Thursday, 21 December 2017

A Child’s Christmas Present in 1892

A nostalgic view of the daily life of children in the late 1800s is shown in these delightful illustrations published in 1892 (click on each to enlarge). It is fascinating identifying familiar objects.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

A Christmas Visit to Vienna in 1781

The Count and Countess von Norden left Saint Petersburg on September 30th 1781 for a trip through Europe. Who were they? It was not unknown for royals to travel incognito although the attempt to conceal their identities was laughable. The Austrian imperial court began preparation in July to receive the son and daughter-in-law of Catherine the Great, Paul and Maria Feodorovna.

They arrived in Vienna on the afternoon of November 21st, stopping first at the Augarten Palace where Maria was reunited with her Wurttemberg family before proceeding to the Hofburg.

Karl Schütz c1780s engraving (below) of Vienna from the Belvedere Palace

Karl Schütz c1780s engraving (below) of the Hofbibliothek, St. Stephan's and a Platz in Vienna

The Russian guests did not have a free moment. The receptions at court, balls, masquerades, operas and plays were followed by excursions around the city. They went to libraries, galleries, universities, hospitals, orphanages and factories.

Emperor Joseph II wrote to his brother Leopold, the Grand Duke of Tuscany advising that ‘it would be desirable to arrange everything so that the couple do not need to leave before 9 or 10 in the morning and in particular they could retire by 10 or 11 in the evening as they devote a considerable part of the morning and evening to learning and correspondence. Do not bother them with seeing several objects in one day but on the contrary you need to give them an opportunity to examine in detail all the curious and wonderful’. Later Leopold reported back to Joseph that he was struck by the knowledge of the grand ducal couple surprising him with ‘their information about Vienna, all civil and military ranks, family relations, individuals, etc.’

A magnificent masquerade ball was held in Schönbrunn Palace on November 25th. The couple left the festival at 2:00 am while the other guests continued having fun until 8:00.

Karl Schütz engravings c1780s (below) of Schönbrunn Palace and Gardens

They toured the rich collection of artwork in the Belvedere Palace. On December 15th they visited the Academy of Fine Arts and on the 23rd the Music Academy.
In the Leopoldine Wing of the Hofburg on December 24th Joseph II hosted a musical contest for the couple between Wolfgang Mozart and Muzio Clementi. On Christmas day Maria held a small concert for selected guests in the Amalienhof, a part of the Hofburg Palace. Joseph Haydn played, for the first time, his ‘Russian Quartets’ and received from the enthusiastic Maria a box studded with diamonds.

Painting (below) of Joseph Hadyn playing his Quartets

Aerial View of the Hofburg Palace

Photographs (below) of the Amalienhof and its interior today

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Emperor Nicholas’ apology on a bus!

The huge and clumsy omnibuses pulled by horses of the 1830s along the Nevsky Prospekt, the main thoroughfare of St. Petersburg, had been taken off the route due to a lack of passengers.

Officials decided in 1847 to try again with a ten seater carriage drawn by a pair of horses. The buses now had springs, rare for the city, for a more comfortable ride. The route was inaugurated on Sunday April 20th. The public were enthusiastic from the start. They were so crowded that it was hard to get a seat.

Photograph (below) of an omnibus in Palace Square
Nicholas I was curious. In early May he climbed aboard a bus to try it out. The other passengers were stunned to see their emperor. Sitting down, Nicholas then apologized for his long legs that took up a lot of space.

Photographs (below) of omnibuses on the Nevsky Prospekt

Photograph (below)  of the new electric omnibuses in 1899 at Gatchina Palace

Sunday, 10 December 2017

The Artist stands in for Nicholas II

On Monday January 30th 1895 in the Anichkov Palace, Nicholas II had his ‘first sitting with Repin, Antokolsky and Vasyutinsky as they painted and sculpted me from all angles at the same time. This lasted for more than an hour – a bore!’ 

