The History and Restoration of the Maple Drawing Room in the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: view of the Maple Drawing Room, as it looked in 1917

The Maple Drawing Room in the Alexander Palace is a vivid example of the Russian Art Nouveau Style. This interior, as well as the New Study of Nicholas II and the children’s rooms on the second floor, was created on the site of the former Concert Hall, built according to the design of Giacomo Quarenghi (1744-1817), which had not been used for its intended purpose for many years.

The works were carried out by the Meltzer brothers’ firm in 1902–1904. The walls were painted a warm pink colour and decorated with mouldings of rose stems, foliage and flowers unfolding along the upper walls and ceiling.

Roman Meltzer proposed an original solution for lighting the Maple Drawing Room: along the perimeter of the room, separating the walls from the ceiling plafond, there was a large cornice that masked about two hundred electrical lamps.

PHOTO: former Concert Hall before its demolition

A mezzanine was installed which connected the room to the Emperor’s New Study. Its decoration was a “Tiffany style” mantel mirror in a metal frame with multi-coloured glass inserts featuring stylized roses.

The interior had several cozy corners where the Empress could do needlework, reading and painting. The children often played or did their homework in this room, the family often joined the Empress in this room at five o’clock for tea..

The Maple Drawing Room was decorated with a showcase, the walls and a door made of mirrored glass.  It contained Faberge’s Imperial Easter Eggs from the collection of Alexandra Feodorovna, as well as Italian Venetian glass vases.

The drawing room was always decorated with fresh flowers: tropical plants and palms were placed in tubs, cut flowers of different varieties from the garden and nursery were placed in vases year-round.

PHOTO: post-war view of the Maple Drawing Room

The interior decoration was significantly damaged during the Great Patriotic War (1941-45). In the post-war period, during the adaptation of the palace as the Pushkin Museum, some of the surviving elements of the Maple Drawing Room – including parts of the mezzanine and wall mouldings – were destroyed as objects of “no value”.

Researchers, architects, designers and restorers have carried out a large and complex work to recreate the stucco decoration of the room’s historic interior, including the carved mezzanine and built-in maple furniture, returning the interior to its original appearance.

PHOTOS: the current look of the recreated Maple Drawing Room

PHOTOS: the current look of the recreated Maple Drawing Room

The stucco decoration was recreated from surviving colour autochromes, vintage photographs and rare analogs, for example, the preserved decoration in the mansion of Heinrich Gilse van der Pals on Angliysky Prospekt in St. Petersburg, where the same decorative technique was used.

The mezzanine which originally connected the Maple Drawing Room to the Emperor’s New Study had been sealed off when the Alexander Palace reopened as a museum in the 1990s. During the current restoration process, when the walls were opened which connected the two rooms, a small fragment of the original decoration of the Maple Drawing Room was discovered, which assisted experts with regard to the original shade of pink and the design of the rose-stucco reliefs used in the original interior.

The unique lighting system used in the Maple Drawing Room will also be restored.

PHOTO: Empress Alexandra Feodorovna on the Alexander Palace balcony

It was from the Maple Drawing Room that Empress Alexandra could step out onto her iron balcony, through a door in one of the room’s large windows. The famous balcony was created in 1896 by the Court architect Silvio Amvrosievich Danini (1867-1942). The balcony was a favourite place for the Empress and her family year-round, even during the cold Russian winters. They often took their meals and teas here Heavy curtains were hung between the columns of the balcony to provide protection from sun or bad weather. It was here that many iconic photos of the Imperial Family were taken.

Sadly, the balcony did not survive to the present day, and despite the extensive restoration work carried out in the Alexander Palace, there are no plans to recreate the balcony at this time. Having said that, let us hope that if funding should be made possible, that the palace administration will reconsider such a project for the future.

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The Maple Drawing Room is one of 15 interiors situated 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.

***

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 or click HERE to buy one of my Nicholas II calendars – the net proceeds help fund my work. Thank you for your consideration – PG

© Paul Gilbert. 25 November 2020

Recreation of the textile decoration for the Imperial Bedroom in the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: detail of the English chintz recreated for the Imperial Bedroom

This is the second of two articles on the Imperial Bedchamber, one of the personal rooms of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna situated in the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace. The first article The History and Restoration of the Imperial Bedchamber in the Alexander Palace, was published on 14th October 2020.

