Portrait of Nicholas II still bears the cuts made by Bolshevik bayonets in 1917

PHOTO: the portrait of Emperor Nicholas II, painted by Nun Emeliana (Batalov), still bears the cuts made by Bolshevik bayonets in 1917

During his reign, Emperor Nicholas II never visited the Novo-Tikhvinsky Convent in Ekaterinburg, however, when a request was made by one of the nuns to paint his portrait came, the Emperor granted this favour. It was Nun Emeliana (Batalov), who painted the portrait of the Emperor wearing the uniform of the Life-Guards Hussar Regiment. The portrait – a gift marking the 1896 coronation – was sent to Moscow, where it was presented to the new Emperor at a reception held in the Grand Kremlin Palace. Nicholas was so pleased with the portrait, that he ordered that it be sent to St Petersburg, where it was to be hung in one of the rooms of his private apartments in the Winter Palace.

In October 1917, during the assault on the Winter Palace, the portrait was cut by the bayonets of Bolshevik thugs. For the next 12 years, the portrait sat gathering dust in the attic of the Winter Palace, until it was transferred to Museum of the October Revolution in Leningrad. During the Soviet years, the portrait hung in the museum or more than 70 years. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the portrait was restored, leaving, however, the cuts made by the bayonets as a poignant reminder of the dark days of the Bolshevik Revolution which swept Russia and the monarchy into an abyss.

Today, the portrait hangs in the Museum of Political History of Russia (located in the former mansion of Mathilde Kschessinska) in St. Petersburg.

© Paul Gilbert. 29 November 2022

Pavel Viktorovich Ryzhenko 1970-2014

PHOTO: Pavel Viktorovich Ryzhenko (1970-2014)

On this day – 16th July 2014 – the great Orthodox artist Pavel Viktorovich Ryzhenko died in Moscow, at the age of only 44.

Russia’s hugely popular Christian, patriotic, monarchist painter Pavel Viktorovich Ryzhenko created more than 60 paintings depicting scenes from Imperial Russian history, particularly from the era of the Holy Royal Martyr Nicholas II. Large-scale exhibits of his works have been held in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Ekaterinburg, Kostroma among other Russian cities.

Pavel Ryzhenko was born at Kaluga, Russia on 11 June 1970. In 1982 he entered the Moscow Art School at the Surikov Institute. In 1990 he entered the Russian Academy of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, where he studied in the historical and religious workshop of Professor Ilya Glazunov. From 1999, he taught at the Russian Academy of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. In 2007, Pavel began working at the Ryzhenko Military Artists Studio, where he became one of the leading masters of diorama-panoramic art (during his life, he painted six large-scale dioramas). In 2012 Ryzhenko was awarded the title “Honored Artist of the Russian Federation.”

Sadly, Ryzhenko died on 16 July 2014. The famed Orthodox artist died, on the eve of the day of remembrance of the death and martyrdom of the Holy Royal Martyrs, and just 5 days before his 44th birthday, the cause of death was a stroke.

Pavel Ryzhenko’s early death was a tremendous loss to Russia’s artistic and spiritual communities.

PHOTO: Pavel Ryzhenko’s grave in Zhdamirovskom Cemetery, Zhdamirovo

A memorial service for Pavel Ryzhenko was held on Sunday 22 July 2014 in the Church of All Saints in the village of Krasnoselsky District, Moscow. The funeral was held on the same day in Kaluga, followed by his burial at the Zhdamirovskom Cemetery, in the village of Zhdamirovo.

I had the great honour of attending an exhibition of his works during my first visit to Ekaterinburg in 2012. The exhibition was held in the Patriarchal Compound, which is situated across from the Church on the Blood.

Memory Eternal! Вечная Память!

Below, are six of Ryzhenko’s canvases, in which the Holy Royal Martyr Nicholas II is depicted:

The Farewell of the Tsar to His Troops: From the Triptych “Imperial Golgotha”. 2004

Wounded, the last Tsar on an inspection of a military hospital near the front in World War I

Imprisoned at Tsarkoye Selo: From the Triptych “Imperial Golgotha”. 2004

The Ipatiev House. The Morning After: From the Triptych “Imperial Golgotha”. 2004

A Photograph in Remembrance: From the Triptych “A Russian Century”. 2007

The Birth of Russian Aviation. 2007

To view Ryzhenko’s complete works of historical realism, please click HERE to visit his official web site.

