The history and restoration of the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir in the Alexander Palace

 

PHOTO: View of the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir in the Alexander Palace, as it looked in 1917
Popillon’s painting “The Dream of the Virgin” can be seen hanging on the wall 

The favourite room of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna in the Alexander Palace was the Mauve (aka Lilac) Boudoir. This interior was designed by Roman Feodorovich Meltser (1860-1943). According to legend, the empress gave him a lilac branch, her favourite flower, so that the architect could choose the colour scheme for the decoration of the room.

As a result, the walls were upholstered in mauve silk and crowned with a frieze decorated with an iris styled pattern. An ornamental Louis XV style painting decorated the ceiling of the room.

PHOTOS: views of the Mauve (Liliac) Boudoir in the Alexander Palace, as it looked in 1917

The furniture and upright piano by J. Becker were been painted with ivory enamel paint. Some of the furniture items were included in the composition of the walls and fastened to the wall panels. On the shelves, cabinets and fireplace were glass vases, mainly produced by the workshop of Emile Gallé, porcelain figurines and handmade souvenirs presented as gifts to the Empress, as well as family photographs. The room was decorated year-round with fresh flowers from the gardens or hothouses at Tsarskoye Selo.

Alexandra Feodorovna spent a lot of time in the Mauve Boudoir: it was here that she rested, read, and carried out her correspondence. In the evening, the whole family gathered here. The cabinets contained books from the empress’s personal library, sheet music, drawing supplies, and board games.

Thus, at the beginning of the 20th century, the room personified the comfort of a home.

Like many other rooms in the Alexander Palace, the Mauve Boudoir suffered a sad fate – the decoration and the interior were lost during the Great Patriotic War (1941-45).

PHOTO: the current look of the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir after an extensive restoration

PHOTO: Recreated doors of the Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir in the Alexander Palace

During the current restoration, fabric upholstery for the walls and curtains (fragments of fabric had been preserved in the Pavlovsk State Museum-Reserve), furniture, carpets, wood panels, a fireplace, and a picturesque frieze were recreated, based on historical samples, archival documents and photographs.

A huge amount of work has been done to recreate the doors: first, models were made, then the doors were recreated from wood.

The collection of the Alexander Palace Museum contains Alexandra’s writing table from the Mauve Boudoir, found in the park in a ruined state after the war. In 2018, test cleanings of a paint layer of the writing table were carried out, thanks to which the initial colour of the finishing of the entire interior was determined, as well as the colour scheme for the panels, built-in furniture and cabinet doors. The museum plans to restore Alexandra’s writing table to its original, thanks to descriptions and old photographs.

A painting (see first photo above in this article) by the French artist Edouard Jerome Popillon “The Dream of the Virgin” which once hung in the Mauve Boudoir will be returned to the Alexander Palace from the Pavlovsk Museum-Reserve, where it has been held for many decades. Upon the reopening of the palace next year, the painting will be on display in the room for visitors to enjoy.

PHOTO: Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna seated in the corner of the Mauve Boudoir

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The Mauve Boudoir is now one of 15 interiors in the eastern wing of the palace, scheduled to open in 2021. Among the other 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 all my updates on the restoration of the Alexander Palace, then please help support my research by making a donation in US or Canadian dollars – donations can be made by GoFundMe, PayPal, credit card, personal check or money order. Click HERE to make a donation. Thank you for your consideration – PG

© Paul Gilbert. 4 November 2020

Monument to the meeting of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna in Russia unveiled in Crimea

PHOTO: Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich,
Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna and Princess Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt and Rhine

On 30th October, a monument dedicated to the meeting of Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich (future Emperor Nicholas II) and his future bride Princess Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt and Rhine (future Empress Alexandra Feodorovna) in Russia (1894) was unveiled and consecrated in the courtyard of the Central Library in the Crimean city of Alushta, .

Sculptors Irina Makarova and her husband Maxim Bataev, began work on the monument in February. Together, they created a composition consisting of four bronze sculptures. each a little over two meters high, a granite pedestal and an arch.