The decoration of this room is highlighted by the rich use of the same fabric: the walls and furniture are upholstered in an English chintz pattern in the form of wreaths of small pink flowers and ribbons, specially made by the English manufacturer Hindley. The same material was used to make the curtains for the windows and doors, as well as the alcove.

PHOTO: sample of the original pattern made by Charles Hindly & Sons

Charles Hindley & Sons had existed since the early 19th century. In 1909 the company filed for bankruptcy and was resold twice. The latest information about the Hindley manufactory dates back to 1921, when the company ceased to exist. Unfortunately, the museum’s hopes of finding a “historical” manufacturer for the fabric in Great Britain did not materialize.

Since the end of the 19th century, the term “chintz” has been used to describe a cotton decorative fabric in plain weave – usually with a large floral pattern and a glossy front side. This fabric was mainly suitable for interior decoration.

Chintz, along with unwaxed chintz, was used in the decoration of the Alexander Palace, notably for the interiors of the Imperial Bedchamber and Children’s Rooms, the latter of which were located on the second floor of the east wing of the palace.

PHOTO: detail of the English chintz recreated for the Imperial Bedroom

A sample of the original chintz, which was discovered in the funds of the Pavlovsk State Museum Reserve, served as a direct analogue for reproducing the pattern and texture of the fabric. It was important to achieve an exact match between the colour scheme and the degree of waxing.

The recreation of the textile decoration for the Imperial Bedchamber (draperies for the alcove, doors and windows) were based on this surviving sample. Thus, it became possible to reproduce the historic ambiance of the elements of the windows, doors and alcove thanks to the original drapery samples of the Imperial Bedchamber. In addition, when working on the drapery project, the craftsmen relied on numerous colour autochromes taken in 1917, as well as pre-war black and white photographs.

PHOTO: detail of the English chintz recreated for the Imperial Bedroom

To recreate the lining fabric and lace for decorating the walls and ceiling inside the alcove, as well as the trimmings, historical samples of the same time were used. When recreating the color scheme of trimmings and carpets, the main reference point was the color palette of the chintz. Fragments of historical carpets in the halls of the Alexander Palace served as an example of the degree of pile height and density of the structure of the carpet base.

The fabrics, trimmings and carpets were made by the specialists of Renaissance Workshops for the Restoration of Antiquities (St. Petersburg). The production and hanging of curtains, marquises and draperies for the alcove – by the master of the company “Le Lux” (St. Petersburg).

The work on the reconstruction of the fabric decoration for the Imperial Bedchamber – from the preliminary design to the implementation in the material – lasted more than two years.

PHOTO: colour autochrome of the Imperial Bedroom, taken in 1917

***

The Imperial Bedroom 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, 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 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. 18 November 2020

The Alexander Palace circa 1990

PHOTO: The Alexander Palace as it looked in the early 1990s

This photo reminds me of my visits to the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo in the 1990s, when the palace was surrounded by a security fence and watchtower, and off limits to visitors.

In 1951, by a government decree, the Alexander Palace was transferred to the Ministry of Defense. The Naval Department used the building as a top-secret, submarine tracking research institute of the Baltic Fleet. As a result, the former palace would be strictly off-limits to visitors for the next 45 years.

In 1996 the Alexander Palace was designated as one of the world’s 100 most endangered sites by the World Monuments Fund who issued a grant for the restoration of the palace. American Express donated $200,000 for urgent roof repair. This struck fear into the security-conscious Ministry of Defence, who feared that their top-secret facility might be bugged during the repairs.

In 1997, a permanent exhibition was created in the former apartments of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, located in the eastern wing of the palace. The remainder of the palace was still occupied by the Ministry of Defense and remained strictly off limits to both museum administration staff and visitors.

The exhibition Reminiscences in the Alexander Palace opened on 26th August 1997. The exhibition which consisted of twelve rooms did not attempt to recreate the palace’s historic appearance, instead featured furnishings and personal items set against the backdrop of an enormous historic photograph of the each respective room as it looked.

On 5th September 1997, I entered the Alexander Palace for the very first time. I was hosting my second tour to Russia, The World of Nicholas and Alexandra. My group which consisted of 18 persons from the United States and Canada had the honour of being one of the first groups of visitors to tour the Alexander Palace interiors since before the Great Patriotic War (1941-45), when the palace was a museum.