© Paul Gilbert. 16 July 2021

Rare portrait of Nicholas II on display at Bavaria exhibit

Portrait of Tsarevich and Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich (1889), the future Emperor Nicholas II, by the artist Baron Ernst Friedrich von Liphart (1847-1932), Russified as Ernst Karlovich Lipgart. Lipgart painted at least six portraits of Russia’s last monarch, including several ceremonial portraits.

This magnificent portrait is currently on display in the Twilight of the Gods II – Last Monarchs in the House of History of Bavaria exhibition, at the Museum of the House of Bavarian History in Regensburg, Bavaria until 16th January 2022.

The Emperor is depicted in the uniform of the Prussian 8th Hussar Regiment, of which he was appointed an Honourary Chief in 1889, his cape is decorated with the Royal Prussian Order of the Black Eagle.

The painting hung from 1890 to 1995 in the former dining room of Neuhaus Castle, directly opposite the portrait of Elector Clemens August of Bavaria. The officers of the 8th Hussar Regiment established a club for their meetings here and in the adjacent premises. The Prussian regiment was stationed at Neuhaus and Paderborn castle from 1851 to 1919. Following the end of World War I, the regiment was disbanded.

After the exhibition ends in January of next year, the portrait will be returned to the Residenz Museum in Neuhaus Castle.

PHOTO: Ernst Karlovich Lipgart (1847-1932). Self-portrait, 1881.
From the Collection of the State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg

Ernst Karlovich Lipgart (1847-1932) was a Russian portraitist and decorator. He was born in Tartu, and after living for a time in Florence, where he studied at the Academy of Arts, he moved to France and then to Russia.

He arrived in St. Petersburg in 1886, where he painted portraits of members of the Imperial family, including a whole gallery of portraits of Nicholas II. He also decorated palaces and theatres in the capital, including the curtain in the Hermitage Theatre.

Lipgart also took on more unusual requests, including the menu for the Tsar’s coronation in 1896 and then painting 100 figures on a piano, telling the story of Orpheus. The piano was a present from the Tsar to Empress Alexandra Feodorovna.

Between 1906-1929 he served as the Main Curator of the Hermitage Art Gallery. His role in the acquisition of the Madonna with a Flower by Leonardo da Vinci, which belonged to the Benois family, became a sensation in 1914.

In 1921 he was evicted from his house and his daughter was executed for harbouring a White Army officer.

© Paul Gilbert. 24 October 2021

State Hermitage Museum restores rare portrait of Nicholas II

PHOTO: “as if in a misty haze, one could discern the face of Emperor Nicholas II”

In 2018, the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg in cooperation with the Russian-American Cultural and Educational Society ‘Rodina’, embarked on a joint project headed by Candidate of Cultural Studies Viktor Faibisovich, on the restoration of a little-known portrait of Russia’s last tsar.

In 2004, a Moscow collector brought the portrait from the United States to the State Hermitage Museum, after discovering it in the Russian-American Cultural and Educational Society Museum.

The Rodina Society was founded in 1954 by Russian émigrés in Lakewood, New York. The head of Rodina, O.M. Krumins, noted that the portrait was brought from Paris in the late 1950s among other rarities of the Life Guards of the Semyonovsky, Izmailovsky and Pavlovsky regiments, the Nikolaevsky cavalry and the Konstantinovsky artillery schools.

The portrait was in a terrible state, nearly destroyed after years of neglect. Within the remnants of the layer of paint, covered with numerous craquelures [a network of fine cracks in the paint or varnish of a painting], as if in a misty haze, one could discern the face of Emperor Nicholas II, distorted by a deep vertical fracture. But the portrait was in such a terrible state as the canvas had remained rolled up for almost half a century.

The restoration was entrusted to the masters of the Russian Academy of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture in St. Petersburg . It was established that Nicholas II was depicted in the ceremonial uniform of the Semenovsky Life Guards Regiment. The emperor was appointed chief of this regiment in 1894. Scrupulous attribution made it possible to establish that the portrait was made no earlier than 1896.