The funds for the monument were allocated by the St. Basil the Great Charitable Foundation and the Double-Headed Eagle Society for the Development of Russian Historical Education.

“Our composition was not easy. The arch unites two loving hearts – Nicholas and Alix, and is also crowned with an Orthodox cross,” said the sculptor Irina Makarova. – “In addition, there are other persons – Nicholas’ uncle Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, and his wife, the sister of the bride, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, who helped unite the two loving hearts. They were all together in Alushta on that day in 1894.”

PHOTO: The consecration of the monument to Nicholas and Alexandra in Alushta

“We decided to portray Nicholas Alexandrovich in a Hussar uniform – it was in this outfit that he got married,” added Irina Makarova. “In her hands Elizabeth Feodorovna is depicted holding a small icon of the Saviour as the personification of spirituality. After all, she supported her sister when Alix doubted whether to change her faith The arch is also a symbol of Orthodoxy and Holy Russia.”

“My husband and I worked together on every detail,” – said Irina Makarova. – “We argued for a long time over the likeness of the future Emperor. We took the advice of Konstantin Valerievich, slightly changing the shape of the eyes and nose so that Nicholas II would become recognizable in his youth. After that we managed to achieve maximum realism.”

According to local residents, this monument will immortalize not only the meeting of two loving hearts, but also their loyalty for one another.

“I kiss and caress you endlessly, I want to show you all the power of my love for you,” wrote Alexandra Feodorovna to her husband. “Always yours to death and beyond …”

Click HERE to read 3 additional articles (with photos) about the Monument to Nicholas and Alexandra in Alushta

© Paul Gilbert. 30 October 2020

The History and Restoration of the Imperial Bedchamber in the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: the Imperial Bedroom as it looked in the 1930s

The Imperial Bedroom or Bedchamber was among one of the first apartments prepared for the arrival of the Imperial couple to the Alexander Palace.

Nicholas was very fond of their new home at Tsarskoye Selo, On first seeing the newly decorated apartments in September 1895 he wrote to his mother:

“our mood . . . changed to utter delight when we settled ourselves into these marvellous rooms: sometimes we simply sit in silence wherever we happen to be and admire the walls, the fireplaces, the furniture… .”

Between 1894-1895, the bedchamber was redesigned from the bedroom furnished for the wedding in 1874 of Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna (daughter of Alexander II) to Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh. The interior was renovated according to the project of Roman Melzer. The furniture, which had been preserved from the previous decoration, was repainted in white and covered with an English chintz pattern in the form of wreaths of small pink flowers and ribbons. The same fabric was used to make the drapes and alcove curtains for the room.

To carry out the finishing work, the furniture manufacturer Karl Greenberg was invited, who had designed the interior for the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh. In addition, Greenberg designed the dressing room adjacent to the Bedchamber and the Empress’s small Dressing Room.

PHOTO: the Imperial Bedroom as it looked in the 1930s

Gradually, in the autumn of 1895, the furniture began to be replaced. In 1897, the double walnut bed was replaced by two gilded copper beds made by the Moscow firm Tyapunov and Son.

In September 1901, “a thick raspberry velvet carpet which covered the entire floor,” was purchased for the Bedchamber from the merchants Korovins, suppliers of the Imperial Court, for the sum of 747 rubles 50 kopecks.

As can be seen in photographs from the early 20th century, the alcove wall was filled with icons. Over the years, the number of icons steadily increased, many of them gifted to the Imperial family. Among them were many unique images: an icon made by craftsmen on a cut of a tree, or an icon depicting Christ blessing Nicholas II, Alexandra Feodorovna and Tsesarevich Alexei with the inscription: “The Lord Himself blesses and has mercy on them.” Unfortunately, many of these icons were lost: having been sold in the 1930s or disappeared during the war and occupation of the palace by the Nazis. The museum funds preserved the icon “St. Nicholas the Wonderworker”, presented to Nicholas II on the day of his coronation by the abbess of the Seraphim-Ponetaevsky monastery in the Nizhny Novgorod province, as well as two icons presented to Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, among several others.

