Railway station the Imperial Family went into exile from to be a cultural heritage site

PHOTO: Early 20th century view of the Aleksandrovskaya Railway Station in Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin)

A proposal has been made to designate the Alexandrovskaya Railway Station in Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin) as a cultural heritage site. It was from this station, that the Imperial Family went into exile on 14th (O.S. 1st) August 1917.

The idea, however, is already under attack by the Committee for State Control, Use and Protection of Historical and Cultural Monuments (KGIOP), who refuse to recognize the historic Aleksandrovskaya Railway Station in Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin) as a cultural heritage site.

Residents of both the village of Aleksandrovskaya and the city of St. Petersburg wasted little time in launching a petition addressed to the Committee chairman Sergei Makarov, as well as the Governor of Saint Petersburg Alexander Beglov, as well as to the local branch of the United Russia Party.

The petition notes that Aleksandrovskaya is located in the Pushkin district of St. Petersburg and has existed since the time of Emperor Nicholas I (1796-1855). The station was built in the 1860s – on the St. Petersburg – Luga line – according to a standard design developed by the architect Pyotr Onufrievich Salmonovich (1833-1898).

The author of the appeal believes that the decision of the KGIOP does not correspond with the interests of the citizens of Alexandrovskaya in preserving the cultural heritage, historical appearance and aesthetics in and around St. Petersburg. The signatories demand to overrule the decision of the KGIOP and include the Aleksandrovskaya Railway Station in the list of cultural heritage sites. The petition has already received 26 thousand signatures!

PHOTO: Early 20th century view of memorial chapel to Alexander II,
Demolished by the Bolsheviks in 1949

Local historians recall that in 1867 Emperor Alexander II, was solemnly greeted here, after surviving an assassination attempt in France,. On 25th May 1868, in the presence of the Emperor and members of the Imperial Family, a stone chapel was consecrated “In memory of the miraculous salvation of the life of Emperor Alexander II by the Grace of God. The fanatic A. Berezovsky committed an attempt on his life.” The chapel was based on the design of the architect Alexander Fomich Vidov (1829-1896). In 1923, the chapel was closed, the building was converted into a storage room. On 10th January 1949, the chapel was demolished by the Bolsheviks.

It was also from this station, that Emperor Nicholas II and his family went into exile in the summer of 1917 – it would be their final rail journey.

PHOTO: In 2011, this cross memorial was installed on the preserved plinth of the demolished stone chapel

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On the morning of 14 August (O.S. 1), 1917, the former Tsar and his family left the Alexander Palace for the last time. They exited from the Semicircular Hall of the palace, and travelled by car to the Alexandrovskaya Station – the most remote of the three railway stations in Tsarskoye Selo.

Two special trains – which were provided by the leader of the Provisional Government Alexander Kerensky – awaited the Imperial Family and their retinue at the station. The train was a luxurious and comfortable wagons-lits of the International Sleeping Car Company – not the sort of train one would expect to transport “prisoners”.

The train featured a restaurant car stocked with wines from the Imperial cellar, and baggage compartments filled with trunks and suitcases, favourite rugs, pictures and knickknacks collected from the Imperial Family’s private apartments in the Alexander Palace .

In their portable jewel chests, the Empress and her daughters brought personal gems worth at least a million rubles ($500,000 USD).

In addition to the ladies and gentlemen of their suite, the Imperial Family was accompanied by two valets, six chambermaids, ten footmen, three cooks, four assistant cooks, a butler, a wine steward, a nurse, a clerk, a barber, and two pet spaniels.

All were under the watchful eye of Colonel Eugene Kobylinsky (1875-1927) and his guards, who also rode in the same train as the Imperial Family. Most of Kobylinsky’s 330 soldiers and 6 officers followed in a second train.

Source: Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie (1967)

The trains departed the Alexandrovsky Station at 5:50 am, on the morning of 14 August (O.S. 1), 1917, bound for the town of Tobolsk in Siberia. Less than a year later, Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra and their five children would accept their martyrdom in Ekaterinburg.

PHOTO: In 2018, a memorial plaque in memory of the Imperial family’s
departure into exile was unveiled at the Alexandrovskaya Railway Station

The Alexandrovskaya Station has survived to the present day. It is situated 5.7 km from the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin). It offers a couple of sites which will be of interest to any one who shares an interest in the life and reign of Russia’s last tsar and his family.

