Wednesday, 31 August 2016
There are archival documents, paintings and photographs of the children’s rooms on the 1st floor of the northwest corner of the Winter Palace; with more research, I am following up on for my book.
The two bedrooms for the young daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra from 1896 to 1904 were described by M. Eagar as upholstered in pink and green chintz.
The photo below shows the infant Grand Duchess Olga’s bedroom in the Imperial Train in 1896. The highchair is fascinating, similar to today.
From November 22nd, 1903 to January 25th, 1904 an exhibition called ‘Children’s World’ was held in St. Petersburg under the patronage of Empress Marie.
The Imperial family had moved back to the Winter Palace from Tsarskoe Selo on January 13th, 1904. Empress Alexandra then visited the exhibition with her daughters.
After the exhibition closed, the organizers transferred many of the exhibits to the children’s half of the Winter Palace as a gift.
Some of the many items were sets of sofas, armchairs, chairs, tables and a desk. Each daughter received separate gifts. The inventory list from the Exhibition shows one of the special gifts was a saddle for Olga.
The daughters lived in the Winter Palace for only eight years. In my book, I will reveal more details of the rooms; one of which relates to the renovations ordered by Nicholas II of the children’s rooms in 1902-04 and then rarely used.
Tuesday, 30 August 2016
There were fourteen telephones installed in the St. Petersburg palaces by 1883. As the Imperial family moved between their residences, the telephones went with them.
On March 2nd, 1883 after an Imperial ball, two telephones in the Winter Palace and Anichkov were “… transferred to Gatchina … one put in the Kitchen building and the other in the Private buffet …”
Telephones allowed communications between the Court departments, i.e. Palace Commandant, Guards, Police. Yet there are numerous instances of their use by the Imperial family members.
On January 25th, 1890 Nicholas II wrote “… went to the desk phone and spoke to Sergei …”
On Tuesday, January 18th, 1894 in the Anichkov, Nicholas wrote “… we listened to Eugene Onegin on the telephone …”
In December 1896, Empress Alexandra “… has ordered a telephone to be installed in the apartment of Mme. E. Gunst …” who was her midwife.
The photo below of the Empress’ bedroom on the 2nd floor of the Winter Palace shows a telephone on the far end table by the bed.
The telephone in the photo below was in the children's room of the Alexander Palace (this handset unit has the bas-relief of a little child holding the phone). In 1917 it was taken over by one of the courtiers of the royal family. A similar telephone may have been in the children’s room in the Winter Palace.
In July 1899, Nicholas “…expressed his desire …” to establish telephone communications between the Winter Palace and the Mariinsky Theatre. Bell Telephone Company was paid 1000 rubles in 1900 for the installation.
The following diary entries confirm that Nicholas occasionally did use the telephone after becoming Emperor.
In the Winter Palace on Tuesday, January 18th, 1900 he wrote “… There is good news about Olga [she had diphtheria in the Anichkov]; it is unbearable to communicate with Mama by writing and her answers are only by telephone or telegraph …”
In the Alexander Palace on Thursday, April 24th, 1903 he wrote “… I discussed with Uncle Vladimir from the city over the telephone whether there would be a parade or not …”
There was a telephone in Nicholas II’s reception room (photo below) that was next to the Saltykov staircase on the 2nd floor of the Winter Palace.
Monday, 29 August 2016
There was a kiot of five panels with icons, eggs and crosses in the bedroom of Nicholas II and Alexandra on the 2nd floor of the Winter Palace.
The kiot was designed by N. Nabokov in 1895 in karelian birch with a red fabric backdrop on each panel. I have a copy of his drawing in color.
The photo below of the bedroom shows the kiot in the far corner. Also, on the far right, there is a partial view of their basket for pillows!
M. Eagar was mistaken on the size when describing the kiot in her book. She wrote that “… the Empress’ bedroom … in pink and green … One corner is hung with scarlet cloth from ceiling to floor. On this are displayed icons …”
In his diary on Monday, January 1st, 1896 Nicholas wrote “… and then spent the entire evening hanging up holy images on the iconostasis in the bedroom …”
On Sunday, March 10th, 1896 he wrote “… we went to the Anichkov … We looked over the icons, which I had … which I brought to the Winter …”
I have a copy of a drawing of the kiot, completed for the 1898 inventory, with the numbered placement of the icons, eggs and crosses
The following is the numbered list of icons on each panel from the left:
1st Panel – 339 to 352
2nd Panel – 353 to 365
3rd Panel – 366 to 374
4th Panel – 390 to 404
On the wall above the kiot – 409 to 422
Next to the kiot is a small round table with a triptych and other items, numbered 423 to 427 in the inventory.
In the Alexander Palace on Friday, February 10th, 1912 Nicholas wrote “… We looked over our old icons, which had been kept since the time of our wedding in the Winter Palace …”
Do you own an Imperial icon?
