Autumn Views of the Alexander Palace and Park

PHOTO: the Alexander Palace set against the backdrop of autumn colours

The first day of autumn officially arrives in Russia on 1st September. It seems only fitting that we celebrate one of the loveliest seasons of the year with these beautiful photos of the Alexander Palace and Park at Tsarskoye Selo.

Autumn is my favourite time of year to visit Russia. During a visit to St. Petersburg in October 2007, I decided to spend an entire week in Pushkin [Tsarskoye Selo].

Staying in Tsarskoye Selo was a refreshing change from the hustle and bustle of St. Petersburg. I stayed at the Hotel Natali which is situated in the city’s historical district, with nice rooms, and a hearty breakfast included. The main reason I chose this hotel was that the Alexander Palace is literally at the top of the street!

The hotel’s location was ideal for visiting the Alexander and Catherine Palaces, but also the Alexander Park daily on foot at my own leisure. One day, I actually walked to Pavlovsk Palace, a distance of 7.3 km. [4.5 miles]!

The Alexander Park offers pathways leading to the parks numerous pavilions, as well as ponds and canals, which were often used during the summer months by Nicholas II and his children for boating.

Over the course of the past decade, numerous pavilions have been beautifully restored, including the Sovereign’s Martial Chamber, the Arsenal, the Chapelle, and the White Tower. The next restoration project in the Alexander Park will that of the Chinese Theatre.

The paths throughout the Alexander Park are now blanketed in beautiful red, yellow, gold
leaves that crunch under your footsteps. Cool autumn breeze blow through the trees spiriting loose leaves from their branches, allowing each one to dance in the air before falling gently to the ground, adding yet another element to the sprawling carpet of autumn colours. The setting is truly magical.

In addition, I had a wonderful opportunity to explore the town itself. While much of Pushkin was destroyed by the Nazis during the Great Patriotic War (1941-45), it still retains some beautiful architectural gems from the Tsarist period, including a number of palaces and churches – the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral is a must!

Numerous restaurants and cafes are within walking distance of the hotel, as well as a burgeoning souvenir market, where you can buy beautiful hand painted lacquer boxes, lace, and other items made by locals.

For any one planning a future visit to St. Petersburg, I highly recommend Tsarskoye Selo as an alternative place to stay. My autumn 2007 visit remains one of my most memorable visits to Russia, and it was the the season itself which enhanced the beauty of the Alexander Palace and the surrounding park.

NOTE: the first 15 interiors of the private apartments of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, situated in the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace, opened to the public on 14th August 2021. Since that date, nearly 17,000 people have visited the palace.

Click HERE to read my article Alexander Palace reopens for first time since 2015 + 30 colour photos and 2 videos, published on 13th August, 2021; and HERE to read my article First stage of Alexander Palace restoration cost $30 million published on 23rd August 2021 – PG

PHOTO: the Alexander Palace as it looked before the 2015-2021 restoration

PHOTO: view of the western wing of the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: one of the many paths in the Alexander Park carpeted with autumn leaves

PHOTO: memorial to the Russian Imperial Family, erected in the Alexander Park in 2007

PHOTO: the Children’s Island and House situated in the park near the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral is a short walk through the Alexander Park

PHOTO: Russia’s first monument to Nicholas II was established in 1993, on the grounds of the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral

Click HERE to read my article Winter Views of the Alexander Palace and Park + 11 colour photos, published on 1st February 2021; Click HERE to read my article Summer Views of the Alexander Palace and Park + 10 colour photos, published on 29th July 2021

© Paul Gilbert. 14 September 2021

First stage of Alexander Palace restoration cost $30 million

The Alexander Palace. Photo © Ruslan Shamukov

On 13th August, the Russian media were invited to tour the recreated apartments of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress |Alexandra Feodorovna, located in the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye. The palace welcomed its first visitors the following day, 14th August.

The first stage of the Alexander Palace restoration project is the result of the colossal work of hundreds of people, including designers, architects, restorers, museum workers and dozens of organizations.

The designers include “Studio 44 Architectural Bureau” (general design organization), “PSB“ ZhilStroy ”(general contractor organization); “Geoizolu” (deepening the basements), Tsarskoye Selo Amber Workshop (recreation of furniture sets); “Renaissance” workshops for the restoration of ancient monuments (production of fabric decoration); “Art-Corpus” (reconstruction of ceramics and coffered ceiling in the Moorish Bathroom); “Pallade” (reconstruction of the ceramic tile for the fireplace in the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir), Stavros Decor company (reconstruction of wood trim and built-in furniture), “Restro” (reconstruction of a sofa in the Maple Drawing Room), “Studio NB. Yuzhakova “(mirrors, reconstruction of the stained glass frame, and restoration of chandeliers).

Large-scale works began in 2012, which included the three State Halls, situated in the central part of the palace. The Alexander Palace was closed to visitors in the autumn of 2015. The restoration was carried out mainly at the expense of funds allocated by the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation. Thirty-four percent of funding was allocated by the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum and charitable donations. According to the Director of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Olga Taratynova, that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, work on the Alexander Palace continued unabated. She further noted that the tab for the restoration and reconstruction project cost 2.2 billion rubles [$30 million USD].