But how did it end up in Paris in the middle of the 20th century?

The photos show the various stages of restoration of the portrait

Semenovsky order

The portrait was commissioned by the officers of the Semyonovsky Life Guards Regiment, and hung in the dining room of the officers’ Assembly Hall. A certificate to confirm this was left by an officer of the regiment Yu.V. Makarov: “This dining room, the largest room in the Assembly, was so large that it could accommodate 130-150 diners. On the wall opposite from the entrance, right in the middle, hung a large half-length portrait of the sovereign founder of the regiment, Emperor Peter the Great, in dark oak In a quadrangular frame, the emperor was depicted in a green caftan, with a blue Semyonov collar. Two smaller portraits of Emperor Nicholas II in our uniform and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna in oval gold frames were positioned on either side of Peter’s portrait.”

The officers’ Assembly Hall was the center of regimental life. It was from here that in August 1914 the Semyonovsky Life Guards Regiment set out for battle. During the First World War, the regiment lost 48 officer. Then, in March 1917, the regiment lost its sovereign chief Nicholas II. In April, Colonel Alexander Vladimirovich Popov (1880-1963) was appointed the last Commander of the Semenovsky Life Guards Regiment.

It is to him that we owe the preservation of the portrait of Nicholas II.

PHOTO: Colonel Alexander Vladimirovich Popov (1880-1963)
Last Commander of the Semenovsky Life Guards Regiment

In December 1917, the Semyonovsky Life Guards regiment was disbanded. All military ranks, in accordance with the Decree of the Soviets of Workers ‘and Soldiers’ Deputies on the destruction of estates and civilian ranks, were ordered to remove their shoulder straps and hold elections for commanding officers in the new Semyonovsky Guards Regiment. Popov refused to participate in the elections, and transferred the interim duties of commander to Colonel N.K. von Essen (1885-1945). On 10th December 1917 left for Petrograd, taking with him the portrait of Emperor Nicholas II.

The photos show the various stages of restoration of the portrait

Preserved memory

Popov was one of the initiators of the formation of guards units in the White movement. The revived Semyonovsky Life Guards Regiment fought in the South of Russia. Alexander Vladimirovich carried the portrait of the last sovereign chief through the entire Civil War.

In 1919 he emigrated to France and lived in Paris, where he headed the Association of the Semyonovsky Life Guards Regiment in France, was a member of the Union of Zealots in memory of Emperor Nicholas II, the Society of Lovers of Russian Military Antiquity, the Union of Russian Cadet Corps, and an honorary member of the Union of Transfiguration. Popov also served as director of the regimental museum, in which he sacredly kept the portrait of Nicholas II. In the late 1950s, when it became more and more difficult to preserve museum exhibits, they were transferred to the United States.

A few years later, 82-year-old Colonel Popov passed away. In the magazine Sentinel under the heading “Unforgotten graves” was placed a modest mention: “On March 28, 1963, the chairman of the Association of the Semenovsky Life Guards Regiment, the last commander of the regiment, Colonel Alexander Vladimirovich Popov, died in Paris.”

He was buried in the Sainte-Genevieve-des-Bois Cemetery in Paris.

PHOTO: the portrait of Nicholas II, after restoration

After the death of the collector who brought the portrait of Nicholas II to Moscow, the portrait was donated to the Museum of the Russian Guard in the General Staff Building [across from the State Hermitage Museum] in St. Petersburg.

PHOTO: the restored portrait of Nicholas II displayed in the Winter Palace in 2018

On 17th July 2018, the day marking the 100th anniversary of the death and martyrdom of Russia’s last emperor and tsar, a Divine Liturgy was performed in the Church of the Savior Not Made by Hands [the home church of the Imperial Family] in the Winter Palace, led by the rector of the Prince Vladimir Cathedral, Archpriest Vladimir Sorokin. The restored portrait of Nicholas II by an unknown artist of the late 19th-early 20th centuries was displayed in the cathedral. Popov would have been pleased.