After the completion of the current restoration work, several hundred icons will once again appear in the alcove of the Bedchamber interior. Unfortunately, due to the numerous losses of the original icons which once hung here, the historic recreation of this collection will never be fully restored.

During the Great Patriotic War, the interior of the Bedchamber was seriously damaged. The alcove had collapsed, the wall decorations and the furniture were all lost. Only one chair survived, which is now in the collection of the Pavlovsk State Museum-Reserve.

PHOTO: the Imperial Bedroom as it looks today

Reliable reconstruction of the original historic look of the Bedchamber, structural elements and furniture finishing details became possible thanks to preserved historical photographs from the collections of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve, the Pavlovsk State Museum-Reserve, the Central State Archive of Film and Photo Documents (St. Petersburg) and the State Archive of the Russian Federation  (Moscow). In these pictures, the interior is presented from different angles. Fragments of chintz and silk twill from the collection from the museum collection, as well as the one chair from the Bedchamber, have been miraculously been preserved, thus becoming invaluable resources for the reconstruction of furniture.

PHOTO: the Imperial Bedroom as it looks today

Since the beginning of the restoration work in the Bedchamber, in addition to architectural elements (alcove, frieze), fabrics on the walls, carpeting, curtains have all been recreated. The project for the production of furniture for this interior has already been completed and work will soon begin on the production of items for the Bedchamber on the Empress’s half of the room.

PHOTO: detail of the Imperial Bedroom as it looks today

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The Imperial Bedroom of Nicholas II is now one of 15 interiors in the eastern wing of the palace, scheduled to open in 2021. Among the other interiors are the 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, and the New Study of Nicholas II.

In the future, the Alexander Palace will become a memorial museum of the Romanov family – from Catherine the Great to Nicholas II, showcasing the private, domestic life of the Russian monarchs who used the palace as an official residence. The eastern wing of the palace will be known as the Museum of the Russian Imperial Family. The multi-museum complex, which includes the Western wing is scheduled for completion no earlier than 2024.

© Paul Gilbert. 14 October 2020

“Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged” – in Defence of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna

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Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (1872-1918)

In a letter to his mother dated 8th June 1910, Nicholas II reflects his deep concern and anxiety about his wife’s condition . . .

“I am completely run down mentally by worrying over her health.”

Over the past 5 years, I have posted many photos of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna on my personal Facebook page, but I am sadly disheartened by the numerous bitter, nasty comments often left by people. This poor woman has been criticized for everything from “never smiling”, “looking miserable” or depicting a “sour face” – just to name a few.

Just last week I received a nasty email from a Facebook troll who noted how much Alexandra is “hated” by “noted historians”.

During her life, Alexandra carried much grief, worry and sorrow on her shoulders, all of which began at an early age. She lost her brother Friedrich to haemophilia in May 1873; her sister Marie died of diphtheria in November 1878; and the following month, her beloved mother Princess Alice also died of diphtheria in December 1878.

After her mother and sister’s deaths, Alix became more reserved and withdrawn. She described her childhood before her mother and sister’s death as “unclouded, happy babyhood, of perpetual sunshine, then of a great cloud.”

In March 1892, her father Grand Duke Louis IV, died of a heart attack. According to Baroness Sophie Buxhoeveden, Alix regarded the death of her father as perhaps “the greatest sorrow of her life”. Buxhoeveden recalled in her 1928 biography [The Life and Tragedy of Alexandra Feodorovna] that “for years she could not speak of him, and long after when she was in Russia, anything that reminded her of him would bring her to the verge of tears”. This loss was probably so much greater for Alix because Grand Duke Louis IV had been Alix’s only remaining parent since she was six years of age.

