 brochure which describes the Alexander Palace, the furniture of the Corner Reception Room is described: “Furniture of the Louis XVI style of the Russian slave. late 18th century, re-gilded and upholstered in silk. the work of the Sapozhnikov factory in Moscow. / In the style of striped fabrics of the era of Louis XVI.” A fragment of the original upholstery fabric for the furniture of the Corner Reception Room, made in 1903, which had been preserved in the collection of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum, served as a model for recreating the upholstery fabric of the restored items. A pattern of alternating light stripes and stripes of various shades of pink with small ornaments of roses, flower garlands and wavy lines is clearly visible on the silk fabric.

PHOTO: recreated chairs, armchairs and sofas for the Corner Reception Room

NOTE: all photos © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve

© Paul Gilbert. 3 March 2021

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Fifteen interiors situated in the eastern wing of the palace, are now scheduled to open to visitors in 2021. Among the recreated interiors are the New Study of Nicholas II, Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II, Working Study of Nicholas II, Reception Room of Nicholas II, Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, Maple Drawing Room, Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room, the Imperial Bedroom, among others.

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, which includes the Western wing is scheduled for completion no earlier than 2024.

***

Dear Reader: If you enjoy my articles on the history and restoration of the Alexander Palace, then please help support my research by making a donation in US or Canadian dollars to my project The Truth About Nicholas II – please note that donations can be made by GoFundMePayPal, credit cardpersonal check or money order. The net proceeds help fund my work, including research, translations, etc. Thank you for your consideration – PG

The birth of the future Emperor Nicholas II in the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: the Blue Boudoir in the Alexander Palace, where Nicholas II was born

At 4 o’clock in the morning of 19th May (O.S. 6th May) 1868, Tsarevna Maria Feodorovna began having contractions. The future Empress Maria Feodorovna was about to give birth to her first child. Immediately, the midwife Mikhailova was summoned and instructed to rush to the nearby Catherine Palace, to inform Maria’s father-in-law Emperor Alexander II, that his grandchild’s entry into the world was imminent. The Emperor rushed to the Alexander Palace from his apartments located in the Zubov Wing of the palace, followed shortly thereafter by his wife, Empress Maria Alexandrovna.

At 12:50 p.m., Maria Feodorovna was taken into the bedroom [the Blue Boudoir, situated in the west wing of the palace – has not survived], which had been specially prepared for the pending birth. Lying down on the sofa, she was surrounded by her father-in-law, Emperor Alexander II, her mother-in-law, Empress Maria Alexandrovna, and her husband, the Heir-Tsesarevich Alexander Alexandrovich [future Emperor Alexander III]. Her father-in-law and her husband kneeled on either side of the sofa, holding Maria Feodorovna’s hands when she gave birth – at 2.30 p.m. to her first child, a son – His Imperial Highness Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich – the future Emperor Nicholas II.

PHOTO: Maria Feodorovna with her first son Nicholas Alexandrovich. 1868

The happy young father wrote in his diary that day: “At long last, the final minute arrived and all suffering ceased at once. God has sent us a son whom we named Nicholas. What a joy it is, it is impossible to imagine, I rushed to hug my darling wife, who at once cheered up and was terribly happy. I cried like a child, it was so pleasant and easy on my soul. I hugged dear Papa and Mama heartily.”

The happy parents decided to name their son in memory of Alexander’s brother Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich, who died from cerebro-spinal meningitis in 1865. Had he lived, he would have ascended the throne as Emperor Nicholas II.

Emperor Nicholas II was born on 19th May (O.S. 6th May) 1868, the day of St. Job of the Long Suffering.

© Paul Gilbert. 26 February 2021

Home Church of the Imperial Family in the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: the home church of the Imperial Family in the Alexander Palace in the 1930s

On 9th March (O.S. 24th February) 1897, the first liturgy was performed in the home church of the Alexander Palace. “We went to the service in the red corner living room, where the camp church was set up – it is very convenient and pleasant,” Nicholas II wrote in his diary that day.

Initially, a house church had not been built in the New Palace (as the Alexander Palace was called until 1856), Following the tragic death of his beloved daughter Grand Duchess Alexandra Nikolaevna (Adini) on 10th August (29th July) 1844, Emperor Nicholas I, ordered a small chapel (see photo below) to be organized in the western wing of the building, decorated in the Old Russian style.

Russian historian and author Igor Zimin describes the room: “there was a little door in the wall, leading to a tiny dark chapel lighted by hanging lamps, where the Empress [Alexandra Feodorovna, wife of Nicholas I] was wont to pray.”