Nicholas had another sitting with Repin and Antokolsky the following Monday on February 6th.

The artist Ilya Repin had his photograph taken of him standing in St. George’s Hall in the Winter Palace (below) for the background of his portrait of the emperor.

Repin’s Portrait (below) of Nicholas II

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Grand Duke Sergei & Ella at home in Illinskoe

The Empress Marie Alexandrovna wrote her will disposing of her property in May 1868, twelve years before her death. The Illinskoe estate near Moscow was left to her daughter Maria but only on condition that with her marriage she lived in Russia. The will stipulated that in the event she moved abroad the estate passed to her son Sergei and, in case of his death without issue, then to her youngest son Paul. In January 1874 Grand Duchess Maria married the Duke of Edinburgh and left for England. Illinskoe then became the summer home for Sergei and Elizabeth (Ella) of Hesse-Darmstadt after their marriage on June 3rd 1884.

The two-story wooden manor house had a wide central balcony. It overlooked the Moskva River.

Photographs (below) of Illinskoe late 1800s and today

Lithograph c1867 (below) of Illinskoe

Plan (below) of the 1st floor of the manor house

Sergei’s future adjutant Vladimir Dzhunkovsky was invited to visit Illinskoe in the summer of 1886. Arriving on August 23rd he was shown to his rooms in one of the small dachas around the park. Sharing a drawing room he had his own study, bedroom and bathroom and was advised that he could order at any time coffee, tea, wine, etc. The routine for the day was as follows: mornings free, lunch at 1:00, afternoon walks, dinner at 7:30 all together, then reading or playing cards and tea at 11:00.

Photograph (below) of the small dacha today

When Sergei returned in the afternoon from picking mushrooms, he greeted Vladimir in his study. He showed him the room and said it was exactly as in the years of his mother.

K. Lemoch’s 1886 painting (below) of Sergei in his Study

The dinner guests that night included Sergei’s sister Maria, her lady-in-waiting Miss Johnson and Ober-Hofmeister Ozerov, his brother Paul, Count Stenbock who was in charge of the palace, Ella’s lady-in-waiting Maria Vasilchikova and her Russian teacher Ekaterina Schneider, a distant relative of Dzhunknovsky. The dinner started disastrously for Vladimir. He poured too much vodka in his glass, spilling it on the tablecloth.

After dinner they gathered in the drawing room. Other evenings they would walk around the park, laughingly playing tricks and frightening each other in the dark. Ekaterina Schneider, a quiet and innocent young woman, was surprising good at instigating jokes. One night she placed a peach under the sheet of Maria Vasilchikova, scaring her when she crushed it getting into bed. Maria and Ella retaliated the next evening with a watermelon as a head and a white sheet, frightening all who were not in on it. Another time Ella filled her glove with sand, extending it when greeting Schneider the next morning who then turned pale, totally confused.

Vladimir, appointed adjutant in 1891, was entrusted by Sergei with the care of his niece Maria and nephew Dmitry in Illinskoe when he was away. On July 22nd 1893 he wrote Sergei that he gave Maria his presents of a doll and watering can. ‘If you could have seen her delight when she saw the doll and its many clothes, which she immediately wanted to take everything off and dress her up.’

Later in November 1895 Valdimir’s sister Evdokia was appointed governess to the grand duchess.

Photograph (below) of Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna and Evdokia Dzhunkovskaya in 1908

Photograph (below) of Evdokia’s room in Illinskoe

Monday, 4 December 2017

Panorama of the Bedroom of the Little Grand Dukes

The toddlers, three year old Nikolai and one and half year old Mikhail, were the youngest sons of Nicholas I and Alexandra. They shared a bedroom (159) on the 2nd floor of the Winter Palace facing the Large Inner Courtyard.

Photograph (below) of the former bedroom today

Panorama of the former bedroom (link below)

Friday, 1 December 2017

Fresh Bough Swag!

These boughs were cut from our trees on our properties in Canada!

Christmas wishes from Canada!