It was not until October 2009, according to the order of the Federal Property Management Agency, that the Alexander Palace was placed under the administration of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve.

The Alexander Palace was closed in August 2015 for an extensive restoration, which included the reconstruction of the historic interiors of the private apartments of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna. The first 15 interiors located in the eastern wing of the palace are now scheduled to open in 2021.

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. 15 November 2020

The history and restoration of the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room in the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: view of the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room, as it looked in 1917

Among the living quarters of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna located in the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace is the Pallisander or Rosewood Drawing Room. The room got its name from its elegant rosewood interiors. Rosewood is a valuable tropical tree species of the genus Dalbergia, which has a high density and rich colour range, which can vary from light brown with a pinkish tint to dark brown with purple veins. A characteristic feature of this particular tree is its extreme slow growth – a full-fledged mature trunk taking almost two hundred years to mature. Rosewood has high moisture and wear resistance, high decorative qualities, and lends itself well to mechanical processing. The wall panels, fireplace, cornices and furniture were made of this material for the interiors in the Empress’s living room.

The upper part of the walls of the interior was covered with a yellowish silk fabric without a pattern, which was specially ordered in France from the famous Charles Burger company. The work carried out by Roman Feodorovich Meltser’s (1860-1943) firm was completed in 1895.

PHOTO: view of the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room, as it looked in 1917

The shelves and tables in the living room, were filled with collectibles and memorabilia, among which were figurines and vases. In addition, the interior was decorated with family photographs, paintings and watercolours with views of Hesse-Darmstadt – the Empress’s homeland.

Books in German, English and French, arranged on shelves, were mainly classics of foreign literature. Among them – The Necklace of Princess Fiorimonde by Mary de Morgan, Miss Esperance and Mr. Wycherly by Lizzie Allan Parker, The Innocence of Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton, The Side Of the Angels: A Novel by Basil King, Rosalind in Arden by Henry Marriott-Watson, The Valley of Fear by Arthur Conan Doyle, The Antiquary by Sir Walter Scott, and Laocoon: An Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry by Gotthold Lessing.

Two telephones were installed in the Pallisander Drawing Room, one of which connected the palace with the Headquarters during the First World War.

Since the dining room in the Emperor’s half of the eastern wing of the Alexander Palace was converted to the Reception Room, family dinners were often served in the Pallisander Drawing Room.

PHOTOS: detail of the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room fireplace

The recreation of the interior of the Pallisander Drawing Room is based on historical samples preserved in the palace-museum’s archives, including samples of wall fabric, curtains, and panels. The rosewood fireplace which once dominated the interior, decorated with bevelled mirrors has been recreated. Colour autochromes as well as vintage black and white photos also helped recreate the interiors.

During the restoration, a decision was made to recreate the frames for the paintings that were in this living room and preserved in the palace-museum collection. The difficulty in reconstructing these frames was that, like many frames in the palace, they were made according to individual orders of artists, and their sketches or drawings were not preserved, therefore, historical documents, photographs and descriptions were used to recreate them. Click HERE to read my article Original works of art will decorate recreated rooms in the Alexander Palace, published on 9th January 2020

PHOTO: the current look of the recreated Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room

Work on the interiors of the Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room continues. The production of a set of furniture for the living room will soon begin. The scientific staff of the museum are currently engaged in the search and selection of household items, porcelain, paintings, interior sculptures to replace those lost during the Great Patriotic War and the occupation.

***

The Pallisander (Rosewood) Drawing Room 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.

***

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. 11 November 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

***

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

Russian media provide a first look at the progress of the recreation of the historic interiors in the Alexander Palace

On 7th October, the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve invited Petersburg journalists to the Alexander Palace, where they were shown the progress of the restoration and recreation of the historic interiors of the last residence of Emperor Nicholas II and his family.

Ongoing restoration works have been carried out since 2012, and the palace was closed in the autumn of 2015 to embark on the large-scale recreation of the private apartments of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna in the eastern wing of the palace.

The project was developed by Nikita Yavein’s Studio-44. The restorers relied on amateur photographs taken by members of the Imperial family, autochromes from 1917, and design drawings to recreate the interiors.

In addition, the Tsarskoye Selo and Pavlovsk State Museums had stored original samples of fabrics, which were used to recreate the decoration of some interiors – Chintz (waxed cotton fabric with a printed pattern) in the bedroom, silk in the Lilac office, reps (a cotton or silk fabric formed by weaves) in the Rosewood living room, etc.