If so, look to see if the number corresponds to the list above. It will confirm the provenance although there may be an additional number (initials AД) since some had been removed to the Alexander Palace. If you own numbers 417 to 422 and 423 to 427 and wish to confirm, send me a message as I do have a partial list with the names of these icons.
Friday, 26 August 2016
The panorama of the Hermitage (below) is from the northeast Neva side looking south to Palace Square.
The lower right buildings are the Old Hermitage, facing the Neva and the New Hermitage on Millionnaya Ul.
Next is the Small Hermitage with its wonderful view of the rooftop garden.
On the 1st floor of the Small Hermitage, facing the Neva, was the apartment of the Director of the Hermitage. In the Director’s drawing room, Nicholas II (and others) would climb down a hidden staircase to have a smoking break during the Hermitage Balls.
Next you see the full length of the Winter Palace itself from the Neva side.
First, on the southwestern corner were the Offices of the Minister of the Court. The Minister’s apartment was on the 2nd floor.
Next is the enfilade of state rooms from the Jordan Staircase through the Anteroom, Nicholas Hall and Concert Hall.
In the far northwestern corner, on the upper right facing the Admiralty, were the apartments of Nicholas and Alexandra on the 2nd floor. On the 1st floor were the Children’s rooms.
Do you see the number of inner courtyards? I will post a close-up panoramic view of the courtyards with fascinating details.
Thursday, 25 August 2016
A guest at the wedding of the Duke of Kent in London wrote on November 28th, 1934 “… St. James’s Palace … viewing of the wedding gifts presented to the Duke of Kent and Marina … Out of all the books … was a thick leather bound volume entitled ‘Russian Imperial Dinner Service’ …”
I was curious. Was the book an Imperial Russian edition or an English book, as the diary was in Russian?
The Ministry of the Court authorized the publishing of a number of books and catalogues by the Court and the Imperial Hermitage. I was familiar with Baron A. Felkerzam’s two volumes of the ‘Inventories of Silver in the Court of His Imperial Majesty’ in 1907.
Baron Felkersam’s 2 volumes (below).
I was unable to find, though researching Russian sources, a book with the title ‘Russian Imperial Dinner Service’.
I then switched my search to English. Et voilà, there was ‘The Imperial Russian Dinner Service / A Story of a Famous Work by Josiah Wedgwood’ by George Williamson, London, 1909 (photo below).
The book looks rather drab in the above photo; one of a limited edition of 300 copies.
Then I found that Queen Mary presented a copy of ‘The Imperial Russian Dinner Service’ to the Windsor Royal Library in 1951. The Queen’s copy was one of a special edition of 10 copies.
The gift to the Duke of Kent and Princess Marina was most likely another of the special edition of 10 copies. Do you know if the family still owns the volume?
Do you know which guest had given the gift? Many attendees were from former Royal Houses and coping with the difficult years of the Great Depression, an inspired gift.
Wednesday, 24 August 2016
The artist Mihaly Zichy completed drawings, watercolors and albums for Nicholas I since 1852.
On May 30, 1859 Alexander II appointed Zichy as Court Painter. On February 10th, 1860 the Emperor ordered his officials to provide the artist with a workshop on the ground floor of the New Hermitage.
For fifteen years, Zichy chronicled the life of the Court. The only stipulation was that sketches of the private life of the Imperial family were to be given personally to Alexander II.
Zichy’s painting (below) of the Dinner in the Concert Hall for Wilhelm I of Germany in 1873.
Zichy was dismissed from his appointment in January 1874 and left Russia. Then in 1881, Zichy was reappointed Court Painter by Alexander III.
Zichy’s painting (below) of a Winter Palace Ball in 1899.
Zichy’s 32 large watercolors of Alexander’s coronation in 1883 were only partially completed. With the consent of Nicholas II in 1895, the paintings were kept in glass-covered frames on the 3rd floor of the Winter Palace.
On January 19th, 1899 Nicholas II wrote “… after dinner we looked at Zichy’s wonderful drawings for Alexander III coronation album …”
Zichy's sketch (below) of Grand Duke Vladimir for the 1883 Coronation Album.
Although now aging and ill, Zichy continued sketching Court events under Nicholas II.
On May 4th, 1896 Nicholas II wrote “… after lunch saw Zichy to discuss his artistic works at Moscow coronation …”
Zichy made a series of sketches for a panorama of Moscow. On his return to St. Petersburg, he put them on a large sheet but the work was left unfinished and stored on the 3rd floor of the Winter Palace.
Zichy’s sketch (below) of Nicholas II and family in 1903.
Tuesday, 23 August 2016
Cupids, Cupids, Cupids! The Rococo period of cupids was beloved by the Imperial Family in the Winter Palace.