© Paul Gilbert. 1 September 2021


Dear Reader: If you enjoy my articles, news stories and translations, 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. Thank you for your consideration – PG

The fate of the Tsar’s portrait in the Duma

PHOTO: Ceremonial portrait of Nicholas II (1905) in the State Duma. Artist: Ilya Repin

NOTE: this article was updated on 20th May 2021 – PG

When in 1905 the Winter Garden in the Tauride Palace in St. Petersburg was converted into the State Duma Hall, it was decided to decorate it with a huge portrait of Nicholas II. The great Russian portrait artist Ilya Yefimovich Repin (1844-1930) was commissioned for the job. The artist quickly coped with the task, and the treasury paid him a fabulous sum of three thousand rubles. The portrait was installed behind the podium and seats for the leadership of the Duma.

Repin’s portrait depicts the Tsar standing on a balcony [possibly the Lower Dacha at Peterhof?]. Information on this portrait is scant, which is surprising, given that the artist was considered the most renowned Russian artist of the 19th century, and had painted a number of ceremonial portraits of the Emperor.

In 1916 Repin worked on his book of reminiscences, Far and Near, in which he acknowledges that he welcomed the Russian Revolution of February 1917. This is very disappointing to learn, given that he did not seem to mind accepting the enormous sums he was paid for the numerous portraits he did of Nicholas II after he ascended the throne in 1894.

So little is known about this wonderful portrait, however, my efforts to learn more about its fate, left me with practically nothing. I could not find any reference to the portrait in any of the online sites dedicated to Repin’s works. The only reference I could find was an article on the State Duma found on the web site of the Boris Yeltsin Presidential Library in St. Petersburg. Only a handful of photographs exist of the portrait.

In 2019, a large-scale exhibition of Repin’s works was presented at the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. The exhibition, located on 3 floors in the largest exhibition halls, featured more than 180 paintings and more than 130 graphic works. Repin’s ceremonial portrait was absent, nor was there any reference made to it.

In May 1918, the Bolsheviks used the Tauride Palace to hold their 7th Congress, where they first named themselves the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks). It is most likely that Nicholas II’s portrait had been removed by the Provisional Government following the February 1917 Revolution. If not, it would most certainly have been destroyed by the Bolsheviks.

After an appeal to readers for information on the fate of the portrait, Mr. Robert Strom reached out to me, providing me with an eyewitness account of the fate of Repin’s ceremonial portrait which hung in the Duma.

The diarist Nikolai Nikolaevich Sukhanov (1882-1940) a Russian Menshevik Internationalist and chronicler of the Russian Revolution was a witness to the fate of the portrait. Sukhanov, who was napping in the gallery of the White Hall of the Tauride Palace was awaken by an unforgettable scene on the dais below:

“I was aroused by strange noises. I realized at once where I was, but could not explain these sounds to myself. I got up and saw two soldiers, their bayonets hooked into the canvas of Repin’s portrait of Nicholas II, rhythmically tugging it down from both sides. A minute later, over the chairman’s seat in the White Hall of the Duma there was an empty frame, which for many months continued to yawn in this revolutionary hall. …Strange ! It never came into my head to worry about the fate of this portrait –to this day I don’t know what happened to it. I was more interested in other things.

“A number of soldiers were standing on the upper levels of the chamber, at the height of my gallery. Leaning on their rifles they watched what their comrades were doing and quietly made their own comments. I went over to them and listened eagerly. …Twenty-four hours before, these rank-and-file soldiers had been the dumb slaves of the despot who was now thrown down, and at this moment the outcome of the revolution depended on them. What had taken place in their heads during those twenty-four hours ? What would they say to the shameful treatment of the portrait of the ‘adored monarch’ of yesterday ? It evidently made no strong impression –there was neither surprise, nor any sign of intense intellectual activity, nor a shadow of that enthusiasm from which even I myself was ready to catch fire. They were making remarks in a tranquil and matter-of-fact way, so down-to-earth they can’t be repeated. The break had been accomplished with a sort of fabulous ease. No better sign was needed of the definitive rottenness of Tsarism and its irremediable ruin. The hands of the large clock over the entrance doors of the hall pointed to 7.30. It was time to begin the ‘Second Day of the Revolution’.”