The opening ceremony was attended by Director of the Department of Museums and External Relations of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation Alexander Voronko, Vice Governor of St. Petersburg Boris Piotrovsky, and the Director of the Tsarskoye Selo Museum-Reserve Olga Taratynova.

The Alexander Palace is a significant architectural monument in Russian history, the last home of the last Russian emperor Nicholas II and his family, who lived here permanently from 1905 to 1917. Thus, at the beginning of the 20th century, the Alexander Palace became the center of state life in Russia.

Visitors will now have an opportunity to see 13 recreated interiors [30 colour photos + 2 videos]: the New Study of Nicholas II, Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II, Working Study of Nicholas II, Reception Room of Nicholas II, the Valet’s Room, PLUS the Maple Drawing Room, Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room, the Imperial Bedroom, the Small and Large Libraries and the Marble/Mountain Hall.

“For us, the opening of the first stage of the Alexander Palace is an epoch-making event. This place is associated with turning points in history, the fate of several generations of the Romanovs. In recent years, all our strengths, aspirations and dreams have been associated with the restoration of the palace. This is a project of incredible complexity and now, finally, we can breathe out a little – the first stage has been completed,” said Olga Taratynova.

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.

CLICK on the above image to watch a VIDEO of the reconstructed interiors of the private apartments of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, situated in the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace

Restoration and reconstruction

Some of the interiors of Nicholas and Alexandra’s private apartments have miraculously retained their historical decoration, including both the New Study and Reception Room of Nicholas II, Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room, and the Large and Small Libraries. In preparation of the opening of the Alexander Palace, additional restoration work was carried out in these interiors.

The restorers relied on amateur photographs taken by Nicholas II and members of his family from the state archives, colour autochromes taken in 1917, as well as additional archival documents. During the restoration, all the original elements of the interior decoration have been preserved, including oak wall panels, wood-clad ceilings and ceramic tiles.

According to the samples of fabrics that are kept in the collections of the Tsarskoye Selo and Pavlovsk State Museum-Reserves, it was possible to recreate decorative fabrics. For instance, in the Imperial Bedroom, the walls, furniture, alcove are upholstered in chintz [printed multicoloured cotton fabric with a glazed finish, used especially for curtains and upholstery], it is also used for window and door draperies. The fabric of the Imperial Bedroom required almost 350 sq. meters of fabric. It took two years to recreate the fabric and draperies of this interior – from the preliminary design to the installation. The Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir is finished with silk. Curtains, including those in the Moorish Bathroom (batiste with appliqués), have been recreated from historical samples and photographs; The Working Study of Nicholas II (jacquard with images of hyacinths); in the Maple Drawing Room (jacquard with birds). Decoration of numerous interiors is replete with trimmings (braid, fringe, cords, lace).

Recreation of decorative elements

Furniture decoration: in total, more than 60 pieces of furniture – beech, walnut, rosewood, maple – will be presented in the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, Maple Drawing Room, Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, the Imperial Bedroom and the Working Study of Nicholas II (the furniture in this interior is under construction and has not yet been installed). The mezzanine in the Maple Drawing Room was recreated, as well as the wall panels in the Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room and the Working Study of Nicholas II.

Fireplaces: in the Palisander (Rosewood) Living Room and Maple Drawing Room, the Working Study of Nicholas II and Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, and the Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II. The fireplace in the Reception Room of Nicholas II and two fireplaces in the Working Study of Nicholas II have been restored.

Carpets: the colour, pile height, density of the base structure were recreated on the basis of photographs and analogs – a total of almost 550 square meters. meters. Stitched New Zealand wool rug in the Maple living room measuring 182 sq. meter weighs 400 kg.

Discoveries

During dismantling work in the Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II, craftsmen discovered the basin of the pool under the floor, and in it they found fragments of the original Metlakh ceramic on the walls. These tiles aided experts with the recreation of the original interior decoration of the Moorish Bathroom, with the aid of black-and-white photographs taken in the 1930s.

In 2019, during the clearing in the New Study of Nicholas II, the discovery of the original colour and a fragment of the stencil painting that framed the fireplace portal, made it possible to restore the historical colour of the walls. The discovery of the surviving samples of English tiles made it possible to recreate the lining of the fireplace inserts and fireplaces.

While recreating the stucco decoration of the Maple Drawing Room, the restorers discovered in the opening between the two mezzanines – from the Maple Drawing Room to the New Study of Nicholas II – a small fragment of the original decoration of the drawing room, which answered questions about the shade of pink and the nature of the stucco relief depicting roses.