PHOTO: chapel in the west wing of the Alexander Palace [not survived] in the 1930s

Since the wife of Nicholas II, Alexandra Feodorovna, due to poor health, could not always attend the service in the church of the nearby Catherine Palace, the emperor decided to create a comfortable and simple house church in one of the ceremonial halls of the Alexander Palace: the Crimson Drawing Room was redesigned for these needs. The Travelling Iconostasis of Emperor Alexander I, made by Vasily Shebuev, was installed.

The Travelling Iconostasis of Emperor Alexander I was created for the emperor’s use during his travels. Very simple by imperial standards, it reflected simplicity, convenience and ease of use, and adaptable for moving from place to place. It could be quickly and easily disassembled, easily stowed in crates with all accessories and just as quickly reassembled. Nicholas II sometimes took this iconostasis with him on his travels.

PHOTO: Red and “Crimson” Drawing Rooms. Artist: Luigi Premazzi (1814-1891)
From the Collection of the State Hermitage Museum

In the photos, the iconostasis of Alexander I can be seen stretched across the center of the chapel. This screen followed the Emperor from Russia to Paris and back as part of the furnishing of Alexander’s travelling camp church. The iconostasis is now in the General Staff Building [part of the State Hermitage Museum] in St. Petersburg.

In addition, a small prayer room was installed for Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, where a lectern and a sofa were added for her convenience. The church was consecrated in honour of the Holy Prince Alexander Nevsky.

Divine liturgies were held here for more than 15 years, right up until 1913, when the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral was consecrated in Tsarskoye Selo, which from then on served as the family church of Nicholas II and his family.

PHOTOS: View (above) of the Travelling Iconostasis of Emperor Alexander I. 1930s.
The iconostasis (below) is now in the General Staff Building in St. Petersburg. 1930s

On 12th August (O.S. 30th July) 1917, the last divine liturgy was held in the home church of the Alexander Palace. In his diary, Archpriest Alexander Belyaev recalled this day: “After arriving at the palace at 10 o’clock in the morning, we immediately went, under guard, straight to the church. The valet came from the former empress, bringing a small bunch of carnations and said: “Her Majesty asks that you put these flowers on the icon of the Znamensky Mother of God, which will be brought at two o’clock, into the palace church. These flowers are to remain on the icon during the moleben, and then returned to Her Majesty. She wishes to take them with her on her journey <…> The liturgy began at 11 o’clock. Somehow, I could not help but feel that this was the last Divine Liturgy to be served in the former Tsar’s dwelling . . .”,

The home church existed in the Alexander Palace for exactly 20 years. During the Great Patriotic War (1941-45), its interiors were damaged, but the iconostasis had been evacuated and after the war it was transferred to the Central repository of museum funds of suburban palaces-museums. In 1956, it was transferred to the State Hermitage Museum in Leningrad. Today, it is exhibited in the former interiors of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the General Staff Building, which is now a branch of the State Hermitage Museum.

PHOTO: the home church of the Imperial Family in the Alexander Palace is circled in RED

© Paul Gilbert. 26 February 2021

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Dear Reader: If you enjoy my articles on the history and restoration of the Alexander Palace, then please help support my research by making a donation in US or Canadian dollars to my project The Truth About Nicholas II – please note that donations can be made by GoFundMePayPal, credit cardpersonal check or money order. The net proceeds help fund my work, including research, translations, etc. Thank you for your consideration – PG

Recreation of the interiors of the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room in the Alexander Palace

 

PHOTO: view of the recreated Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room

This is the second of two articles on the recreation of the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room, one of the personal rooms of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna situated in the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace. The first article The history and restoration of the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room in the Alexander Palace, was published on 11th November 2020.

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The Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room was originally conceived as a “reception room” and a music salon with a grand piano, decorated with comfortable furniture for guests.

During the mid-19th century, the room was known as the Blue Drawing Room, one of the former private rooms of the Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna (1853-1920), daughter of Emperor Alexander II (1818-1881). By the 1890s, the Blue Drawing Room was outdated and slightly dilapidated. In 1895-1896, the interior was renovated according to the project of the architect Roman Melzer – co-owner and head of the artistic department of the Meltzer Furniture Trading House, in St. Petersburg.

Prior to the decoration of the room’s interior in the 1890s, a selection of French fabric samples for wall decoration, furniture upholstery and curtains, were presented to Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna for their consideration. On 24th May 1895, Nicholas recorded in his diary: “After breakfast, we chose materials and carpets for our rooms in the Alexander Palace.”

PHOTO: samples of yellowish French fabric for the walls

A month later, on 24th June 1895, the terms of the contract for the implementation of the finishing of the former “reception room” and the supply of the necessary upholstery fabrics and trimmings from France were entered into the order book of Meltzer and Company.