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In later years, the Empress’s immobility forced her to use a wheelchair

Alexandra’s health was never robust and her five pregnancies, wreaked havoc on her body. Some historians attribute the semi-invalidism of her later years to nervous exhaustion from obsessive worry over the fragile health of her son. She spent most of her time in bed or reclining on a chaise in her boudoir or on a veranda. This immobility enabled her to avoid the social occasions that she found distasteful. Alexandra regularly took a herbal medicine known as Adonis Vernalis in order to regulate her pulse. She was constantly tired, slept badly, and complained of swollen feet. She ate little, but never lost weight – she had become a vegetarian. She may have suffered from Graves Disease (hyperthyroidism), a condition resulting in high levels of the thyroid hormone, which can also result in atrial fibrillation, poor heartbeat and lack of energy.

After the birth of Alexei, the long awaited heir to the Russian throne, Alexandra felt guilt for having passed haemophilia to her son. Most historians believe that she had a breakdown due to the constant worry for her son’s health, and later perhaps suffered from mental health issues.

From the day which she arrived in St. Petersburg, members of the Imperial Family, along with the ladies of the aristocracy took a particular dislike to Russia’s new Empress. Alexandra was a deeply religious woman, and she took great lengths to keep both herself and later he children at a distance from the debauchery of the capital.

Alexandra was also isolated for being foreign. Increasingly, she became an even more unpopular figure with the Imperial Family, the aristocracy, and the Russian people for numerous reasons, including her association with Rasputin and Anna Vyrubova. During the Great War, she became unpopular because of her German birth and upbringing, when that country was an enemy of the Russian Empire. Alexandra became a primary focus for the increasing unrest associated with opposition to the monarchy.

Whatever her shortcomings as Empress, let us be more careful in the words we choose before we pass judgement on this poor woman.

© Paul Gilbert. 20 July 2020

Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna. Words of Love

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One of the project’s billboards in Moscow

In the days leading up to the 102nd anniversary (17th July) marking the death and martyrdom of the Imperial Family, the Orthodox magazine “Фома” has once again launched their “Nicholas II and Alexandra Fedorovna. Words of Love” project. It uses quotes (in Russian) from Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra Feodorovna from their letters to each other and personal diaries on love, marriage and family happiness.

The project is aimed at confirming family values, as well as conveying truthful information about the life of the Holy Royal Martyr family to a new generation of post-Soviet Russians.

Initially launched in Moscow in 2017 in a series of billboards placed around the city, the project has expanded to other Russian cities. Last year the images were made available in a series of postcards, the proceeds of which help raise funds for the project.

© Paul Gilbert. 9 July 2020

UPDATE: Monument to Nicholas and Alexandra in Crimea

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Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich (left), Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich,
Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine, and Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna (right)

On 20th February 2020, I published an article Monument to Nicholas and Alexandra to be established in Crimea, a new monument marking a unique day, to be installed in the Russian city of Alushta, (situated 36 km from Yalta in Crimea) in the autumn of this year.

The photographs depicted in this update, show the progress on the monument, which features Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich (future Emperor Nicholas II, Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine (future Empress Alexandra Feodorovna), Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich and his wife Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna.

It was in the autumn of 1894, that Tsar Alexander III’s health began to further deteriorate. Nicholas obtained the permission of his dying father to summon Alix to the Imperial family’s Crimean palace of Livadia.

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Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich and Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine

The monument will be established in the Crimean town of Alushta on 10th October 2020, the same date in which the meeting of Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich and his future wife Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine took place in 1894. The cost of the monument will be 18,500,000 rubles ($242,000 USD).

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Meeting of the Tsesarevich and his bride in Alushta. 10 October 1894

Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich wrote in his diary that day:

At 9.30 I set out with Uncle Sergei to Alushta, where we arrived at one o’clock in the afternoon. Ten minutes later my beloved Alix arrived from Simferopol with Ella. After luncheon I got into the carriage with Alix and we drove together to Livadia.

My God! What a joy to meet her here at home and to have her near to me—half my cares and worries have been lifted from my shoulders. I was overcome with emotion when we went in to the dear Parents. Papa was weaker today, and Alix’s arrival, together with his talk with Father Ioann [John of Kronstadt], have worn him out!