Exhibition

Prior to the outbreak of the Great Patriotic War in 1941, the Alexander Palace housed more than 52.5 thousand items, of which more than 44.8 thousand items were lost during the war from 1941 to 1945. From the 7.7 thousand items which survived, a significant part of the items are currently in the collection of other museums in Russia. Among these were 5,615 items moved from the Alexander Palace to he Pavlovsk State Museum Reserve. Of these, nearly 200 pieces were originally from the Alexander Palaces’ three ceremonial halls: the Portrait, Semi-Circular and Marble Halls. These include 39 pieces of porcelain, 41 paintings, 73 decorative bronze pieces, and 28 pieces of furniture.’

More than 6 thousand items from the collections of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve will be displayed in the reconstructed interiors of the Alexander Palace. It is interesting to note that the Pavlovsk State Museum Reserve “temporarily loaned” nearly 200 items from its collection to the Alexander Palace [these items actually belong to the Alexander Palace]. The Central Museum of Contemporary History of Russia in Moscow handed over the keys to the palace, which entered the museum collection from the assistant commandant of the palace immediately after the revolution.

Assistance in the creation of the exhibition was provided by the History of the Fatherland Foundation, State Archives of the Russian Federation (GARF), the Peter the Great Central Naval Museum, the State Hermitage Museum, the Russian Museum, the Gatchina State Museum-Reserve, the Russian National Library, the Livadia Palace Museum, the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. A.S. Pushkin, Novosibirsk State Art Museum, Rostov Regional Museum of Fine Arts, Memorial History and Art Museum-Reserve of V.D. Polenov, Research Museum of the Russian Academy of Arts, private gallery Galerie Christian Le Serbon (Paris), and the British Museum.

PHOTO: Empress Alexandra Feodorovna’s Corner Reception Room

Work carried out in the interiors

Corner Reception Room

It was in this room that Nicholas II received the ambassadors of foreign states. Here, in May 1902, French President Loubet, who was on an official visit to Russia, was received. He presented Alexandra Feodorovna with a large tapestry portrait of Marie-Antoinette with her children, based on the original portrait by Vigee-Lebrun (1787). During the Russo-Japanese War and the First World War, it was in this room, that the Empress received the leaders of the charitable organizations which she patronized. The family often arranged breakfasts and dinners here, gathered during home concerts, in which the stars of the St. Petersburg opera company, including Fyodor Chaliapin, often took part.

It was also in the Corner Reception Room, on 20th August 1915, the historic meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers was held, at which Nicholas II announced that he would assume command of the army and navy.

Works: artificial marble, parquet, moulding, recreation of furniture, curtains and window fillings recreated.

Maple Drawing Room

Its architectural design with its Art Nouveau style and forms stands out sharply against the background of the rest of the interiors. The main architectural accent is the spacious mezzanine, where the Empress painted and made handicrafts.

Here Alexandra Feodorovna received people close to her and trusted visitors. During the First World War, when Nicholas II was in the army, the empress heard reports from ministers here.

Works: mezzanine, furniture, carpet, decorative moulding, recreation of fireplaces.

Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room

This interior was designed by Roman Melzer in 1896-1897. The architect chose rosewood as the main finishing material – expensive wood that was delivered from abroad. In the first years of their residency in the palace, Nicholas II and Alexandra Fedorovna often spent time in solitude in this particular room. Then the living room became a place for breakfast and dinner for the Imperial family.

The Empress kept things in this room which reminded her of her homeland – the Grand Duchy of Hesse, situated in southern Germany – landscapes, watercolours, and portraits. With the help of two telephones, the empress could use the local St. Petersburg network and communicate directly with the Headquarters in Mogilev, where Nicholas II spent a long time during the First World War. It was in this room that on 8th March 1917, General Lavr Georgiyevich Kornilov placed Alexandra Feodorovna and her children under house arrest at the Alexander Palace.

Works: the upholstery of the walls, curtains, carpets, as well as panels and a fireplace made of rosewood, decorated with a fabric insert and mirrors with a facet (special processing of edges and the outer edge of the glass), a stucco frieze were recreated according to historical samples.

Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir

During the more than two decades of Alexandra Feodorovna’s life in Russia, the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir – her favourite room in the Alexander Palace – was never redesigned. The mauve silk was ordered from the Parisian firm of Charles Bourget. In this room, the emperor and empress, along with their children often drank coffee after breakfast and gathered for evening tea. Alexandra Feodorovna spent a lot of time here writing letters and reading.

According to the memoirs of contemporaries, the Empress usually sat in a chaise lounge, reclining on lace pillows. Behind her was a draft-proof glass screen, and a lace shawl covering her legs.

Works: the fabric upholstery of the walls, curtains, furniture, carpet, wood panels, a fireplace, a picturesque frieze were all recreated.

Imperial Bedroom

Entry to the Imperial Bedroom could be made through the Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room and the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir. To wake the emperor and empress each morning, one of the footmen knocked three times on the door of the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir with a silver staff. By this time, Nicholas was usually already awake and already at work at his desk, while Alexandra often got up late, and if she was not feeling well, did not leave her private rooms.

Works: recreated alcove, fabric wall upholstery, curtains, carpet, furniture.

Reception Room of Nicholas II

From 1905, the Alexander Palace became the main imperial residence, and therefore the center of the country’s state life. The officials who arrived for an audience with the emperor first went to the Reception Room, where they were received by the adjutant wing, who was on duty.