The renovated interior was named Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room: the walls were covered with yellowish French fabric on top, the fireplace and the lower part of the walls were faced with panels of polished rosewood, and rosewood furniture was placed throughout the interior. Some items of the headset were decorated with oak intarsia. The drawing room was completed with rosewood doors.

Over time, the interior was decorated with numerous items related to the tastes and interests of members of the Imperial Family. On the mantelpiece, Art Nouveau clocks coexisted with Royal Danish Porcelain; works of Russian and foreign artists decorated the walls. Many items were reminders of the Empress’s homeland – Darmstadt and the Hesse Landgrave: the large landscape by Bracht depicted a view of the ancestral castle of her family Romrod. Watercolours with views of Darmstadt and its environs were inserted into a wide screen. The shelves of rosewood panels were adorned with objects and framed photographs of members of the Imperial Family.

During the first years of their lives in the Alexander Palace, Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna often spent time in solitude in this room. The room also served as the preferred place for breakfast and lunch for the entire family. Close relatives and distinguished guests were often invited to informal dinners with the Imperial Family in the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room.

PHOTO: old and new carpet samples from Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room

PHOTO: the purple Wilton carpet in the recreated Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room

Sadly, the decoration of the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room were lost during the Great Patriotic War (1941-45). In 2013, the year marking the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg, the Alexander Palace was presented with an exact copy of the Wilton carpet that once decorated the interior. Larry Hokanson, a carpet designer in the United States recreated the colour and pattern, based on the historical sample preserved in the museum’s collection.

In 2018–2020, expert Russian craftsmen recreated the Rosewood finish for the interior. The work on the manufacture of wood panels and fireplace cladding was carried out at the Stavros firm in St. Petersburg. Fabrics and trimmings for walls and curtains were recreated at the Rubelli in Italy and “Re Kon Art” in Poland. They were all able to achieve success, thanks to historical photographs and samples preserved in the Tsarskoye Selo and Pavlovsk museum-reserves. The fabric for the upper part of the fireplace was provided by the Alpina company.

In January 2020, the Tsarskoye Selo announced that they would recreate frames for original works of art, which decorated the room before the 1917 Tevolution. Now restoration specialists of the Tsarskoye Selo Amber Workshop are recreating pieces of the furniture set of the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room.

NOTE: all photos © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve

© Paul Gilbert. 20 February 2021

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Fifteen interiors situated in the eastern wing of the palace, are now scheduled to open to visitors in 2021. Among the recreated interiors are the New Study of Nicholas II, Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II, Working Study of Nicholas II, Reception Room of Nicholas II, Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room, the Imperial Bedroom, among others.

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, which includes the Western wing is scheduled for completion no earlier than 2024.

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Dear Reader: If you enjoy my articles on the history and restoration of the Alexander Palace, then please help support my research by making a donation in US or Canadian dollars to my project The Truth About Nicholas II – please note that donations can be made by GoFundMePayPal, credit cardpersonal check or money order. The net proceeds help fund my work, including research, translations, etc. Thank you for your consideration – PG

 

The History and Restoration of the New Study of Nicholas II in the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: view of the New Study of Nicholas II, as it looked in 1917

In 1902–1904, Roman Feodorovich Meltser’s (1860-1943) firm carried out the construction, decoration and furnishing of the New Study of Emperor Nicholas II in the Alexander Palace. The work had to be carried out according to precise calculations and drawings, which were submitted for consideration by the Technical Committee organized under the Cabinet of His Imperial Majesty.

The emperor’s spacious four-window study had a mezzanine with marble columns, made by the German company Duckerhoff & Neumann (Nassau, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany), which was connected to the mezzanine of the Maple Drawing Room on the opposite side of the eastern wing of the palace. The interior was heated by fireplaces ordered from Vienna. Several types of electric lamps were specially made to illuminate the office, based on the best technological achievements of Russian scientists Alexander Ladygin and Werner von Bolton, as well as the developments of General Electric. Meltzer decorated the lamps with Tiffany style shades with variegated glass. These cylindrical coloured glass “tulip lanterns” have not survived, but are clearly visible in historic photographs, which will allow restorers to recreate them exactly to their original.

PHOTO: view of the staircase leading to the mezzanine, which connected the New Study of
Nicholas II with the Maple Drawing Room, as it looked in 1917 (above); and in 1944 (below)

The ceiling in the Emperor’s study was made of mahogany, including the trim. The walls were painted with a deep blue-green mastic paint and stencilled with ornamental friezes around the tile cladding above the fireplace and a niche behind the table. The walls of the mezzanine were painted in light yellow tones with the same stencil ornament.