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Memorial plaque marking the spot where the monument will be installed in Alushta

On 20th October 2019. a memorial plaque was solemnly opened in Alushta, at the site of the historical meeting between Tsesarevich Nikolai Alexandrovich and his future wife, Princess Alice of Hesse-Darmstadt, on 10th October 1894.

© Paul Gilbert. 5 April 2020

Monument to Nicholas and Alexandra to be established in Crimea

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The above image is an artist drawing of a monument that will be established in the Crimean town of Alushta later this year, in honour of the meeting of Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich and his future wife Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine on 10th October 1894, the date that will be inscribed on the monument.

In April 1894, Nicholas’s engagement to Alix was announced. When it became clear that the health of the Tsesarevich’s father Emperor Alexander III was serious, Alix was invited to the Crimea. The couple met at the Dove Cottage, where Alix stopped on the way to Livadia. Princess Alix travelled with her sister Ella to Livadia to receive the blessing of the dying emperor. Nicholas was accompanied by his uncle Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich (Governor of Moscow). It is this historic moment – the meeting of four people – that will be depicted by sculptors.

According to the project manager, vice president of the St. Basil the Great Foundation, Mikhail Wilter, “the cost is estimated at about 18.5 million rubles. This includes four bronze sculptures, a granite pedestal, and an arch. The height of the monument is five meters, the length of the stone is about four meters, and the height of the figures themselves is more than two meters. We expect this project to be implemented in 2020. Part of the funds will come from the Saint Basil the Great Charitable Foundation, and we hope that Crimeans will also contribute to this important project,” said Wilter.

“The composition will consist of four figures – the couple themselves – Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna, her sister Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna and her husband Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, both of whom were present at the meeting of the future Imperial Couple. The arch unites two loving hearts – Nicholas and Alexandra, and is also crowned with an Orthodox cross. I would like the monument to be consecrated so that you can approach, even baptize, as they are saints. Newlyweds can come to the monument to have their wedding photos taken, ”said Irina Makarova, one of the sculptors participating in the project.

“The uniqueness of the sculpture is that all four people died tragically, three of them canonized by the Orthodox Church: Nicholas II, Alexandra Fedorovna and Elizaveta Fedorovna. This is a real human story,” said the author of the project Maxim Batayev, the other sculptor participating in the project.

The bronze and granite monument will be installed in the garden of the city library in October, while the territory surrounding it will be improved and planted with cypress trees.

Click HERE to read my article Love of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna to be immortalized in Crimea, published on 27th September 2019

© Paul Gilbert. 20 February 2020

Order of the Holy Empress Alexandra Feodorovna

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For caring for the Russian people

The International Church and Public Women’s Award (hereinafter referred to as the Order) ‘The Holy Empress Alexandra Feodorovna’ is a non-state award established by the Military Orthodox Mission with the blessing of the First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Eastern Metropolitan Hilarion of America.

The Order is awarded to ladies who honour the memory of the Holy Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, representatives of aristocratic families, abbess of monasteries, members of the Russian monarchist movement, writers and historians, scientists and civil servants, military and civil servants, as well as female foreign citizens, for strengthening traditional spiritual values, acts of mercy and charity, patriotism, as well as in connection with the 400th anniversary of the accession of the Romanov Dynasty in Russia.

The Order was established on 2nd February 2015 by the Military Orthodox Mission. The Order has one degree.

Badge of the Order: a medallion with rays diverging in 4 directions in the form of lilac coloured lilies and the Empress’s personal monogram located between the rays.

On the front side in an enamel circle there is an icon painting of the Holy Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, on the edges of the circle on a red background there is an inscription: “For caring for the Russian people

Order bow: lilac with a black-yellow-white stripe in the center – colors of the Russian Imperial flag.

Cervical ribbon of the Order: lilac with a black-yellow-white stripe in the center – colors of the Russian Imperial flag, 32 mm wide.

© Paul Gilbert. 16 January 2020

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

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Photo © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve

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

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Photo © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve

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Photo © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve

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Photo © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve

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

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

© Paul Gilbert. 26 November 2019