Friday, 30 December 2016

New Year’s in the Winter Palace

On December 31st, 1861 at 8 PM, the Imperial family attended a Mass that lasted for two hours when the children gathered together in Empress Marie’s room until 11 PM. Before midnight, Alexander II went to his sons’ bedrooms to say goodnight.

On January 1st, 1862 the sons of Alexander II in full dress uniform awaited their father in his reception room to proceed to Mass. They lunched en famille and then left the Winter Palace to visit relatives and friends until 3 PM. Dinner was with their parents and at 7 PM they went to the theatre.

In the 1840s, Nicholas I continued the tradition from the time of Catherine the Great of the annual ‘folk’ masquerade ball on January 1st. One year there were over 22,364 men attending; half were ‘commoners’.

Paintings of Nicholas I's Masquerade Balls in the Winter Palace (below) 

On Sunday, December 31st, 1895 Nicholas II wrote “… at 7:30 we went to a prayer service in the Anichkov and had dinner with Mama.…"

On Monday, January 1st, 1895 he wrote “… at 11 AM the entrance procession began. For the first time, they divided the New Year’s reception into two segments … the Mass, receiving diplomats and the baise- main, not only from the ladies but also from the State Council, the Senate, the Court and the Suite! Our White dining room was used for a family breakfast for the first time. At 3 PM we went to pay several family visits…”

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

I am not the only one!

I watched Dan Cruickshank’s documentary ‘Opening the Palace Doors’.  Historical items from different palaces are stored in Hampton Court on the upper floors. 

The curator revealed her favorite piece was the green tile fragment from Henry VIII’s sauna bath in Whitehall Palace. She enthused over this glimpse into the private world of his palace as the elaborate public life of the Tudor King is well-known.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Merry Christmas from Canada!

Merry Christmas from Canada!

A gift for all my friends and wonderful readers!

A c1850 photograph (below) of the northwest corner of the Winter Palace, facing the Admiralty, showing the three floors of the rooms of Nicholas I and Empress Alexandra.  Do you see the entrance leading to the basement that led to Nicholas I small study on the 1st floor?

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Christmas in the Winter Palace

After the restoration of the Winter Palace in 1840, Nicholas I and Empress Alexandra continued their family Christmas tradition.

Christmas trees for each member of the family and personal staff were placed around the Concert Hall. A table stood next to the trees displaying their gifts.

On Christmas Eve after the Church service, Alexandra would inspect all the tables again while the family waited impatiently outside the closed doors.

A bell would ring, the doors opened and the family noisily rushed into the hall that was lit with thousands of candles. Alexandra led each child and adult to their assigned table and gave out the gifts.

After the family celebration, they would then enter the next hall to distribute gifts to their entourage. A long table was decorated with various porcelain items; vases, lamps, tea sets, etc. A lottery was held where Nicholas would shout the card winner and Alexandra would hand out the gift.

A.  Chernyshev’s 1846 painting (below) of Christmas in the Winter Palace

After 1855, Alexander II would continue the family Christmas tradition which was held in Empress Marie’s Gold Drawing Room.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Risqué Esmeralda in the Classroom of the Grand Dukes!

In the 1840s, the youngest sons of Nicholas I, Nikolai and Mikhail, shared four rooms on the 2nd floor of the Winter Palace facing the Large Inner Courtyard.

In the 1850s, two of the sons of Alexander II would share the rooms until the age of twelve when they moved to the 2nd Spare on the southeast corner facing Palace Square.

The watercolor of the bedroom c1864 (below) shows the boys’ camp beds were placed on opposite sides;the bed on the right is hidden by the cabinet. The wall has a display of arms. A brown cylindrical ‘piece’ is prominent under the stool that I am unable to identify. Do you have any ideas what it may be?

The door on the left leads to their classroom (watercolor below).

Rossetti's 'Esmeralda' (below) would have been an intriguing distraction for the Grand Dukes during their studies!

In the 1870s, the four room suite was transformed into the 3rd Spare; dining room – bedroom, bedroom – study, classroom – drawing room.

Hau’s 1873 watercolor (below) of the Study

I continue to search on who may have occupied the 3rd Spare suite, whether family members or guests, during the reign of Nicholas II. Why did Nicholas and Alexandra never use the 3rd Spare? The rooms adjoined their apartment yet their daughters lived on the 1st floor, facing the Neva, where the noise and public exposure was intrusive. 

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

The Farm Palace in the Alexandria Park, Peterhof

The old farm in the Alexandria Park in Peterhof, where Alexander II had a small cottage in the 1830s, was reconstructed into a ‘palace’ after his marriage in 1841.

During the reigns of Alexander III and Nicholas II, the Farm Palace was used by family members and guests.

On Thursday, June 1st, 1895 Xenia and Alexander moved from the Mikhailovka to the Farm Palace to await the birth of their daughter Irina on July 3rd.

On Tuesday, June 25th, 1896 Nicholas II wrote “… This summer we settled down at the Farm since they are constructing a second wing to our house...” The family stayed at the Farm for two summers and another baby Tatiana was born there on Thursday May 29th, 1897.

Photograph (below) of the Farm Palace c1880s

Plan (below) of Peterhof – Farm Palace (Фермерский дворец)

Watercolors (below) of the Interiors

Photographs (below) of the beautifully restored Farm Palace by the Peterhof Museum

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Candles for Alexander II’s Asthma

I am forever indebted to the inventor of the on/off light switch and I will never complain again about the hassle of changing a light bulb!