PHOTO: the ‘gaping yawn of chaos’

I am indebted to Mr. Robert Strom for his much valued assistance with this piece of Russian history.

© Paul Gilbert. 16 May 2021

Ceremonial portrait of Nicholas II found in Mogilev, now a holy icon

PHOTO: Ceremonial portrait of Nicholas II. Artist and year unknown.

This year marks 30 years since the revival of the St. Nicholas Monastery in Mogilev. This Orthodox monastery is one of the oldest – the first mentions of the monastery appears in the annals of 1522 – and most famous spiritual centers in eastern Belarus, its history is closely connected with Emperor Nicholas II.

The pearl of the monastery is a unique wooden carved iconostasis, made in a special technique of Belarusian carving of the 17th century. Only three such iconostases have survived in the world: in the Novodevichy Convent in Moscow, in the Assumption Cathedral in Smolensk and in the St. Nicholas Monastery in Mogilev. The first abbess of the revived monastery, Abbess Evgenia Voloshchuk and her sisters worked hard during the restoration of the St. Nicholas Monastery.

Difficult fate

St. Nicholas Convent operated from 1637 to 1719, and then was transformed into a male monastery, which existed until 1754. Later, the St. Nicholas Cathedral became the parish church.

Like all Orthodox places of worship, the monastery shared a similar fate – during the years of persecution of the Russian Orthodox Church during the Soviet years, the church’s icons and other contents were confiscated, the iconostasis was destroyed. In 1934, with the death of the priest Mikhail Pleshchinsky, St. Nicholas Cathedral was closed. In 1937, the Mogilev diocese ceased to exist.

In 1937, St. Nicholas Cathedral was used as a transit prison (closed in 1941). In 1991, during the restoration of the monastery, numerous human remains were discovered – most likely victims of Stalinist repressions.

It was not until 1989, that the Mogilev Diocese was restored. It was at this time, that the reigning archbishop of Mogilev and Mstislavsky Maxim (Krokha) began the revival of the St. Nicholas Monastery.

On 28th March 1991, the St. Onufrievsky Church was consecrated. On 18th June of the same year, the monastery was visited by His Holiness Patriarch Alexy II (1929-2008) of Moscow and All Russia.

PHOTO: St. Nicholas Cathedral, St. Nicholas Monastery in Mogilev

Monastery and the Romanov family

The history of the monastery is closely connected with the last Tsar and his family. Between 1915-1917, the headquarters of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Armed Forces was located in Mogilev. During that time, Nicholas II and his family often attended Divine Liturgies held in St. Nicholas Cathedral.

During the canonization by the Russian Orthodox Church of the New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia of the 20th century in the summer of 2000, a ceremonial portrait of the emperor was miraculously found in the niche of an old wall of one of the houses in Mogilev. Local Orthodox Christians, believing the discovery as a blessed meaning in coincidence and turned the portrait into an icon, transferring it to the St. Nicholas Cathedral.

The icon hangs today, on the left side-altar of the church consecrated in memory of the Holy Royal Martyrs. A five-ruble gold coin is also attached to the icon, which was once presented to the boy Simeon Khalipov by Emperor Nicholas II during a visit to the monastery.

© Paul Gilbert. 28 March 2021

Karelin’s Lost Portrait of the Imperial Family

PHOTO: portrait of the Imperial Family (1910) by A. A. Karelin (1866-1928),

Up until the 1917 Revolution, the collection of the Ancient Depository [opened in 1910] of the Alexander Nevsky Lavra in St. Petersburg, included a portrait of the Imperial family. The portrait was painted in 1909, the year of the foundation of the new building of the Ancient Depository.

The portrait is quite unique. The Emperor and Empress are depicted in ceremonial robes with orders, standing next to the regalia of imperial power – the crown and ermine mantle, while Tsesarevich Alexei is dressed in a simple sailor’s uniform. The Trinity Cathedral of the Lavra is visible to the left in the background.

