Thursday, 23 July 2020

Catalogue from the Children of Nicholas II’s Exhibition

Last winter an exhibition on the ‘Children’s World of the Family of Emperor Nicholas II’ was held in a small palace on the Kolomenskoye estate. The catalogue is online (see link below photos).



Tuesday, 7 July 2020

PART II - Lost Portrait of Queen Victoria’s Granddaughters, the Princesses of Coburg

Since my blog post on the portrait of the Princesses of Coburg, Marlene Eilers Koenig confirmed that it is in Amorbach. The question of the date has now been identified by the Tsarskoe Selo Museum with F.A. von Kaulbach’s pastel of Queen Marie of Romania in their possession.

Kaulbach Pastel c1898 (below) of Queen Marie of Romania

Monogram FK and date 98

The painting may have been a gift for Duke Alfred and Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna in celebration of their Silver Wedding Anniversary held on January 23rd 1899 in Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha.

PART I – Lost Portrait of Queen Victoria’s Granddaughters, the Princesses of Coburg

Tsarskoe Selo Museum Article

Monday, 6 July 2020

A Rare Discovery of a Sculpture in Empress Alexandra’s Winter Palace Study

In 2015 Petra H. Kleinpenning, author of The Correspondence of the Empress Alexandra of Russia with Ernst Ludwig and Eleonore, Grand Duke and Duchess of Hesse 1878-1916 and Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig and Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine in Italy 1893, wrote me that she had discovered a sculpture by Georg Busch bought by Empress Alexandra in 1899 while on a visit to Darmstadt. A few days ago we were excited to confirm that the Caritas sculpture had been placed in the Winter Palace between two windows in Alexandra’s Study #185 (below c1900).

Georg Busch Sculpture Caritas (below)
The following note from Petra reveals her research on the Caritas sculpture.

From 11 September to 26 October 1899 (O.S.), Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra and their three daughters stayed with Alexandra’s brother Ernst Ludwig and his first wife Victoria Melita at the Wolfsgarten Hunting Lodge, just north of Darmstadt. On 16/28 September, a rainy day, Nicholas wrote in his diary: ‘… we spent part of the day in Darmstadt. We went there by train and sat down to lunch in the castle. … Having looked over the rooms, we drove to the New Palace, in order to show it to Niki, Kirill and Boris. On our way back to the railway station, we visited a nice art exhibition and returned home at 5 o’ clock. …’

‘An art exhibition’ – The details behind these unobtrusive words are more interesting than one might think. The Darmstädter Zeitung reported that this exhibition was the Second Hessian Art Exhibition organized by the Freie Vereinigung Darmstädter Künstler (Free Association of Darmstadt Artists). It took place at the Kunsthalle on Rheinstraße in Darmstadt, which is indeed near the station of the Main-Neckar Railway to Egelsbach-Wolfsgarten.

The Darmstädter Zeitung further reported that Nicholas bought a majolica wall fountain by Maximilian von Heider and an oil painting titled Märkischer Birkenwald by Eugen Bracht. Bracht (1842-1921) had previously created the large painting of Romrod Castle hanging in the Palisander Room at the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoe Selo.

According to the newspaper, the Empress Alexandra purchased a sculpture titled Caritas by Georg Busch. Georg Busch (1862-1943) appears to have created several sculptures titled Caritas. The sculpture bought by Alexandra represents a merciful sister, meditating while holding two small children sleeping peacefully in her arms; its bas-relief shows a sister feeding a sick person with a spoon. Alexandra’s Caritas appears to be a replica.

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Lost Portrait of Queen Victoria’s Granddaughters, the Princesses of Coburg

The four daughters of Alfred Duke of Edinburgh and Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna were painted c1893 by the German artist Friedrich August von Kaulbach (below).

Princesses Beatrice (Infanta of Spain), Marie (Queen of Romania), Alexandra (Princess of Hohenlohe-Langenburg) and Victoria Melita (Duchess of Hesse-Darmstadt and Grand Duchess of Russia)
After their marriage in 1874 and as heir to the duchy, Alfred and Maria lived both in England and the Edinburgh Palais in Coburg. After the death of the duke in 1900 Grand Duchess Maria remained in Coburg until her death in 1920.

A painting of the four daughters hung in the Drawing Room of the Palais although unknown if it was the lost Kaulbach portrait. Where is it now?

Photograph (below) of the Edinburgh Palais in Coburg

Sunday, 10 May 2020

Nicholas II’s Pool-Tub in the Winter Palace

Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra spent the first day in their newly reconstructed apartment on the 2nd floor of the Winter Palace on Saturday December 30th 1895. His bathroom (961) was located next to the Gothic Library. That evening the emperor wrote that ‘with delight I took a bath in my marvelous swimming pool-tub’  

Photograph c1930s (below) of the Bathroom’s marble pool-tub
Two days later on Monday January 1st he noted they ‘got up early. I splashed around with delight in my pool-size bathtub and after coffee I sat down to unbearable telegrams’.

Photograph c1930 (below) of the steps in the pool-tub that the architect Kramskoy enlarged in 1898 (note the door at the top right that led to the Passage Room (179) and Valet (180) with spiral stairs to his dressing room on the mezzanine)

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Nicholas I and Empress Alexandra’s Bedroom in the Winter Palace

In 1826 the former apartment of Alexander I and Empress Elizabeth was reconstructed for Nicholas and Alexandra on the 2nd floor of the Winter Palace. Archival documents describe the new interiors but there have been few images of the rooms before the palace was destroyed in the 1837 fire until now.
A rare watercolor (below) of Nicholas and Alexandra’s Bedroom (184) before the 1837 fire
E. Hau’s watercolor c1859 (below) of the Bedroom (note the architect Briullov retained many architectural details)

Friday, 10 April 2020

Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra’s Celebration of Easter

In the Winter Palace on Good Friday March 22nd 1896 Nicholas II and Alexandra ‘attended at 7:00pm the service and then went around all the palace corridors and halls with the Shroud’.
Photograph (below) of the restored Cathedral in the Winter Palace today
Nicholas wrote on Holy Saturday April 8th 1900 that ‘we went with the children to Uncle Sergei’s and Ella’s to color Easter eggs’.

On Easter Sunday April 1st 1901 the Mass in the Cathedral of the Winter Palace ‘was over at 2:30am and we returned to the Malachite Hall and broke our fast with pleasure. We went to bed before 4:00am’.

Photograph (below) of the restored ceiling in the Cathedral of the Winter Palace today