Works: restoration of oak panels, parquet, fireplace, ceiling paneling and fabrics, upholstery of a built-in sofa, restoration of a chandelier.

Large and Small Libraries

According to the pre-war museum inventory, there were almost 19 thousand volumes in the library halls of the palace and 6 thousand volumes were in private rooms. The Large and Small Libraries today exhibit more than 5 thousand volumes.

Works: reconstructed artificial marble, parquet floors, bookcases (partially recreated).

Working Study of Nicholas II

Here the emperor received ministers every day, heard reports, and reviewed official documents. The interior consisted of a table, chairs, walnut cabinets and a large ottoman upholstered in the fashion of a Persian rug. Nicholas II rested on it when work dragged on until nightfall or when he returned to Tsarskoye Selo from St. Petersburg late and preferred not to disturb his family.

The study also contained the personal library of Nicholas II, which consisted of about 700 volumes of military, historical literature, books on state issues, fiction and periodicals. The decoration was destroyed during the Nazi occupation.

Works: reconstruction of curtains, fireplace, panels, built-in walnut furniture, carpets. It is assumed that the recreated ottoman, a desk with a desk, a lamp, and armchairs will also return to the interior.

PHOTO: Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II

Moorish Bathroom

Built in the Moorish style, the emperor’s bathroom was decorated with a swimming pool with a capacity of about a thousand buckets of water. The pool was filled with water at the required temperature in a few minutes. On the platform facing the pool there was a fireplace surrounded with oriental style tiles. The pool and the entire bathroom were designed and supervised by the architect and engineer Nicholas de Rochefort. The decoration was lost during the Great Patriotic War.

Works: recreated fireplace, pool, partition, fabrics, carpet, curtains, horizontal bar, ceiling, and a picturesque frieze.

PHOTO: Valet’s Room

Valet’s Room

Under Nicholas II, the Cloakroom and Kamerdinerskaya, separated by partitions, were located here.

Works: due to the lack of iconographic material, it was decided to leave this interior in its current state; the walls were plastered and painted, and the historical modeling was preserved.

New Study of Nicholas II

The interior was designed in the Art Nouveau style. A wooden staircase leads to a mezzanine which connects to the Maple Drawing Room mezzanine. During the First World War, maps of military operations were laid out and fateful decisions were made in the New Study of Nicholas II.

Works: restored fireplaces, parquet, ceiling, stairs to the mezzanine; the found samples were used to recreate the wall paintings (the discovered fragments were preserved), the curtains and partly furniture were recreated.

PHOTO: watercolour of the Alexander Palace as it looked in 1831

Historical reference

In 1792, the Alexander Palace was built by the Italian architect Giacomo Quarenghi by order of Empress Catherine II. The palace was a wedding gift for her beloved grandson – Grand Duke Alexander Pavlovich (future Emperor Alexander I) with Grand Duchess Elizabeth Alekseevna.

The private apartments of Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra Feodorovna were placed in the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace. Alterations were carried out from 1894 under the leadership of Alexander Vidov and Alexander Bach. After the death of Vidov, he was replaced by Silvio Danini, who, in turn, was replaced by Roman Melzer.

From 1905, the palace became the permanent residence of Emperor Nicholas II, who was born here in 1868. It was here that the Emperor spent the last 12 years of his reign. It was from the Alexander Palace on 1st August 1917, that the Imperial family were sent into exile to Tobolsk in Siberia.

In 1918, the Alexander Palace was opened to visitors as a state museum. Later, a recreation center for NKVD employees was located in the west wing of the palace. An orphanage was opened in the former rooms of the Nicholas II’s children on the second floor of the east wing.

During the Nazi occupation of the city of Pushkin [Tsarskoye Selo], the German headquarters and the Gestapo were located in the Alexander Palace, in the basements there was a prison. The square in front of the palace was turned into a cemetery for SS officers.

After the war, the palace was mothballed and in 1946 transferred to the USSR Academy of Sciences for keeping the collections of the Institute of Russian Literature. The building was being prepared for a large-scale exhibition dedicated to the 150th anniversary of the famous Russian poet Alexander Pushkin. As a result, restoration work on the palace began in 1947-1949: it was planned to restore the preserved interiors of Quarenghi and the surviving fragments of the decoration of the late 19th – early 20th centuries. During the work, many elements of the decoration of the Maple Drawing Room and the Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, as well as the Moorish Bathroom, were destroyed.

In 1951, the palace was transferred to the Naval Department, and the palace collection, which was part of the evacuated items in the Central Depository of Museum Collections of Suburban Palaces-Museums, were transferred to the Pavlovsk Palace State Museum.

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

© Paul Gilbert. 23 August 2021

***

Dear Reader: If you enjoy my articles and updated 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

Your donation helps support my work in a number of ways, including research, the cost of translations from Russian media and archival sources, the maintenance of my news blog: Nicholas II. Emperor. Tsar. Saint., the organization of conferences and other events. Thank you for your consideration – PG

Alexander Palace reopens for first time since 2015

PHOTO: The eastern wing of the Alexander Palace, Tsarskoye Selo

After an extensive restoration project which began in the autumn of 2015, the private apartments of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna opened today in the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo.

