Wednesday, 25 April 2018

The Mysterious Stone Island Palace in St. Petersburg

Summer mansions had been built on the Neva archipelago north of the Winter Palace by the end of the 1700s. Empress Catherine began construction of Stone Island [Kamennoostrovsky] Palace on Kamenny [Stone] Island for her son Paul in 1776. Although it was not completed until 1784, the empress held a magnificent celebration in its greenhouse on January 18th 1780.

S. Schedrin Painting (below) of the Stone Island Palace c1800
The architect of the palace is unconfirmed, possibly V. Bazhenov or Y. Felten. A document discovered in the Pavlovsk archives reveals that Quarenghi was involved in the completion of the interiors. It was the favorite residence of Alexander I during his reign.

Painting (below) of Alexander I in his Study in Stone Island Palace
After the death of Alexander, Nicholas I gave the palace to his brother Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich and his wife Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna who commissioned the architect Andrei Stakenschneider and others to redecorate the interiors. Anton Rubenstein, the pianist and first director of the St. Petersburg Conservatory, lived in the palace from 1852 to 1852 under the patronage of the grand duchess. After Elena’s death in 1873, her daughter Catherine told the architect Marfeld, when presented with his proposals ‘So it was with my mother, so let it remain’.

Photograph c1905 (below) of the Salon in the Stone Island Palace
Located in the northeast corner of the island it is inaccessible and hidden, seen only from across the river for the last one hundred years.

Photograph and model (below) of the Stone Island Palace today

For three years before its opening in 2015 as an academy for children, the palace exteriors and interiors were reconstructed.

Photographs (below) of the interiors today

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Emperor Nicholas II’s Dressing Room in the Winter Palace

The architect Alexander Krasovsky reconstructed in 1895 the former dining room on the 2nd floor of the Winter Palace into the Gothic Library (178 on the plan), a dressing room (179) and bathroom (961) for Emperor Nicholas II.

Photograph today (below) from the door of the Gothic Library into the Dressing Room

Photograph c1917 and today (below) of the door to Nicholas’ Bathroom

Photograph (below) of the stained-glass window facing into the small inner courtyard

I discovered last week the photograph (below) taken in the fall of 1917 showing the open door to the valet’s room (180) and a partial view of the door on the left to the Gothic Library

Photograph today (below) from the door of the former dressing room into the valet’s room (180) and private study (181)

Thursday, 19 April 2018

A Lunch in the Alexander Palace, Tsarskoe Selo

The adjutant Vladimir Dzhunkovsky’s memoir reveals details missing from Nicholas laconic diary entry on Monday November 13th 1906 in the Alexander Palace. ‘Dzhunkovsky (on-duty) for lunch. The two of us took a walk. Received Taneyev at 6 pm’.

Photograph (below) of the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoe Selo
Aerial (below) of the Alexander Palace and its park with the Chinese Village to the north
Dzhunkovsky arrived ‘in Saint Petersburg on November 10th for service duty with the emperor on the 13th. His Majesty showed me much attention and after the reception invited me to dine. Lunch was exclusively in a family setting: their majesties, daughters and I. The heir was still small and had lunch alone. At the end of lunch he was brought to the dining room and the empress put him beside her’.

Photographs (below) of the Palisander Room where lunch was often held in the Alexander Palace

During lunch Nicholas and his adjutant discussed the various imperial awards [i.e.naming of state councellors] to ministers, court officials and officers that were to be presented on December 6th the name-day. State councellor Alexander Taneyev, the father of Anna Vyrubova, refused Dzhunkovsky’s request for a member of the Moscow nobility to be awarded a state councellor as he would be bypassing the time frame of rising up the ranks to that position. The emperor listened but did not say anything. After lunch Dzhunkovsky was invited to drink coffee with them in Alexandra’s Mauve Boudoir.

Photograph (below) of the Mauve Boudoir
As Dzhunkovsky was leaving, the emperor told him that he was meeting Taneyev at 6:00 and to bring him a memorandum on the rules of rank. Before the meeting, he gave the paper to the valet to pass to the emperor. At 6:00 he met Taneyev in the Reception Room and waited there until the door to Nicholas’ Study opened when Taneyev came out with the paper in his hands. Taneyev, very unhappy, said ‘this is your note, you asked for it, but it is impossible to break the rules, you let me down. The sovereign categorically ordered this to be performed’.

Photographs (below) of Nicholas’ Study and Reception Room

Dzhunkovsky returned to 'the duty room where a valet arrived with an invitation to dinner in Alexandra’s rooms that included Anna [Vyrubova] and Orlov. Nicholas 'asked if Taneyev said anything to me'. When told the conversation, he laughed and said ‘yes, he wanted to assure me that this is absolutely impossible’.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Study/Bedroom in the Winter Palace – Part 2

In my previous post, I quoted from Nicholas I's memoir that the ‘alcove is extremely narrow and decorated with columns of artificial marble. I had not slept in the bed there since I found that it was too hot from the two stoves in the corners. There were two sofas and two cabinets in the alcove. On the right side was a small door that led to the toilet’.

I was amazed to discover that Getty has uploaded a photograph (below) from 1917 of the alcove that shows the small door open in front of the stove.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Empress Alexandra’s Photo Album 1903

Panoramas (below) of the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoe Selo taken by Empress Alexandra c1903

Aerial photograph (below) of the Alexander Palace

Emperor Nicholas II Inspecting Racing Cars

The first automobile race from St. Petersburg to Moscow was held in May 1908. Prince Andrew and Princess Alice of Greece were at the finish line on May 19th to welcome the ten cars out of seventeen that completed the race. In May 1910 Count Leo Tolstoy traveled from his home Yasnaya Polyana to Tula to watch the racing cars pass by that were competing in the Moscow-Tula-Orel race.

In Peterhof on Monday June 11th 1912 Emperor Nicholas II at three in the afternoon ‘walked to the gates of the Petersburg highway [below], where thirty-one automobiles were arranged, having completed the Moscow-Novgorod-St. Petersburg race in nineteen days. Cars from all the famous firms took part’.

Photographs (below) of Nicholas II inspecting the cars on June 11th 1912. The gates on the highway, where the emperor is standing, lead to the road past the Cottage and down the hill to the Lower Dacha.

Photographs (below) of the Peterhof Highway Gates to the Cottage and Lower Dacha today


Monday, 9 April 2018

Crown Princess Vicky’s Berlin & Potsdam c1870

Princess Victoria (Vicky), the eldest child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, married Prince Frederick of Prussia in 1858. The volumes of letters between mother and daughter first published in the 1960s were fascinating for historians and readers. For years similar images of the Queen and Vicky’s family, both formal and informal, were reproduced. Photographs of the palaces in Berlin and Potsdam during the 1860s and 1870s are rare.

Photograph (below) of the Kronprinzen Palais in Berlin c1870 [Frerderick & Vicky]
Photograph (below) of the Altes Palais in Berlin c 1870 & Interiors – [Emperor Wilhelm I]

Photographs (below) of Schloss Charlottenburg in Berlin c1870
Photographs (below) of the Neues Palais in Potsdam c1870 & Interiors [Frederick & Vicky]


Photograph (below) of Schloss Sanssouci in Potsdam c1870
Photograph (below) of Orangerieschloss in Potsdam 1870 [King Frederick Wilhelm IV]
Photograph (below) of Babelsberg Palais in Potsdam c1870 [Emperor Wilhelm I]
Photograph (below) of the Marmorpalais (Marble Palace) in Potsdam c1870
The Altes and Kronprinzen palaces have been rebuilt, Charlottenburg and the Potsdam palaces restored.