Wednesday, 30 November 2016

St. Petersburg Photographs c1850s

I am passionate about my research and I am obsessed with following the minutest leads I stumble across. I can’t remember what to buy in the grocery store without a list, yet ask me about the Winter Palace or my next book and I will babble on for hours until your eyes glaze over.

There are times though I stop and delight in the enchantment of my discoveries. One such moment was finding the photographs (below) of St. Petersburg in the 1850s; a window into the past of the city that Nicholas I and his son Alexander knew.

Aerial of the Admiralty and Winter Palace

Winter Palace & Palace Square

New Hermitage & Millionnaya

Winter Palace facing the Admiralty

Aerial Admiralty

Admiralty & Gorokhovaya Ul

St. Isaac’s

Senate & Synod

Statue of Nicholas I, St. Isaac’s Square

Statue of Peter the Great

English Embankment

Nicholas Bridge

Chapel on Nicholas Bridge

Academy of Arts

Nevsky Prospekt

Kazan Cathedral

Anichkov Bridge

Alexandrinsky Theatre

Mikhailovsky Castle

Mariinsky Theatre

Monday, 28 November 2016

Small Church in the Winter Palace

The Small Church of the Presentation of the Lord (Candlemas) on the 2nd floor of the Winter Palace was restored after the fire by the architect V. Stasov in 1839.

On January 31st, 1839 Nicholas I wrote to his son Alexander “… The Small Church is quite finished. She’s beautiful, and I think, similar to the former …”

Painting (below) of the Small Church design 1839

The Small Church was consecrated on February 2nd, 1839.

Painting (below) of the Small Church in 1840 with the windows to the Large Courtyard and the door to the Rotunda

A little-known incident was the theft in October 1869 of silver items from the Small Church’s altar. The Minister of the Court and Chief Chamberlain decided to replace the items before the return of the Imperial Family; neither the thief nor the silver were ever found.

The importance of the Small Church in the religious life of the Imperial Family was paramount and they always attended the Mass held for its feast day on February 2nd.

Alexander III wrote in his diary on Tuesday, February 2nd, 1893 “… at 11PM we went to Mass in the Winter Palace’s Small Church and then went into the rooms of Papa and Mama …”

In Tsarskoe Selo, Nicholas II wrote on Sunday, February 2nd, 1897 “… I went to St. Petersburg at 10AM. On the occasion of the religious holiday of the Small Church in the Winter Palace, a Mass was celebrated there, and then a family lunch was served in the [White] dining room …”

Hau’s 1862 Watercolor (below) of the Small Church

A poignant entry in Empress Marie’s diary was on Thursday, February 15th, 1923 (NS) [February 2nd OS] where she wrote “… today is the holiday of the Winter Palace …’’ She remembered to the end. 

The gilded ornamentation survives in the Small Church today; the iconostasis and Neff’s paintings are lost. 

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Imperial Train – Part 2

The plans of the Imperial train in 1894:

Salon Carriage

Empress’ Carriage

Emperor’s Carriage

Dining Carriage with photo

Grand Duke/Duchess Carriage

Ministerial No. 1 Carriage

Buffet Carriage with photo

Minister’s Carriage

Ministerial No. 2 Carriage

Officials of the Court No. 1 Carriage

Officials of the Court No. 2 Carriage

Staff Carriage

Photographs (below) of the kitchen

Further to my post on the Imperial train, below are the plans for the 1897 train.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Emperors’ Correspondence – Pencils and Lacquer

Alexander von Humboldt visited President Thomas Jefferson in the White House on June 2nd, 1804. In Andrea Wulf’s ‘The Invention of Nature – Alexander von Humboldt’s New World’, she wrote “… Jefferson hated idleness. He rose before dawn, read several books at the same time and wrote so many letters that he had bought a letter-copying machine to keep a record of his correspondence …”

Photograph (below) of Jefferson’s letter-copy machine in Monticello

On May 20th, 1829 Humboldt arrived in St. Petersburg at the invitation of Nicholas I for a six month all-expenses-paid expedition to examine the mines throughout Russia. Nicholas I prided himself on his technical and engineering abilities. His meetings with Humboldt would have deeply interested him with a number of wide-ranging topics.

Mysteries I hadn’t thought to investigate what system did the Imperial Court use to copy correspondence, documents, etc.? When did typewriters and carbon paper appear in Russia? Kamer-fuersky journals (volumes of lists of staff and goods, inventories, etc.) were written in elegant script.

A little known fact is Nicholas I’s writing with a pencil and an aide then applying lacquer to preserve the document.

The historian Grand Duke Nicholas Mikhailovich wrote in his preface on the letters of Alexander I that ‘after many years of fruitless searching’, he finally located the correspondence. They were ‘not copies, but the actual originals and written, in many cases, in pencil’.

Photograph (below) of a gold pencil c1840s

Photograph (below) of an Imperial Ballroom Notebook with Pencil c1840s

Nicholas II also wrote in pencil. In Petra Kleinpenning’s book on the ‘Correspondence of Empress Alexandra with Ernst Ludwig’ on October 17th, 1894 Alexandra wrote to her brother “…darling Nicky’s sitting near me signing heaps of papers for the Feldjager to take back to Petersburg – it reminds me of you & beloved Papa – the Randbemerkungen [marginal notes] in pencil …”

Illustrations (below) of pencils c1880s

N. Nabokov’s 1895 Winter Palace Designs (below) 1895 – note the upper left with Nicholas II’s ‘Nyet’ in pencil and lacquered

When leaving St. Petersburg in December 1829, Humboldt ‘returned one-third of the money he had been given for expenses, asking the Russians to use it to fund another explorer’. An incredible man, the first pay-it-forward I am aware of.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Empress Alexandra’s Gymnastic Apparatus 1897

A reader, who had commented on my July 27th post on ‘Doctors in the Palace’, reminded us of a letter Alexandra wrote to her brother.

In Petra Kleinpenning’s book ‘The Correspondence of Empress Alexandra of Russia with Ernst Ludwig’, on January 14th, 1897 Alexandra wrote “…And untrue … from the Volksblatter Jan 24. A room for gymnastics has never been arranged – a sort of improved Ruderapparat I have got, but only used it last winter, as the Dr. recommended it for my leg …”

A ruderapparat is a rowing machine and I have discovered two advertisements c1900s (below)

While Alexandra did not use the machine in 1897 due to pregnancy, I do not know if she exercised with it in subsequent years. There were two rowing machines bought in 1896, one placed in the Winter Palace. Where was the other kept? I have not identified any in my photographs as yet. I am curious though if a rowing machine was in the Alexander Palace or Peterhof.  Did Nicholas also use it for exercise? 

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Lunch in the Winter Palace – Supper in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

On Monday, January 19th, 1898 Grand Duke Konstantine Konstantinovich had lunch with Nicholas II and Alexandra in the White Dining Room on the 2nd floor  of the Winter Palace.

The Grand Duke wrote in his diary “… After luncheon Nicky and Alix were in an affectionate mood, she sat on his knee, he caressed her and they kissed …”

Photograph (below) of the White Dining Room c1899

Photograph (below) of the White Dining Room today (note the table is not the original one)

Later that night at 11:00 PM, Nicholas and Alexandra went to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the General Staff Building for a supper for the Minister Count Muraviev.

Nicholas wrote in his diary “… We knew everyone. We spent a very pleasant time there. We listened to the Neapolitan singers and dancers and looked over the place. We were home at 1 AM.”

Photograph (below) of the General Staff Building c1900s

Photographs (below) of the interior of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Apartment c1900s and today


Drawing Room