The artist was the famous Russian portrait painter of the late 19th-early 20th centuries, Andrey Andreevich Karelin (1866-1928), who, worked on orders from the Ministry of the Imperial Court. He painted historical and religious themes, portraits, and icons. He took part in the painting of the pavilion of the Nizhny Novgorod All-Russian Exhibition in 1896, in the creation of the interior decoration of the Church of the Resurrection of Christ in St. Petersburg, the Church of Alexander Nevsky and the Church of the Life Guards of the Ulan Regiment in Warsaw (1907), for the Church of the Resurrection of Christ (Saviour on Blood) in St. Petersburg, he created designs for 10 interior mosaics “Parable about poor Lazarus after death” and designs for an additional 9 mosaics of saints, martyrs, apostles and monks on pilasters.

PHOTO: Andrey Andreevich Karelin (1866-1928),

For the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty in 1913, Karelin created a 10-meter canvas depicting the accession of Tsar Mikhail Feodorovich Romanov, for which he received personal nobility from Emperor Nicholas II.

The Ancient Depository of the Alexander Nevsky Lavra was closed in 1922 in the midst of a Bolshevik campaign to confiscate church property, which the monastery. All items of artistic value were transferred to the State Museum Fund, and then distributed among the museums of Russia. It is now known that Karelin’s portrait of the Imperial Family, was destroyed in 1937 by order of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD).

© Paul Gilbert. 16 January 2021


Dear Reader

If you find my articles, news stories and translations interesting, 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. Thank you for your consideration – PG

A tale of three portraits of Russia’s last tsar


History has preserved thousands of photographs and dozens of portraits of Nicholas II. The most titled artists of their time were honoured to paint the tsar’s portrait. Among them were both Russian and foreign artists, such as Ilya Repin, Valentin Serov, Boris Kustodiev, Lauritz Tuxen – and many others. Each master captured his own vision of the emperor on canvas. This article explores three of the most famous portraits of Russia’s last emperor and tsar by two of Russia’s most famous portrait artists: Ilya Repin and Valentin Serov.

Portrait of Emperor Nicholas II by Ilya Repin (1895)


The above portrait of His Majesty the Sovereign Emperor Nicholas II was painted in 1895 by Ilya Yefimovich Repin (1844-1930) by order of the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, mother of Nicholas. Up until 1917, the portrait hung in the Mariinsky Palace in St. Petersburg, in the very hall where meetings of the State Duma took place.

After the revolution, the painting was considered lost. It “surfaced” in the early 1980s in the collection of the famous St. Petersburg collector Nikolai Kozhevnikov. He claimed that he had found it during the Great Patriotic War (1941-45) in a garbage dump.

It is believed that many other works of art from the Tsarist period believed to be “lost” have in fact been squirreled away by private Russian collectors, all of whom are well aware of their historic value. This offers a ray of hope that other Romanov treasures may have survived the ravages of revolution and war, including the missing Faberge Imperial Eggs. 

In his letters, Repin recalled: “Last week, three sessions took place, that is, on Monday, the 28th, – the first session, one and a half hours; Tuesday, – an hour and half; and an hour yesterday. I arrived at the palace an hour earlier. The emperor comes at two o’clock, the empress accompanies him every time and stays here all the time during work.” Later he added: “I finished the Sovereign’s portrait; there were a total of seven sessions. The sovereign posed poorly, however, everyone likes my portrait and do not criticize.” This portrait was painted shortly after Nicholas II ascended the Russian throne following the death of his father Alexander III.

This portrait of Nicholas II is now in the Collection of the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg.

Portrait of Emperor Nicholas II by Valentin Serov (1902)


This portrait by Valentin Alexandrovich Serov (1865-1911), depicts the Emperor in the full uniform of Colonel-in-Chief (honourary head of the regiment) of the Royal Scots Greys. In 1902, Nicholas II ordered the artist Valentin Serov to paint the portrait as a gift to the regiment – one of the most famous in the United Kingdom.

Nicholas II was awarded this honour by Queen Victoria on the occasion of the wedding of her granddaughter Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine to the future Emperor of Russia. The portrait hangs in the Royal Scots Guards Regiment Museum in Edinburgh, Scotland. The ceremonial uniform is now in the Collection of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve.