During the restoration, elements of the historical interior decoration were preserved, including oak wall panels, coffered wooden shades and ceramic tiles.

NOTE: the following images are from different Russian media sources, and are not in any particular order. They are presented to give you an idea of the tremendous amount of work and dedication which has gone into the recreation of these historic interiors, thus breathing new life into the Alexander Palace – PG 

On 7th October 2020, the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve (GMZ) announced that the opening of the Alexander Palace – originally scheduled for December 2020 – would be further delayed. A press release from the GMZ reported that a total of 15 rooms will now open to the public in 2021, in the Museum of the Russian Imperial Family located in the eastern wing of the palace.

© Paul Gilbert. 8 October 2020

Delays . . . delays . . . and more delays with the opening of the Alexander Palace

It may come as no surprise to any one that the opening of the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo has been delayed yet again.

Eight of the reconstructed private rooms of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna, were due to open in December of this year, however, the opening date of the palace has been further extended..

According to Russian media sources, a total of 15 rooms will now open to the public in 2021, in the Museum of the Russian Imperial Family located in the eastern wing of the palace

“At the moment, the Alexander Palace is our everything. Everything is aimed at its early completion. We have divided the restoration into two stages in order to open the most important rooms to visitors. Fifteen historic interiors of Nicholas II. and his family six months from now,” – said Olga Taratynova, Director of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve.

According to Taratynova, the cost of the work is 2.7 billion rubles. Currently, 1.7 billion have been spent. The balance will go to the second stage of the restoration project.

“The second stage will take another three years. Thus, we will open the entire western wing of the palace,” she added.

© Paul Gilbert. 7 October 2020

The History and Restoration of the Reception Room of Nicholas II in the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: the Reception Room of Nicholas II as it looked in the 1930s

The Alexander Palace served as the home and official residence of Russia’s last emperor from 1894 to the summer of 1917. By the end of 1894, in the eastern wing of the palace, work was alreay underway on finishing the apartments for the young imperial couple, who had married on 27th November (O.S. 14th November). This part of the building was divided by a corridor into two enfilades: the rooms of Nicholas II, facing the courtyard, and the rooms of Alexandra Feodorovna, with windows to the park.

The first room in the Emperor’s half was the Dining Room (later the Reception Room). The renovation of this interior was carried out in 1895-1896 by architect Roman Feodorovich Meltser (1860-1943). For the wall decoration, a “high panel around the room with a seasoned shelf” was installed, above the panels, the walls were covered with printed fabric. On the ceiling there is a “wooden plafond” with a cornice. The interior decoration features a corner fireplace of oak wood, trimmed with dark green marble. The architect decorated the upper part of the two windows with square cathedral (stained-glass) glass.

PHOTO: the Reception Room of Nicholas II as it looked in the 1930s

The furniture was made by F. Meltzer & Co., which included a sofa with two folding tables, a round table for drinking tea, a dining table and 24 chairs, a serving table, and a table “for snacks”. The set of furniture included a fireplace screen, covered with fabric, decorated with mirrored glass with a facet in the upper part.

Subsequently, this room, preceding the Emperor’s Working Study, was used as a Reception Room. Despite the change in the purpose of the interior, its furnishings remained almost unchanged until 1917. Only a few items were added, giving the room a more businesslike character.

PHOTO: This lovely portrait of the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (1896) by A. Muller-Norden, which originally hung in the Reception Room of the Alexander Palace (seen in the 2nd photo), is currently in the collection of the Pavlovsk State Museum.

It is just one of more than 5,000 items moved to Pavlovsk in 1951. The return of the items to the Alexander Palace remains a bone of contention between the two palace-museums. Click HERE to read my article Controversy over portrait of Empress Alexandra Fedorovna in Pavlovsk, published on 20th August 2019.

Unlike many interiors of the Alexander Palace, the decoration of the Reception Room practically remained intact during the Great Patriotic War (1941-45), which greatly facilitated the current restoration work in this room. Here are preserved wall and ceiling panels, a fireplace and a chandelier, which was installed by Melzer in 1899 and cost 2,275 rubles. Sadly, the furniture, curtains, and cathedral glass windows were all lost.