On 11th August 2011, a memorial in the form of a cross was installed bearing the image of Emperor Nicholas II, on the preserved plinth of the stone chapel which had been dismantled by the Bolsheviks in 1949. The inscription in Russian reads “Emperor Nicholas II. Grateful Russia”. On 14th April 2021, the parish of the Church of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God in the village of Aleksandrovskaya, made a formal request to the Committee for Property Relations of St. Petersburg, to hand over the foundation of the chapel. The parish has plans to reconstruct the memorial chapel.

On 14th August 2018, a memorial plaque in memory of Emperor Nicholas II and his family was unveiled on the outside wall of railway station building in the village of Alexandrovskaya. The English translation of the plaque reads:

14 August 1917
at 5:50 am
Sovereign Nikolai Alexandrovich
his family, and retinue
were sent into exile by the Provisional Government
From the Alexandrovskaya Station to Tobolsk

The Alexandrovskaya Station can be reached by commuter train from the Baltic Railway Station in St. Petersburg. If you are visiting Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin), it can be reached by bus from the main station or by taxi.

© Paul Gilbert. 19 April 2021

Historic chandeliers installed in the Alexander Palace

PHOTO: Chandelier for the Reception Room of Nicholas II

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

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

PHOTO © Tsarskoe Selo State Museum-Reserve

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

PHOTO © Tsarskoe Selo State Museum-Reserve

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

PHOTO © Tsarskoe Selo State Museum-Reserve

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

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

© Paul Gilbert. 14 April 2021

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

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

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

The fate of the Tsarskoye Selo Palace Hospital cave church

PHOTO: The cave church at the Palace Hospital, Tsarskoye Selo

In March 1915, the churches at the Palace Hospital at Tsarskoye Selo: the upper one – the Church of Sorrow (in the name of the icon of the Mother of God) and the lower one – Church of Tsar Constantine and Helena – were transferred from the diocesan department to the Court, in which they remained a part of until 1917.

Work on the construction of the unique lower church at the Palace Hospital began in the summer of 1913. Its creation was made possible thanks to a donation of 10,000 rubles by the St. Petersburg Orthodox merchant of French origin Jacob Rode.

According to the decision of the Construction Committee, the church was planned in the style of the ancient “cave” churches of the 5th-6th centuries. The Russian Court architect Silvio Danini (1867-1942) and Sergei Nikolayevich Vilchkovsky (1871-1934) received permission from the director of the Imperial Hermitage, Count Dmitry Ivanovich Tolstoy (1860-1941), to familiarize themselves with the literature, photographs and art samples of early Christian buildings in the imperial library to carry out their work.

The main feature of the cave church was the unusual altar barrier, which replaced the iconostasis. Two marble pillars, which displayed the icons of the Saviour and the Mother of God, had low latticed doors. Behind them, across the entire width of the vault, was a purple curtain with embroidered ornaments of yellow silk in two tones. The sketches of the utensils were ordered from Sergei Vashkov, the icons from Nikolai Emelyanov, both in Moscow.

PHOTO: Architect’s drawing of the Altar barrier (above); and
cross section of the cave church (below). 1913

An altar cross made of gilded metal with multi-coloured stones was inserted into the wall, and the head of Christ was depicted above it. From the northern part of the barrier in front of the apse there was an altar, from the southern – a paralytic (teaching chapel), in which the Byzantine queens listened to the liturgy in ancient times. In the paralytic there was an armchair for the empress; near the apse arch were armchairs for the emperor and the patriarch.

Empress Alexandra Feodorovna wrote on 21st October 1914 to Nicholas II: “We went to inspect the small cave church located under the old palace hospital, there was a church there in the time of Catherine II. It was arranged to commemorate the 300th anniversary [of the Romanov dynasty]. The church is absolutely charming. Everything in it was selected by Vilchkovsky in the purest and most ancient Byzantine style, perfectly sustained. You must see it. The consecration will take place on Sunday at 10 o’clock, and we will take there those of our officers and soldiers who can already move independently. There are tables with the designation of the names of the wounded, who died in all our Tsarskoye Selo hospitals, as well as the officers who received the St. George’s Crosses or the Golden Weapon for Bravery.”

The consecration of the church, however, did not take place until 26th October 1914.

On the eve of this event, before the all-night vigil, Vilchkovsky presented the empress with a report describing the cave church. At the same time, Alexandra Feodorovna “… ordered to turn the lower church into a monument to the heroic deeds of mercy, treatment and charity of those soldiers wounded during the war and to record on the walls with the inscribed names of all the soldiers who passed through the hospitals of the Tsarskoye Selo region and were awarded for military distinctions as well as the wounds of the deceased.”