An important decorative element of the decoration of the rooms of the Alexander Palace during the late 19th to early 20th centuries, including the New Study were the beautiful oriental carpets. The New Study of Nicholas II, was decorated with large Persian carpets, on top of a seamed crimson carpet.

A pool table occupied the space along the northern wall of the New Study, with a fireplace decorated with blue relief tiles. The pool table was made according to Russian standards, developed and produced by the St. Petersburg manufacturer Adolf Freiberg. A large corner sofa was placed next to the table.

Near the opposite wall was a large desk with an upper shelf and an attached electric lamp on a block. The desk, was covered with many family photographs, writing instruments and other accessories and small memorabilia. Near the window on a high mahogany curb stone stood a plaster bust of Emperor Alexander II by the Italian sculptor Pietro Canonica (1869-1959). It is known that Canonica made a modified bronze copy of the sculpture, which was approved by Nicholas II. A copy of this bust is preserved in the collection of the Museum of Pietro Canonica in Rome, therefore, it will be possible to recreate the lost sculpture based on a historical analogue.

In the central part of the New Study was a large round table, armchairs and chairs, a soft sofa and an armchair with an oval tea table between them. The table, armchair and chair have been preserved and are today in the collection of the Pavlovsk Museum-Reserve. The first meeting in the New Study is noted in the diary of Nicholas II on 3rd May 1903.

The New Study of Nicholas II was filled with works of Danish and Russian porcelain, family photographs, books, and memorabilia. In the bookcases, in addition to works on history, politics and religion, there were the collected works of Shakespeare and Tennyson, works of Byron, Merimee, Gaultier, Hugo, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Merezhkovsky among many others.

The New Study is one of the few interiors of the Alexander Palace, the decoration of which partially survived the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45: the ceiling lining with brass overlays, a mahogany door, two fireplaces, and columns on the mezzanine have all been preserved.

PHOTO: the New Study of Emperor Nicholas II, as it looked between 1997-2015

The interior of the New Study of Emperor Nicholas II was partially restored in 1997 for the opening of the Memories in the Alexander Palace exhibition. Several years later, the interior decoration was reconstructed, which included built-in wardrobes, sofas, chairs, a desk, lighting fixtures, draperies on the windows, made from photographs of the 1930s and inventory drawings of the Tsarskoye Selo Artistic and Historical Commission of 1918. These items were made in 2000 for the filming of Gleb Panfilov’s film The Romanovs. Crowned Family

The current restoration of the interior began in 2015. In 2019, restorers discovered the original color and a fragment of the stencil painting that framed the fireplace portal, which made it possible to restore the historic color of the cabinet walls. The discovery of surviving samples of English tiles made it possible to recreate the cladding of the fireplace inserts and fireplaces.

PHOTO: the restored fireplace in the New Study (above); and a detail of the tile (below)

Furniture lost during the war will be recreated for the New Study. A corner sofa for the billiard table has already been made, a display cabinet, bookcases, wall sconces with Tiffany lanterns and other lighting fixtures are being recreated; work is underway to restore the writing table and billiards, matched by analogy. One future project, is a plan to restore the window frames with cathedral (stained-glass) glass based on information from archival sources.

The Russian company “Tissura” together with the Swiss company Fabric Frontlain, have recreated the silk fabric decorated with hyacinths for the window decoration based on historical samples preserved in the Collection of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum. The window curtains will be made by the St. Petersburg firm “Le Lux”.

PHOTO: the current look of the restored New Study of Emperor Nicholas II

Specialists from the Studio 44 architectural bureau, will soon begin work on the reconstruction of the lost pieces of furniture and lighting fixtures for the New Study.

Paintings, porcelain, and interior sculptures which have been preserved in the Pavlovsk State Museum-Reserve, will be returned to the Alexander Palace. Among them – paintings, sculptures, busts, Danish porcelain, etc. Following the completion of the restoration of the New Study, these items will be returned to their historical places in the Alexander Palace.

© Paul Gilbert. 10 February 2021

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Fifteen interiors situated in the eastern wing of the palace, are now scheduled to open to visitors in 2021. Among the recreated interiors are the New Study of Nicholas II, Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II, Working Study of Nicholas II, Reception Room of Nicholas II, Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room, the Imperial Bedroom, among others.

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, which includes the Western wing is scheduled for completion no earlier than 2024.

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Dear Reader: If you enjoy my articles on the history and restoration of the Alexander Palace, then please help support my research by making a donation in US or Canadian dollars to my project The Truth About Nicholas II – please note that donations can be made by GoFundMePayPal, credit cardpersonal check or money order. The net proceeds help fund my work, including research, translations, etc. Thank you for your consideration – PG