The interior was restored in the 1950s. In 1997, the exhibition “Memories in the Alexander Palace” opened in the eastern wing of the palace, the museum designated the room as the Reception Room. The room contained corresponding furniture of the late 19th – early 20th centuries from the museum’s collection: two tables, oak chairs, a chest, and a carpet. Memorial items were also exhibited in the Reception Room – in their historical places there was a chandelier and a model of the monument to Peter I by Ivan Schroeder.

PHOTO: the Reception Room of Nicholas II as it looks

In the course of recent restoration work in the Reception Room, the oak walls and ceiling decoration, fabric on the walls, parquet and a fireplace have been beautifully preserved. In the process of working with the fireplace, it was discovered that the monogram preserved on the frieze differs from that recorded in historical photographs. These inaccuracies have been corrected.

During the restoration, the fabrics from the walls were dismantled and sent to the restoration workshops, where a method of dry cleaning of the fabric with its subsequent conservation was developed.

PHOTO: the Reception Room of Nicholas II as it looks today

From the surviving photographs, a built-in sofa upholstered in olive leather, a fireplace grate and an openwork metal mesh of the fireplace insert have been recreated. The restoration of the historic chandelier, the only surviving piece of the Reception Room interior, has also been completed.

At present, work continues on the design based on historical photographs of some pieces of furniture: an oak table and chairs are being made for the sofa, as well as a lattice-stand for banners; the elbows of the sofa will be supplemented with folding table shelves. Subsequently, there are also plans to recreate the stained glass in the Reception Room windows.

***

The Reception Room of Nicholas II is one of eight interiors to open in the eastern wing of the palace, scheduled to open in December 2020. The other interiors include: the Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II, Working Study of Nicholas II, Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, Imperial Bedroom, 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 is scheduled for completion no earlier than 2022.

© Paul Gilbert. 2 October 2020

The History and Restoration of Nicholas II’s Moorish Bathroom in the Alexander Palace

The Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II as it looked in the 1930s

The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve have announced that the restoration of the Moorish Bathroom – one of the most unique interiors in the private apartments of Nicholas II in the Alexander Palace – is nearing completion.

The Moorish (also called the Emperor’s Toilet, Basseinaya) acquired its original appearance in 1896-1897 when the interior was redesigned by the Russian architect Count Nikolai Ivanovich de Rochefort (1846-1905). The most famous project of Count Rochefort is the Bialowieza Palace, an imperial hunting residence, built in Poland between 1889-1894. His innovative interior included a bathroom with a small bathing pool, which served as a model for designing the Moorish Bathroom for Nicholas II in the Alexander Palace.

The interior harmoniously combined bright oriental-style tiles that adorned the fireplace and walls around the pool, metlakh tiles, which were used for the floor in front of the pool, a coffered ceiling, an openwork maple partition and a Japanese reed mat on the walls. The floor was covered with a colourful carpet. Masters of the Meltzer Trading House made the furniture for the bathroom, which included a sofa upholstered in leather, with pillows and bolsters, two types of Oriental style stools, a table with a trellis, a washbasin on the underframe, a horizontal bar for gymnastic exercises, and stands for walking sticks and hunting rifles.

The main part of the Moorish Bathroom was a bathing pool that could hold 7 thousand buckets of water, and lined with white tiles, which gave the second name to the interior – Basseinaya. Its design in the Alexander Palace featured Charcot shower jets for massage.

For the functioning of the pool, the architect created a complex engineering system, it consisted of water and waste pipes, a water-heating boiler with accessories, three water tanks located in a special room on the ground floor of the palace, located directly under the Basseinaya.

There was also a toilet located outside the door at the edge of the corridor wall.

The Moorish Bathroom’s interior decoration was lost during the Great Patriotic War (1941-45). In the summer of 1997, a permanent exhibition was opened in the eastern wing of the palace dedicated to the imperial family. The former bathroom was used as an exhibition space with parquet floors, painted walls and a white ceiling. Therefore, the restoration of the Moorish Bathroom began practically from scratch.

Photo © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve

In 2017, when dismantling the room, craftsmen discovered the Tsar’s bathing pool under the floor, and in it – a significant number of fragments of ceramic wall tiles, Metlakh tiles, belonging not only to the decoration of the Moorish, but also to other interiors of the residential half of the palace. The fragments provided restorers with the colour schemes of the interior decoration, which were reconstructed from black and white photographs taken in the 1930s. Thanks to this remarkable discovery, the restorers were able to recreate the wall cladding of the with the utmost precision.