During the First World War, a pavilion was built in the garden of the hospital according to Danini’s project, for 30 wounded officers of Her Majesty’s Own Infirmary No. 3, paid out of the empress’s personal funds. Until her arrest in February 1917, the empress worked as an operating nurse in the infirmary, assisting the surgeon Vera Giedroyc, with the assistance of her two eldest daughters Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana Nikolaevna.

PHOTO: A plaque dedicated to Empress Alexandra and her daughters, Grand
Duchesses Olga and Tatiana Nikolaevna for their contribution from 1914-1917

The church was closed in 1933. Today, practically nothing remains of it, most of its of the interior decoration and contents, have been lost. Only individual elements have survived, in particular, a lamp, an icon lamp and candlesticks, which are today in the collection of the Museum of the History of Religion in St. Petersburg.

During Soviet times, the hospital was renamed the city hospital No. 38 named after N. A. Semashko. In recent years, a plaque honouring Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana Nikolaevna was erected on the grounds of the hospital. Sadly, the church has not been restored.

© Paul Gilbert. 3 April 2021

Roman Melzer: architect and designer of the Alexander Palace interiors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PHOTO: the Working Study of Nicholas II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Gilbert. 2 April 2021

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

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

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

UPDATE on the reopening of the Alexander Palace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Gilbert. 23 March 2021

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOTE: all photos © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve

© Paul Gilbert. 11 March 2021

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

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

***

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

 

Elena Tretyakova’s gift to Nicholas II in 1911

PHOTO: Elena Andreevna Tretyakova. Paris, 1875. 

In 1911, the famous Russian collector and philanthropist Elena Andreevna Tretyakova (1846-after 1917) presented as a gift to Emperor Nicholas II: her vast collection of paintings, icons, weapons and historical documents which documented Russia’s military history from ancient times. In addition, she donated a significant amount for the construction of the Госуда́рева Ра́тная пала́та [Sovereign Military Chamber] at Tsarskoye Selo. Due to the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, the construction of the war museum was not completed. At the height of the First World War, and in anticipation of impending hard times, Elena Tretyakova wrote: “Probably, if not during my lifetime, then afterwards others will appreciate my idea and work.”

It would be another century before the Sovereign Military [aka Martial] Chamber would become a museum. The building was transferred to the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve in 2010. Between 2011-2014. the building underwent restoration, at a cost of 292,000,000 rubles ($8 million USD). The building is now home to the ‘Russia in the Great War’ Museum, which was inaugurated on 4th August 2014 , marking the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War One. The museum has been visited by more than 120 thousand people.

The Sovereign Military Chamber at Tsarskoye Selo is the first museum in Russia dedicated entirely to Russia’s participation in the First World War. The history of the museum has its roots in the era of Nicholas II. Today, the museum is a rich repository of military uniforms, weapons, and items used in military life, as well as photographs and documents.

PHOTO: portraits of Elena Tretyakova and Nicholas II in the Sovereign Military Chamber

This year marks the 175th anniversary of the birth of Elena Andreevna Tretyakova (1846-after 1917). 

She was born on 26th February (O.S. 14th) February 1846 in Moscow in the family of the hereditary honorary merchant Andrei Matveyev. In 1868 she married Sergei Mikhailovich Tretyakov (1834-1892), brother of the founder of the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, Pavel Mikhailovich Tretyakov (1832-1898).

According to her contemporaries, Elena was “educated, and distinguished by her natural beauty, with beautiful curved shoulders, a pale, slightly puffy face, a heavy plait of hair on the back of her head and tiny hands, which she was very proud”. She dressed very luxuriously, ordered dresses from Paris and rented a large summer dacha in Peterhof for the summer. Her neighbour at Peterhof was the Russian pianist, conductor, and composer. Nikolai Grigoryevich Rubinstein (1835-1881), with whom she was in love (he died in her arms in 1881 in Paris). Every day she received guests at her home, where an exquisite choir of gypsies sang, which was then in great fashion. The Tretyakovs’ marriage was childless. After the death of her husband she lived in St. Petersburg. Elena Andreevna Tretyakova died after 1917, the exact date is unknown.

Elena Tretyakova’s idea came true more than a hundred years later. Today, her portrait hangs in the Sovereign Military Chamber at Tsarskoye Selo.

PHOTO: the restored Sovereign Martial Chamber at Tsarskoye Selo

© Paul Gilbert. 2 March 2021

Home Church of the Imperial Family in the Alexander Palace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Gilbert. 26 February 2021

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

PHOTO: samples of yellowish French fabric for the walls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOTE: all photos © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve

© Paul Gilbert. 20 February 2021

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Paul Gilbert. 10 February 2021

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

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

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