Hau’s 1860s watercolor (below) of the Hall of Cupids in the Children’s rooms on the 1st floor of the Winter Palace.
Ceiling of the Hall of Cupids today (below).
While researching the Rococo artists of the 1700s in the Winter Palace, I chanced upon a Potsdam conundrum. Was Nicholas II aware of it?
On Wednesday October 27th, 1899 Nicholas II and Alexandra arrived at 11 AM in Potsdam for the day, departing at 9 PM.
In his diary, Nicholas wrote “… At 3 PM Wilhelm took me in his two-seater around the park to remarkable places in Potsdam. Alix followed us behind with the Empress in a carriage. I exceedingly liked Sans-Souci of Frederick the Great. We also looked over the Babelberg Palace, where Wilhelm was living …”
The era of rococo palaces originated with Frederick the Great’s Sanssouci Palace. Sanssouci or Sans-Souci (without worry) is how we are accustomed to seeing it written. It is not how Frederick spelt it on the exterior of his palace in 1874
Photo (below) of the exterior of Sanssouci.
Forget Leo Mark’s codes, Bletchley, Enigma; many have attempted for centuries to decipher Frederick’s code. What do you think it means?
Another first for Sanssouci was the idea of a private library. The Rococo bucolic times of the 1700s resulted in the need ‘to study and learn to lift the burden of leisure’.
Photo (below) of the Private library in Sanssouci.
Monday, 22 August 2016
Once a researcher, always a researcher! Although time is critical with my Winter Palace writing, it is impossible to resist snatching moments to search on other places.
It was fortunate, as it led to my discovery of the identification of a piece of furniture in the palace bedrooms of the Imperial Family that has baffled me.
I was reading the conference report on the 100th anniversary of Anatoly Kuchumov, the Director of the Alexander, Catherine and Pavlovsk palaces from the 1930s until his retirement.
And there it was - a description of a large inverted ‘V’ basket, made of wood and fabric, in the bedrooms of the Winter Palace.
Hau’s 1859 watercolor (below) of Nicholas I and Alexandra’s bedroom with the basket at the end of the bed.
Premazzi’s 1852 watercolor (below) of Empress Marie A.’s bedroom with the basket on the right by the door.
Hau’s 1868 watercolor (below) of the Children’s bedroom on the 1st Floor with the basket between the pillars.
It is too large for a waste basket, nor could it be a hamper since the maids and valets handled their clothes.
Then I read the incredibly informative Kuchumov report. It is a basket for the pillows. Did you know? Today, we toss our pillows on a chair.
Note to self: never ignore the impulse to search.
Friday, 19 August 2016
The aerial below shows the Winter Palace from the east looking west to the Admiralty, with Palace Square on the left and the Neva on the right.
In the lower right are the New Hermitage and the Small Hermitage with its rooftop garden.
The eastern side of the Winter Palace is marvelously visible with the state rooms including the Large Church. On the west side of the Large Inner Courtyard were the private apartments of the Imperial family.
Thursday, 18 August 2016
Sixty bags of potatoes ‘for the Imperial table’ were ordered in 1876 from England, through the famous Nicolls & Plinke shop on the Nevsky Prospekt.
Van Gogh’s 1881 ‘Man Putting Potatoes Into A Sack’
A crisis then spread rapidly within the Court Ministry. The Customs Department in St. Petersburg prohibited the import of the potatoes and ordered the vendor to return the products.
Court officials argued strenuously and loudly with Customs who refused to lift the ban.
Customs’ officials stated that they consider ‘themselves entitled to make an order to prohibit the potatoes, even for the highest command, following the ruling of April 11th, 1875 that, without exception, importation of potatoes into Russia is prohibited’.
The ruling was because of the threat of the spread of the American Colorado potato beetle into Russia.
The Court initiated an imperial command to the Minister of Finance for exclusive permission to allow the potatoes as they were ‘intended solely for the table of His Majesty’.
Customs were then ordered to return the potatoes which were already at the Verzhbolovo border station. Sixty bags of ‘golden’ potatoes finally reached its destination in the kitchen of the Winter Palace.
A potato issue surfaced again ten years later. Alexander III reversed the rules for the provisioning of the palaces in order to economize. The Court department in 1886 was prohibited from importing provision such as potatoes, pork and lard and they had to buy cheaper local products.
Wednesday, 17 August 2016
After their wedding in November 1894, Nicholas and Alexandra would often escape the Anichkov palace for quiet times together at the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoe Selo.
On Thursday December 15th, 1894 Nicholas wrote “… After lunch we went to the Big Palace [Catherine Palace], which we looked over in detail … the upper floor and rooms of Alexander, Marie Feodorovna, and also the rooms of Anpapa and Anmama. All in all, the visit was a good one …”
The following photographs of the Catherine Palace were taken in 1859.