The Russian media were invited for a press tour of thirteen reconstructed interiors located in the eastern wing of the palace. The Alexander Palace will welcome its first visitors tomorrow – 14th August.

Visitors will now have an opportunity to see the New Study of Nicholas II, Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II, Working Study of Nicholas II, Reception Room of Nicholas II, the Valet’s Room, PLUS the Maple Drawing Room, Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room, the Imperial Bedroom, the Small and Large Libraries and the Marble/Mountain Hall.

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.

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

PHOTO: Director of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve Olga Taratynova, holds a press conference in the Maple Drawing Room

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While reviewing the photos of the recreated interiors of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna, one cannot help but notice that some interiors are decorated more than others. It is important to remember that thousands of items from the Alexander Palace were destroyed or stolen in the decades that followed the 1917 Revolution. Thousands more were moved to other locations, where they remain to this day. This article examines the fate of the Alexander Palace collection, researched from Russian archival sources.

Click HERE to read my article The fate of the contents of the Alexander Palace in the 20th century, published on 17th January 2021

NOTE: the photos below are courtesy of various Russian media sources and the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve

PHOTO: Working Study of Nicholas II

PHOTO: Working Study of Nicholas II

PHOTO: Reception Room of Nicholas II

PHOTO: New Study of Nicholas II

PHOTO: New Study of Nicholas II

PHOTO: New Study of Nicholas II

PHOTO: New Study of Nicholas II

PHOTO: Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II

PHOTO: Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II

PHOTO: elaborate carved detail of the door leading into the Large Library

PHOTO: the Large Library

PHOTO: the Large Library

PHOTO: the Large Library

PHOTO: Empress Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room

PHOTO: Empress Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room

PHOTO: Maple Drawing Room

PHOTO: Maple Drawing Room

PHOTO: Maple Drawing Room

PHOTO: Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room

PHOTO: Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room

PHOTO: Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room

PHOTO: Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir

PHOTO: Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir

PHOTO: The Imperial Bedroom

PHOTO: The Imperial Bedroom

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VIDEOS

Click on any of the 2 images below to see some of the more intricate details of the reconstructed interiors of the private apartments of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna, located in the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace.

NOTE: the commentary in these videos is in Russian only, however, do not allow that to deter you from watching them.

VIDEO DURATION: 3 minutes, 32 seconds. Russian

VIDEO DURATION: 2 minutes, 36 seconds. Russian

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RESTORATION OF THE CENTRAL and WESTERN WING

PHOTOS: the central and western wing of the Alexander Palace remain closed due to the next stage of restoration. The western wing is expected to open to visitors no earlier than 2024

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. 13 August 2021

***

Dear Reader: If you enjoy my articles and updated 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

Your donation helps support my work in a number of ways, including research, the cost of translations from Russian media and archival sources, the maintenance of my news blog: Nicholas II. Emperor. Tsar. Saint., the organization of conferences and other events. Thank you for your consideration – PG

It’s Official! The Alexander Palace reopens on 14th August

The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum have at long last announced that after a large-scale restoration, the personal apartments of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna in the Alexander Palace will open to visitors on Saturday 14th August 2021.

The opening day on 14th (O.S. 1st) August, marks the 104th anniversary since the Imperial Family left the palace for the last time and sent into exile to Tobolsk and later Ekaterinburg.

Restoration work in the Alexander Palace actually began in 2012, however, it was not until August 2015 that it has been closed to visitors, for additional restoration and the reconstruction of the historic interiors of the private apartments of the Imperial Family.

As of 14th August, visitors can see the New Study of Nicholas II, Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II, Working Study of Nicholas II, Reception Room of Nicholas II, the Valet’s Room, PLUS the Maple Drawing Room, Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room, the Imperial Bedroom, the Small and Large Libraries and the Marble/Mountain Hall.

In addition, the State Halls located in the central part of the Alexander Palace will also be available to visit: the Portrait Hall, the Semi-Circular Hall and the Marlbe/Billiard Hall.

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. 6 August 2021

***

Dear Reader: If you enjoy my articles and updated 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

Your donation helps support my work in a number of ways, including research, the cost of translations from Russian media and archival sources, the maintenance of my news blog: Nicholas II. Emperor. Tsar. Saint., the organization of conferences and other events. Thank you for your consideration – PG

Summer Views of the Alexander Palace and Park

PHOTO: aerial view of the front of the Alexander Palace. The eastern wing (left) contains the private apartments of Emperor Nicholas II and his family. It was here in the Alexander Palace, that Russia’s last Emperor and Tsar was born on 19th (O.S. 6th) May 1868.

The Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo has been closed to visitors since autumn 2015. Since that time, it has been undergoing a much needed restoration, one which will include the historical recreation of the interiors of the private apartments of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna, located in the eastern wing of the palace.

