Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Can you identify Imperial Russian objects in the Villa Berg watercolors?

On July 13th, 1846 Grand Duchess Olga, daughter of Nicholas I, married Crown Prince Karl of Württemberg in Peterhof. An apartment in the Grand Palace was redecorated for the couple and to this day is known as the Olga Suite.

On September 23rd, Olga and Karl arrived in Stuttgart. While the Kronprinzenpalais in the Schlossplatz and the Villa Berg to the northeast were under construction, they resided in the Neuen Palais.

Inspired by a trip to Italy in 1844 with his secretary Friedrich Hackländer and the court architect Christian von Leins, Crown Prince Karl began to build his summer residence Villa Berg in the renaissance style. Olga’s inheritance financed the completion of the projects and they moved into the Villa Berg in 1853.

Photograph (below) of the Villa Berg c1876

On October 2nd, 1853 Olga wrote to her mother Empress Alexandra “… Mama, as the first act in the first morning of the new House, I will write to you so that you and Papa will bless us from afar for our new life … We took coffee on Karl’s balcony, his room is on the sunny side, pleasant in the autumn, mine is north, because I fear the summer sun. We will change our habits to the seasons …”

The Russian poet Fyodor Tiutchev, after visiting the Villa, wrote “… And the fairy residence where she [Olga] lives, with a horizon of hills surrounding her, is like a center of peace, light, and well-being that seems to flow from her …”

During her life in Stuttgart from 1846 to 1892, Olga collected watercolors of the interiors of her homes, continuing the tradition of her father Nicholas in the Winter Palace. There are 86 watercolors and gouaches preserved in Stuttgart and since Olga sent copies and originals to her family in Russia, many are to be found in archives there.

Johan Obach’s 1850 watercolor (below) of Olga’s Cabinet in the Orangery, a building in the grounds of the Berg and used by the couple until their villa was completed in 1853.

On May 13th, 1847 Olga wrote to her brother Grand Duke Konstantin “… We have beautiful weather here … Our villa is progressing very slowly, but the orangery will be finished in one month. The roads are strewn with red sand as on Yelagin …”

Obach’s 1850 watercolor (below) of Karl’s Cabinet in the Orangery

While visiting Stuttgart in October 1856, Empress Alexandra telegraphed her son Alexander II “Olga lives heavenly!”

A.  Charlemagne's 1857 watercolor (below) of the Villa Berg’s terrace arbor

Franz Heinrich’s 1855 watercolor (below) of the Dining Room in the Villa Berg

Obach’s 1855 watercolor (below) of the Library in the Villa Berg

Heinrich’s 1855 watercolor (below) of the Ballroom in the Villa Berg

Albert Kappis' 1858 watercolor (below) of Olga’s Cabinet in the Villa Berg

Pieter Peters' 1855 watercolor (below) of Olga and Karl’s Bedroom in the Villa Berg

Can you identify objects and paintings from Imperial Russia, brought by Grand Duchess Olga, in the Villa Berg watercolors? Do you see the connections with the Winter Palace?

In the garden of the Villa Berg, there were statues of the four seasons and bronze busts of Nicholas I and Empress Alexandra by Christian Rauch.

Map of the Park of Villa Berg c1875 (below)

Panoramas of Villa Berg today


  1. Some connections to the WP:

    In the dining room there appears to be a Malachite or porcelain vase similar to vases in the WP.

    The style of the ballroom appears to be influenced by the Pavilion Hall in the Small Hermitage. The circular area on the left is similar to the Pavilion Hall that led out to the Winter Garden.

    The curtained sections in the bedroom are similar in style to many of the bedrooms in the Palaces of St. Petersburg.

    The painting of the Terrace is by Adolf Charlemagne who had also painted the interiors and exteriors of the Winter Palace. He visited GD Olga in Stuttgart.

  2. Joanna.
    Great post very detailed
    The chandeliers all look very similar to the one's in used The Winter Palace as well.
    Ghostie x.

  3. This established a classic style which pared down is very much apparent in contemporary interiors, too often referred to as French. I think the French preferred more vivid colors, does anyone have opinions about the era in Russia? Was it French influence on Russia or vice versa? Italian I seem to think were more reds and gold.

  4. Kathryn.
    I read somewhere that The Winter Palace was built to revile Versailles, so possibly more of a French influence, but I'm not a 100% sure, maybe Joanna will know more.

  5. Villa Berg's exterior is in the Italian Renaissance style. The interiors though were influenced by Olga. I think the Ballroom does look like the Hermitage's Pavilion Hall. Did Olga on visits to St. Petersburg see Stakenschneider's design? When was the ballroom completed? I would love to know more of the Villa Berg and other palaces in Stuttgart from the archives!