Portrait of Emperor Nicholas II by Valentin Serov (1900)


The artist Valentin Alexandrovich Serov (1865-1911) created the home portrait of Nicholas II, as a gift to Empress Alexandra Fedorovna in just two sittings with the emperor.

The original version of this portrait did not survive: the revolutionaries who stormed the Winter Palace destroyed the canvas with bayonets.

Thankfully, Serov, having just barely finished the portrait in 1900, immediately made a copy of it. He was worried about the fate of the painting, because the Empress did not like it very much. During his sessions with the Emperor, Alexandra Feodorovna closely watched the artist and generously distributed advice on how to “correct” the face of Nicholas II in the portrait. In the end, Valentin Serov could not stand it, handed the empress the palette with brushes and invited her to finish the work herself!

Some art historians believe that this portrait of Nicholas II looks incomplete: noting that it was painted with wide free strokes without subtle light transitions, the details of the canvas were not worked out. But the execution of the portrait itself reflects Serov’s vision, who (again) according to art historians wanted to depict a man who was tired in his service to Russia – although this remains highly unlikely. The canvas does not have the usual attributes of other royal portraits, which often include solemn interiors, ceremonial clothing, etc. Nicholas II is depicted in the jacket of the Preobrazhensky Life Guards Regiment, which he proudly wore every day.

The copy of the portrait is now part of the Collection of the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

* * *

Nicholas II. Portraits by Paul Gilbert


Published in 2019, this is the first book of its kind ever published! Nicholas II. Portraits by independent researcher Paul Gilbert explores a century of portraits of Russia’s last emperor and tsar.

It features beautiful colour covers, 140 pages, and richly illustrated with 175 black and white photographs, (many full-page), with detailed and informative captions.

This unique title features an introduction, as well as numerous short articles, including: Serov’s Unfinished 1900 Portrait of Nicholas II; A Nun’s Gift to Russia’s New Tsar. The Fate of a Portrait; Galkin’s Ceremonial Portrait of Nicholas II Discovered; and more!

Famous portraits and their respective artists are all represented, including Serov, Repin, Lipgart, Tuxen, Bakmanson, Becker, Bogdanov-Belsky, Kustodiev, among others.

The last section (28 pages) of the book is dedicated to the works of contemporary Russian artists, who have painted outstanding portraits of Nicholas II since the fall of the Soviet Union.

It is interesting to note that my research for this book was primarily from Russian sources, and I discovered portraits which were new, even to me!

Price: $25 + postage. Click HERE to order your copy of Nicholas II. Portraits

© Paul Gilbert. 5 July 2020

Nicholas II monument proposed for Tsarskoye Selo


© Philipp Moskvitin

The above sketch is for a proposed monument of Tsar-Martyr Nicholas II by Russian artist Philipp Moskvitin. Note the crown of thorns that the tsar is holding in his right hand.

The artist’s idea has been presented to Tsarskoye Selo. It would be nice to see such a monument erected in the garden of the Alexander Palace, a perfect welcome to the Museum of the Russian Imperial Family, which is scheduled to officially open on 18th August 2020.


© Philipp Moskvitin


© Philipp Moskvitin

Click HERE to visit Philpp Moskvitin’s web site

© Philipp Moskvitin / Paul Gilbert. 28 February 2020

Seven Letters from the Past

Back in July 2018, the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral in Tsarskoye Selo hosted a unique exhibition Seven Letters from the Past timed to the 100th anniversary of the murders of Emperor Nicholas II and his family. 

The highlight of the exhibit were seven portraits of the Imperial family by the St. Petersburg artist Alexander Kondurov. 

The artist depicted the faces and figures of members of the Imperial Family through the mutilated walls of the shooting room of the Ipatiev House, where they were all brutally murdered on 17th July 1918.

Each composition includes a facsimile passage from a letter written by the family member during their captivity in the “House of Special Purpose’ and the outline of a black window frame in which a cross is clearly seen.

Exhibitions showcasing Alexander Kondurovs’ paintings have been held in Russia, USA, Germany, Finland. The artist’s works are in museums and private collections.


The Murder of the Imperial Family. 2018
by Alexander Kondurov. Private collection

© Paul Gilbert. 13 January 2020