In recent months, the efforts of designers, craftsmen, artists and other experts have breathed new life into the interiors of Russia’s last Imperial Family. Photographs and media tours have offered us just a peek inside, generating excitement among anxious visitors within Russia and abroad.

Sadly, the highly anticipated reopening has been delayed on numerous occasions over the past year: the palace was due to open on 20th August 2020, it was then postponed until December 2020, then delayed until late May or early June of 2021.

For some reason, the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve cannot provide the public with a firm date. They were hopeful that the Alexander Palace would reopen in time for the summer tourist season. The reopening is surrounded in secrecy and rumours. One rumour is that the palace will reopen its doors to visitors on 14th August, the date marking the 104th anniversary when the Imperial Family left the palace for the last time and sent into exile.

Further delays caused by the COVID situation in Russia – which in recent weeks has spiralled out of control – has caused further delays on the restoration of the palace and its reopening. The situation is compounded even further, by the fact that Russia’s borders are closed to most foreigners. There is no indication just when these restrictions will be lifted.

Setting aside any rumours and travel restriction, only time will tell if and when the Alexander Palace will reopen by the end of this summer, or will it be delayed . . . yet again?

In the meantime, I have assembled the following collection of photos of the Alexander Palace and Park, all of which evoke the beauty and tranquillity of this place. After viewing these images, I am sure that you will agree that it is quite understandable why the Imperial Family enjoyed the time they spent here together – PG

PHOTO: aerial view of the rear of the Alexander Palace. Situated facing the Alexander Park are the windows of the Semi-Circular Hall [seen in the photo]. It was through these doors on 14th (O.S. 1st) August 1917, that the Imperial Family and their retinue departed the Alexander Palace for the last time.

PHOTO: The main gate leading into the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo. The gate was installed in 1898, based on the design of the Russian architect (of Italian origin) Silvio Amvrosievich Danini (1867-1942). The view from the street has remained virtually unchanged since the early 20th century.

Following Nicholas II’s abdication on 15 March (O.S. 2 March) 1917,”Colonel Romanov” passed through these gates to be reunited with his family. Together, they lived here under house arrest, until their exile to Tobolsk on 14th (O.S. 1st) August of the same year.

PHOTO: view of the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace. Fifteen interiors situated in the eastern wing of the palace, are now scheduled to open to visitors in the summer 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, Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room, the Imperial Bedroom, among others. This wing of the palace will become known as the ‘Museum of the Russian Imperial Family’.

PHOTO: it is hard to imagine that during the Nazi occupation of Pushkin [Tsarskoye Selo] during the Great Patriotic War [1941-45], that this beautifully landscaped garden in front of the Alexander Palace, was a cemetery for 85 SS officers. The markers were removed after the war, however, it would be many years before the remains were exhumed and sent to Germany for burial.

PHOTO: two rows of Corinthian columns cut across the central colonnade of the Alexander Palace, connecting the eastern and western wings. The columns compliment the Neoclassical edifice. Built between 1792 and 1796 by the famous architect Giacomo Quarenghi (1744-1817), upon completion, it was agreed that the architect had excelled himself in creating a masterpiece.

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.

PHOTO: situated just steps past the western wing of the Alexander Palace is the Children’s Island and House.

The island features a tiny house built for the children of Emperor Nicholas I, and later enjoyed by the children of three successive monarchs: Alexander II, Alexander III and Nicholas II. To the left of the house is a small cemetery, where the Tsar buried his favourite dogs. The cemetery has survived to this day.

The island was reached by a pull-ferry, whereby sailors would pull ropes sending the ferry over to the island and back from the park’s shore.

According to the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum, there are plans to eventually restore the Children’s Island and Pavilion, once funding has been secured.

PHOTO: in 2007, this memorial was erected in the park near the palace. The memorial consists of a granite cross and the image of the Imperial Family. The Russian inscription reads Дом царской семьи 1895-1917Home of the Tsar’s family 1895-1917. Sadly, the memorial was removed in May 2010, its whereabouts remains unknown.

PHOTO: also situated in the Alexander Park, is the alleged first grave of Grigorii Rasputin (1869-1916). Every year on the anniversary of his death, Orthodox Christians come here to honour his memory [there is a growing movement to canonize Rasputin]. The grave is repeatedly vandalized.

Rasputin was buried on 2nd January (O.S. 21st December) at a small church that Anna Vyrubova had been building in the Alexander Park. The funeral was attended only by the Imperial Family and a few of their intimates. Shortly after the Tsar abdicated the throne in March 1917, a detachment of soldiers exhumed Rasputin’s corpse and burned by on the night of 11th March in the furnace of a steam boiler at the Polytechnic Institute in Petrograd.

PHOTO: Situated in the garden behind the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral [the household church of Nicholas II and his family] at Tsarskoye Selo, is a bust-monument to Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II, the work of St. Petersburg sculptor Victor Vladimirovich Zaiko (born 1944).

The monument was consecrated on 17th July 1993, the day marking the 75th anniversary of the murder of Nicholas II. Hundreds of Orthodox Christians and monarchists gathered for the official opening and consecration of the first monument to Emperor Nicholas II to be established in post-Soviet Russia.

