Monday, 13 February 2017

Empress Alexandra’s Bathroom

In 1828-1829 the court architect Monferrand decorated Empress Alexandra’s bathroom in the Spanish Moorish style. A. Briullov recreated the design for the new room on the 2nd floor of the Winter Palace after the 1837 fire.

Hau’s 1870 watercolor (below) of Alexandra’s bathroom

Gambs’ workshop had made the furniture for the bathroom from Montferrand’s sketches in 1830 as part of a large order of Gothic furniture for the Cottage in Peterhof. The ‘...fickleness of fashion trends and artistic tastes...’ in the 1820s creates the juxtaposition of Moorish and Gothic within this small space.

On the right in the watercolor, beneath the large mirror, water from the crystal hot and cold taps flows first into bowls and then cascades into the marble bath. After visiting Italy in 1845, Alexandra would import large quantities of sea salt from Palermo for her baths: 1145 kilos in 1848 and 1,022 kilos in 1849.

On the left, Briullov designed the Moorish style stained glass window above the white Italian marble fireplace.

In 1895, the room was redesigned by Meltzer for Alexandra, the wife of Nicholas II. The Moorish window was replaced with an Art Nouveau stained glass that has not survived.

Photograph (below) of the Inner Courtyard with the large plain glass bathroom window (the first window from the left on the 2nd floor next to the long narrow window)

Alexandra’s bathroom has been preserved today: while and blue tiles, panels, wallpaper, staircase door with mirror, toilet. In my collection of photographs, one shows a porcelain toilet with wooden seat reflected from a mirror near the light blue fireplace.

In Hau’s watercolor above, the door next to the curtained sofa was retained in 1896 and led to Nicholas II’s valet room. The wooden door is still there behind the screen in the photo below. That is the door through which I was able to view Alexandra’s bathroom twenty years ago!


  1. Unfortunate that neither window has survived. It should be mentioned that the window-over-a-fireplace arrangement is rather an unusual one. There was one such in a salon of the very sadly lost Château de Saint-Cloud that was much commented on. : )

  2. Joanna,
    I love the Moorish style, I think if I was ever to design my own bathroom, I'd decorate it like that! it's a sad that it no longer exists.
    The photo of the inner courtyard intrigued me and I've two questions about it; a) why is the facade still painted yellow while the outside is now painted green and b) the long narrow window you pointed out, was that apart of the bathroom or was it to do with another room?
    Great post!
    Ghostie x.

  3. I hadn't realized that a window-over-a-fireplace is rare. Thinking of the other rooms, inEmpress Marie's boudoir, the fireplace is between the two windows. Now I want to check all floor plans from 1840s to determine where the fireplaces were.

    When Nicholas II converted his father's library on the 3rd floor to baths and rooms for servants, he added a window into the inner courtyard. I'll check if for fireplace/window.

  4. Oh dear, I prefer simple sea blues/whites for a bathroom! I really love the tiles that Alexandra had in the 1896 and the light blue fireplace!

    I have lots of photos of the inner courtyard. These courtyards were painted a yellow (unseen by the public so no need to use exteriors paints) - when they were restoring them, they discovered layers of the original paints.

    The long narrow window was the anteroom outside Alexandra's bathroom that led to the servants narrow staircase.