Part of the 1894 inventory of Alexander II’s apartment on the 2nd floor contains detailed lists of the number of candles in each of his rooms. Wax candles were used in the state and family rooms and tallow candles, without fragrance, in the staff/service areas.
Reception room – 2 chandeliers - 48 candles; 2 candelabras - 72 candles

Cabinet – 1 chandelier - 24 candles; 2 candelabras - 36 candles

Study – 1 chandelier - 38 candles

Photograph (below) of the Chandelier in the Study 

Small interior buffet room – individual candles

Library – 1 chandelier - 42 candles; 2 candelabras - 48 candles

Although officials began equipping the Winter Palace with gas lighting in 1861, it was never used in Alexander II’s rooms due to his asthma.

The architect Gornostaev installed electric lighting throughout the palace, in stages, from 1883 to 1892.

Photograph (below) of an electrical outlet in the Winter Palace c1890s

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Winterhalter & Neff in Empress' Dressing Room

I am very grateful to readers for their comments and questions. I am able to revise and search further on ideas they bring to the fore.

Stephilius wrote that Winterhalter was the artist of Grand Duchess Marie’s portrait (below) in the photograph of Empress Marie’s Dressing Room:

This confirms the year 1871 for the series of photos that I have of the room.   

T. Neff’s ‘Madonna and Child’ (below), visible on the wall opposite in another photograph, was inherited by Empress Marie’s son Alexis and is listed in the inventory of his palace on the Moika.

Friday, 9 December 2016

The Artist Who Lived in the Children’s Rooms on the 1st Floor of the Winter Palace!

After the fire in December 1837, the apartment of Grand Duchesses Olga and Alexandra, the younger daughters of Nicholas I, were located on the 1st floor in the northwestern corner of the Winter Palace and called the 4th Spare.

Grand Duchess Olga’s Study was the corner room with two windows facing the Neva and two windows the Admiralty. She wrote in her 1883 memoir that it was ‘very big and not very warm’. In February 1841, the family had to move back to the Anichkov Palace due to Olga’s severe lung illness from the dry air in her rooms. When Olga married in 1846 and left for Stuttgart, she was presented with an album of watercolors of her rooms.

Yushkov’s 1846 painting (below) of Grand Duchess Olga’s Study from the Album

In the winter of 1851-52, Nicholas and Olga, the children of Grand Duke Konstatin, lived here under the care of their grandparents while their parents were in Venice.

Later in 1852, Luigi Premazzi was given permission to stay in the 4th Spare while he was painting the interiors of the Winter Palace. His watercolor of the study shows the changes in the six years; red curtains, multi-flowered carpet.

Premazzi’s 1852 painting (below) of the Study

The 4th Spare apartment was redecorated in November 1855 by Stackenschneider for Grand Duke Nicholas after his marriage on January 25th, 1856 until his palace was built.

Hau’s 1868 watercolor (below) of the Study (Antonio Rossetti’s sculpture ‘Esmeralda’ on the right and the hidden door on the left with handles visible leading to the bedroom)

In 1896, the 4th Spare was decorated as the nursery for the children of Nicholas II and Alexandra. M. Eagar wrote the former Study was their living room and decorated in blue; walls of cornflower patterned chintz and blue velvet pile carpet.

Photographs (below) of the Study today with the beautiful restored ceiling

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Floor Plans of the Lower Dacha in Peterhof

Nicholas II’s Lower Dacha in Peterhof has been shrouded in mystery for decades. There have been brief references yet confusion arose over its different names; Private Dacha, Nicholas’ Dacha, Nicholas’ Palace, Lower Palace, Lower Dacha.

In the 1920s-30s, a rare small guidebook was published in English describing the main rooms for tourists visiting Petrodvorets.  Old photos have been released in the last years but the floor plans remained elusive.

Last year I discovered Peterhof Museum’s proposal for the reconstruction and rebuilding of the Lower Dacha. Scrolling down the pdf, I had a moment of disbelief seeing the floor plans!

Large copies of plans and floor plans (below)

Monday, 5 December 2016

Unwanted Guests (Creepy-Crawlies) in Empress Marie’s Dressing Room

After arriving in St. Petersburg from Darmstadt in the fall of 1840 for her marriage to Alexander II, Marie Alexandrovna lived, during the months of her engagement, on the 1st floor of the Winter Palace in rooms facing the Neva to the right of Nicholas I’s daughters

Prior to the wedding in April 1841, the architect Briullov reconstructed her apartment on the 2nd floor in the southwestern corner. Briullov decorated the dressing room all in pink; draped walls in pink fabric, curtains, upholstery, bed covers. The door on the left of Marie’s dressing room led to Alexander’s library and on the right to her bathroom and bedroom.

When the chamber maids were transferring Marie’s clothes to the closets and cabinets in the new dressing room on the wedding day, Earl Kleinmikhel ‘rushed in to inform them that the bugs [creepy-crawlies] were brought in by workmen, who were hired to finish the project in time, and palace staff were now treating the infestation’.

In 1845, Briullov redecorated the dressing room in light purple using silk damask on the walls. He added the frieze along the top of the walls that incorporated Drollinger’s paintings of Peterhof, i.e. the Farm Palace, Gothic Chapel, etc., that are still to be seen today.

In the 1850’s, the room again was changed to the blue seen below in Premazzi’s 1857 watercolor. A small door hidden behind the screen on the right led to the staircase to the 1st floor children’s nurseries.

Photograph (below) of Empress Marie’s desk in the Dressing Room c1860s

Photographs (below) of the Hermitage’s beautiful restoration of the Dressing Room (note the magnificent ceiling/frieze)