The monument stands in front of a small group of oak trees, seen in the background, which were planted by Nicholas II and his family on 4 May (O.S. 21 April) 1913. Of the seven trees planted, only four have survived to the present day.

Click HERE to view Winter Views of the Alexander Palace and Park, published on 1st February 2021

© Paul Gilbert. 29 July 2021

***

Dear Reader: If you enjoy my articles and updated 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

Your donation helps support my work in a number of ways, including research, the cost of translations from Russian media and archival sources, the maintenance of my news blog: Nicholas II. Emperor. Tsar. Saint., the organization of conferences and other events. Thank you for your consideration – PG

Recreation of glass items and decorative elements for the interiors of the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: the fireplace and mirror recreated for the mezzanine connecting the New Study of Nicholas II and the Maple Drawing Room of Alexandra Feodorovna in the Alexander Palace

Specialists of the Yuzhakova Studio in St. Petersburg have completed complex and painstaking work on the glass lighting fixtures in the various interiors of the Alexander Palace. Among their recreations are the replenishment of the blue overflow on the Moorish plafond in the Tsar’s Bathroom, the restoration of crystal pendants, obelisks and the reconstruction of the lost cobalt balusters on the Catherine chandelier, the restoration of a crack on the 18th century flask of the lantern of the Great Library, as well as the replenishment of the lost yellow beads on the fringe of the chandelier in the Reception Room of Nicholas II.

The interiors of the Alexander Palace were originally decorated with glass products and objects – large mirrors, luxurious chandeliers, girandoli and sconces, as well as vases and glass clock cases. These items were objects of the 18th-19th centuries of complex manufacture, demonstrating the technical achievements of Russian (Nazinskie glass factories, Irbit glass factory) and foreign glass production.

From 1895, Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna gradually filled their private apartments with objects created by Russian and foreign firms. The highest orders for the interiors of the Alexander Palace were made with the St. Petersburg imperial porcelain and glass factories, the factory of mirrors, and window. The interiors featured vases and other items from glass factories in Silesia, as well as the French glassmakers Emile Galle (Nancy), and the Brothers Dom firm.

During the decoration of the private interiors of the August couple in the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace, the architect Roman Feodorovich Meltser’s (1860-1943) continued the tradition of using the best modern glass products, decorating the transom windows with cathedral glass, for both the Reception Room and Working Study of Nicholas II.

For the lighting fixtures of the Emperor’s New Study, 25 coloured glass shades were used for the design of the Tiffany-style “tulip lanterns”.

According to Meltzer’s plan, the New Study of Nicholas II and the Maple Drawing Room of Alexandra Feodorovna were united by a mezzanine. In the Maple Drawing Room, the architect arranged a mezzanine in the design of a balcony, the side rails of which in the upper part were decorated with stylized floral ornament glazing. According to Melzer’s project, the stained-glass frame of the mezzanine fireplace mirror was manufactured and electrified. A high screen, also decorated with stained glass stood near the door of the room. Sadly, these exquisite decorative glass elements of the Maple Drawing Room did not survive.

PHOTO: view of the fireplace mirror recreated for the mezzanine connecting the New Study of Nicholas II and the Maple Drawing Room of Alexandra Feodorovna in the Alexander Palace

The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum decided to recreate them on the basis of design documentation developed by the Studio 44 architectural bureau, prepared from photographs from the early 20th century and 1930s. The reconstruction of the decorative glass with facet and the stained glass frame of the fireplace mirror was carried out in 2020 by the masters of the Yuzhakova Studio. The lack of historical fragments and clear photographs complicated the work: it was necessary to study analogs – coloured glass of the Art Nouveau era. Natalia Yuzhakova selected and used glasses identical in texture and colour. Since the stained-glass frame was convex, the cut-out elements from the layers of stained glass were heated in an oven and bent to the desired configuration. During manufacture, the tin frame was checked against a pre-made template.

The work on the manufacture of the frame was carried out by the master Valery Matrosov. Natalia Yuzhakova selected and used glasses identical in texture and colour. Since the stained-glass frame was convex, the cut-out elements from the layers of stained glass were heated in an oven and bent to the desired configuration. During manufacture, the tin frame was checked against a pre-made template.

In the same workshop, mirrors of complex configuration with facet were made for the Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, and the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, as well as a glass vase of the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir chandelier.

The chandelier for twelve candles from the historical collection of the museum was made in 1858 at the factory of the famous St. Petersburg bronzer Felix Chopin and was originally located in the rooms of Empress Maria Alexandrovna (1824-1880) in the Zubov Wing of the Catherine Palace. A special decoration of this lighting device was a central vase in the form of a jug made of coloured glass (lost during the war) with a bronze openwork lid (preserved). When recreating the glass part with the shape and size of the vase, there were no difficulties – it was clearly visible on archived black-and-white photographs, and with the colour of the glass, designated as “purple” in the inventories, it was more difficult. During the discussions, a mauve shade was approved, corresponding to the colour of the wall upholstery and furniture set in the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir.