Alexander I’s Bedroom
Tuesday, 16 August 2016
The 3rd Spare ‘Ship’ room on the 2nd floor of the Winter Palace was renovated in 1856 into a drawing room.
This suite of rooms of the younger sons of Nicholas I, after their marriages and the succession of Alexander II, were converted into two separate areas: half on the right were taken over by Alexander and half on the left made into a rarely used guest apartment.
J. Charlemagne’s 1856 watercolor (below) of the ‘Ship’ room.
Hau’s 1872 watercolor (below) of the drawing room.
The centerpiece of the drawing room on the right is the vase designed by G. Bosset in 1856 and manufactured by the Imperial Porcelain Factory.
Today the vase is exhibited in the former study of Nicholas II (below).
Interior of the bowl (below).
It is fortunate that the vase had sat on a high plinth to obscure the bolts needed to secure the four mythological snakes to the bowl.
On the left is the door to the anteroom and the Dark Corridor. The anteroom remains today but its interior staircase was removed.
Two views (below) of the Drawing Room today.
I am in awe of the restoration work by the Hermitage, to one day ‘step into the past’. Are you?
Monday, 15 August 2016
A library was built for Empress Alexandra on the 3rd floor of the Winter Palace. The Court Ministry appointed V. Shcheglov on April 18th, 1896 as the ‘Head of Her Majesty’s Library’.
I have a partial inventory of the library contents. One of the books listed was ‘The Coronation Album 1896’. The document notes that the album was ‘kept on a table in the Empress’ drawing room’.
The Empire Drawing Room (photo below) in 1899 with albums on the table.
‘The Coronation Album 1896’ Cover
By 1899, the library began to include books with bookplates of three-year-old Grand Duchess Olga.
However, a decision was made in March 1900 to release Shcheglov ‘in view of the relatively insignificant numbers of books and publications entering the library annually’. The library then came under the Office of the Empress and duplicate books were transferred to the library of Nicholas II.
In Petra Kleinpenning’s book in a letter to her brother Ernest on 5/17 July 1895, Alexandra wrote “… only I must ask Anna Berbenich [caretaker of the Neues Palais, Darmstadt] to get me photos: of all the rooms in the house stuck into an album, as remembrance …”
Does anyone know if the Neues Palais photo album was made and if the photos have ever been released?
Friday, 12 August 2016
Nicholas and Alexandra arrived in Warsaw on August 19th, 1897 (photo below).
The Imperial family lived in the Lazienski Palace located in a large park in the center of Warsaw.
Nicholas wrote after his arrival at the Lazienski Palace on August 19th that “… It had been 13 years since I was there; I realized that I had forgotten much in the house! …”
The photo below of Lazienski Palace in August 1897 is from an album of the visit of the Imperial family to Warsaw.
The Lazienski Palace today below.
Thursday, 11 August 2016
Nicholas II and Alexandra went to Yelagin Island on Sunday, August 2nd, 1898. He wrote that “… It had been 18 years since I had been in this palace [Yelagin], in which we had spent the spring of 1880 with dear Papa and Mama. We stayed in their rooms … later … looked over their [Uncle Misha and Elena] accommodations in the orangerie house, as well as the ladies-in-waiting. Everything had been maintained very well looked beautiful! …”
Yelagin Palace (Елагин дворец) c1900 (below)
Yelagin Palace Today (below)
Does anyone know when they had converted the orangerie (greenhouse) to apartments? Do you know which family member the Emperor was given permission to reside on Yelagin, similar to Rophsa Palace?
Wednesday, 10 August 2016
A rare daguerreotype of the three younger sons of Nicholas I (below) was taken in 1855.
From the left: Grand Dukes Nicholas, Konstantin and Mikhail
Seeing the youthful brothers standing together has changed my perception of them, gathered from memoirs and documents of their later years.
Grand Duke Konstantin had appeared large in stature and character yet is the shortest.
Grand Duke Nicholas was tall with the erect slim bearing and Grecian profile of his father Nicholas I.
Grand Duke Mikhail had seemed insignificant, in height and influence, compared to his brothers and sons yet was the tallest. Mikhail and his sister Olga inherited the delicate features of their mother Empress Alexandra.
From 1840 until their marriage, the Grand Dukes lived in the 3rd Spare on the 2nd floor of the Winter Palace. They were located opposite Alexander II’s apartment across the Dark Corridor, with windows facing the Large Inner Courtyard.
The famous ‘Ship’ room, centrally located over the Guards’ Main Entrance on the 1st floor, separated their two apartments.
To the left of the ‘Ship’ were four rooms shared by Nicholas and Mikhail and to the right Konstantin occupied four rooms as the elder.
J. Charlemagne’s 1856 watercolor (below) of the ‘Ship’ room.