Several fragments of the original tiles have been incorporated in the reconstructed Moorish Bathroom’s decoration; while the bathing pool and the steps leading into it have retained some of their historic tiling.

Also found during the restoration, several small fragments of the original frieze were revealed, which made it possible to clarify the colour scheme of the decorative painting, the drawing of which was determined from the black and white pre-war photographs.

In 2018–2019, the architectural elements of the interior decoration were recreated: wooden wall panels and ceiling cladding, wall tiles, a Moorish-style fireplace with decorative niches (they originally contained Faberge lamps, which were transferred to the Russian Museum in 1956), and a carved partition. The decoration of the toilet room has also been recreated. Curtains and a large carpet were made according to the historical documents and photos.

Thanks to the assistance of the Japanese Consulate General in St. Petersburg, an original mat similar to the one that adorned the walls of the Moorish Bathroom will soon be purchased in Japan.

At the moment, on the basis of existing museum inventory descriptions of 1938-1940, the design of non-preserved pieces of furniture and plumbing equipment (taps and mechanisms for introducing water into the pool) is currently underway.

Photo © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve


Photo © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve


Photo © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve


Photo © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve

Click HERE to read my article Reconstruction of Nicholas II’s bathroom in the Alexander Palace + 13 PHOTOS, published on 16th June 2019

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The Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II is one of eight interiors to open in the eastern wing of the palace, scheduled to open in December 2020. The other interiors include: the Reception of Nicholas II, Working Study of Nicholas II, Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, Imperial Bedroom, 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 is scheduled for completion no earlier than 2022.

© 16 September 2020. Paul Gilbert

Reopening of the Alexander Palace now delayed to end of 2020

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Curtains featuring a pattern of pink ribbons entwined with green wreaths set
with flowers on a white background have been recreated for the Imperial Bedroom

The Director of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Olga Taratynova, announced in Russian media yesterday, that the long awaited reopening of the Alexander Palace has been further delayed due to restrictions made by the coronavirus. Russia remains one of the hardest nations hit by the pandemic with more than 362,000 cases reported to date.

The Alexander Palace, the last residence of Emperor Nicholas II, was scheduled to open to the public on 20th August, however, Taratynova has now confirmed that the reopening of the palace to the public has been delayed until the end of 2020 – although the exact date has yet to be confirmed.

“As for the Alexander Palace, unfortunately, there is a ban on restoration work, including the transfer of museum items during the quarantine. At first we thought that we could open the first eight restored rooms in the summer months, unfortunately, however, work has come to a standstill due to strict quarantine measures. The recreation of the historical interiors is done, but we now need to prepare each room for the exposition. Once our experts have decorated the rooms with objects of applied art, the interiors can then be showcased to visitors in all their glory,” said Taratynova.

The Alexander Palace in Tsarskoye Selo was built by the Italian architect Giacomo Quarenghi on the orders of Catherine II for her eldest grandson Alexander, the future Emperor Alexander I. From 1905, it became the permanent residence of Emperor Nicholas II and his family. It was from the Alexander Palace that the Imperial Family were sent into exile to Tobolsk on 14 August (O.S. 1), 1917. After the October Revolution, the palace housed a sanitarium for NKVD employees and later an orphanage. In 1951 the building was transferred to the Navy of the USSR, and the palace collection was transferred to Pavlovsk Museum. In 2009, the palace was transferred to the authority of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve.

The palace has been undergoing restoration since 2011, which includes reconstruction work, the installation of internal engineering networks, and restoration of interiors. The Pavlovsk State Museum  have agreed to return “some items” for the exposition; while furniture for the halls has been recreated according to original samples and archival materials.

The first eight interiors to open in the eastern wing of the palace include: the Reception of Nicholas II, Working Study of Nicholas II, Moorish Bathroom of Nicholas II, Pallisander (Rosewood) Living Room, Mauve (Lilac) Boudoir, Imperial Bedroom, Alexandra’s Corner Reception Room, and the New Study of Nicholas II.

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 is scheduled for completion no earlier than 2022.

Click HERE to review more articles, news, photos and videos of the history and restoration of the Alexander Palace

© Paul Gilbert. 26 May 2020