In the process of recreating the chandelier vase, experts made several attempts to blow out the glass piece. It was not immediately possible to obtain the desired shade of colour and saturation, since manganese oxide, used as a dye, can change its colour at high temperatures, which, in turn, affects the colour of the finished product. In addition, the base and neck of the vase should fit snugly against the adjacent parts of the chandelier – the lower bronze rosette and the openwork lid, taking into account that the lower part of the vase is held together by six gilded bronze holders in the form of narrow leafy shoots. Therefore, in the manufacture of chandeliers, bronze masters, as a rule, first acquired finished blown glass parts of the required size, shape and colour.

© Paul Gilbert. 15 July 2021

Furniture moved into the Mauve Boudoir of the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: Empress Alexandra Feodorovna’s writing table in the Mauve Boudoir
2021 © Tsarskoye Selo Restoration Workshop

In addition to last week’s post about the recreated chair taking its rightful place in the corner of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna’s Mauve (Lilac) Drawing Room, several additional pieces have since been moved into this iconic interior of the Alexander Palace.

The only original item to have survived from the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir was Empress Alexandra Feodorovna’s writing-table, which originally stood in front of the window at an angle. The table entered the collection of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve in 1999. During the Great Patriotic War (1941-45), the table had not been evacuated.

PHOTO: the restored writing table of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna
2021 © Tsarskoye Selo Restoration Workshop

Following the war, the table was discovered in a deplorable state in the Alexander Park by the former curator of the Alexander Palace, Anatoly Mikhailovich Kuchumov (1912-1993). In 2018, restorers conducted test clearing of the paint layer of the table, determined the initial colour of its finish and, on the basis of this, made a decision on the colour scheme of the panels, built-in furniture and doors of the Mauve Boudoir. In 2020, the masters of the Tsarskoye Selo Amber Workshop restored the table and recreated the lost details, based on photographs and archival descriptions.

PHOTO: recreated furniture in the Mauve Boudoir of the Alexander Palace
2021 © Tsarskoye Selo Restoration Workshop

PHOTO: early 20th century photo of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna relaxing on her sofa in the Mauve Boudoir. Note the side table piled high with books, letters and other papers, as well as the framed photos of her family on the shelves above.

And just this past week, several other pieces of furniture recreated for this interior were moved into place. The most prominent is the mauve sofa – an exact copy of the original – where the Empress would come to relax, read and write letters. This sofa was her refuge on the days she felt unwell, and often taking her meals during her indispositions.

PHOTO: recreated furniture in the Mauve Boudoir of the Alexander Palace
2021 © Tsarskoye Selo Restoration Workshop

In addition, we see another arm chair with tassels and foot stool, side tables and book cases. But take note of the finer details of the interior, with its white wood panelling, decorated with framed photos set against the background of the mauve silk wall covering. At long last, the once favourite room of the last Empress of Russia is nearing completion.

For more information on the history and recreation of the Empress’s Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, please refer to the following articles below:

Recreation of Furniture for the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir in the Alexander Palace – published on 9th December 2020

The history and restoration of the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir in the Alexander Palace – published on 4th November 2020

© Paul Gilbert. 5 July 2021

***

Fifteen interiors situated in the eastern wing of the palace, are now scheduled to open to visitors in the Summer 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 and updated 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

Your donation helps support my work in a number of ways, including research, the cost of translations from Russian media and archival sources, the maintenance of my news blog: Nicholas II. Emperor. Tsar. Saint., the organization of conferences and other events. Thank you for your consideration – PG

Iconic chair recreated for Mauve Boudoir in Alexander Palace

PHOTO: copy of recreated chair for the Mauve Boudoir
2021 © Tsarskoye Selo Restoration Workshop

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

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

PHOTO: Copy of the chair recreated in 2000 for Panfilov’s film

The original chair did not survive, however, a copy of the chair was made in 2000, and used by Russian director Gleb Panfilov to shoot a scene for Романовы. Венценосная семья / The Romanovs: An Imperial Family [click on the link to watch the entire film with English subtitles], a film on the last days of Tsar Nicholas II and his family. Following the completion of the film, the chair was added to the Memories in the Alexander Palace exhibition, which opened in 1997.

PHOTO: copy of recreated chair for the Mauve Boudoir
2021 © Tsarskoye Selo Restoration Workshop

The Tsarskoye Selo Restoration Workshop have now recreated an exact copy of the iconic chair based on the original from vintage photographs. The chair will be moved into the corner of the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir of the Alexander Palace, and will be on display when the palace reopens this summer.

© Paul Gilbert. 28 June 2021

***

Fifteen interiors situated in the eastern wing of the palace, are now scheduled to open to visitors in the Summer 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 and updated 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

Your donation helps support my work in a number of ways, including research, the cost of translations from Russian media and archival sources, the maintenance of my news blog: Nicholas II. Emperor. Tsar. Saint., the organization of conferences and other events. Thank you for your consideration – PG

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

***

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