Thursday, 27 September 2018

Rare Interior Photograph of Ropsha Palace c1900

On June 12th 1785 Ivan Lazarev, one of the wealthiest men and court advisor to Catherine II and Paul I, purchased the Ropsha estate from the heirs of Prince Gregory Orlov. The architect Antonio de la Porta reconstructed the manor in the Italian Palladian classic style in 1794.

Photographs c1900 (below) of Ropsha Palace

A group of fourteen friends including Count Komarovsky, Alexander and Sergei Golitsyn and the princesses Shakovskaya left a handwritten manuscript of their two-day trip from Peterhof to Ropsha in the summer of 1796. Disembarking at noon from the carriages, they entered the ‘manor vestibule, passing through a beautiful suite of apartments marveling at the fact we met no one. Then the sixty-year-old Lazarev approached, kindly assuring he was glad to see us in his home’. As it was late evening when they returned to the manor after looking around the estate, Ivan and his wife Ekaterina invited the group to stay the night. ‘They led us through the winter garden that was lit by several chandeliers to our rooms in the western wing. There were beds with canopies and satin bedspreads, chairs and tables. The maids with peignoirs over their arms were surprised the princesses undressed themselves even to pulling off the stockings while the men served themselves. There was only one chamber pot in a small room so a rivalry arose!’

Photograph c1900 (below) of Ropsha Palace

An inventory of the property was completed in 1801 when the imperial treasury purchased the estate after the death of Lazarev. The manor was officially designated a palace. Although Alexander I preferred Tsarskoe Selo, the court architect Luigi Rusca compiled an estimate for maintaining the buildings in 1802. After ascending the throne, Nicholas I gave the estate to his wife Empress Alexandra.

Archival documents and inventories of 1833 and 1850 reveal decorative details of the interiors. The ceremonial rooms were located in the central section; the Picture Hall on the 1st floor and on the 2nd the Dance Hall and drawing rooms. The main staircase was illuminated by two windows on the lower floor and three at the top with a green carpet on the steps.

Drawing c1836 (below) of the Dance Hall by Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna

There were spacious apartments on the 1st floor; a drawing room and study for men and a bedroom and dressing room for ladies. The rooms were decorated with different colorful wallpapers; blue with pink flowers, gold striped lilac, light gray floral with golden stars, silver and lilac with blue flowers. Parquet flooring of oak, birch and mahogany was laid in the Dance Hall and adjoining drawing rooms. The 1st floor was simpler with planked flooring except for the parquet in Empress Alexandra’s bedroom and two corner rooms that overlooked the garden. Crimson or green taffeta and blue velvet curtains were lined with white silk in order to create uniformity on the exterior façade.

Photograph c1900 (below) of a 1st floor room showing the stove tiled with scenes and figures from mythology listed in the 1833 inventory

The imperial family used the palace for temporary visits: military reviews, hunting, picnics. In 1848 the Hofmarshal had delivered from the storerooms the following ‘to be left at Ropsha for permanent use’: eleven curtains, thirty-six mattresses, thirteen beds, fifty pillows, three mahogany night [toilet] chairs, seven birch night chairs, six washbasin cabinets, six mahogany screens, five small mirrors, crystal inkwells, forty muslin curtains.

Projected plan (below) for the restoration of Ropsha Palace

Aerial and interior photographs (below) today

Monday, 24 September 2018

Empress Maria’s Cameos and the Grand Duchess Dowry

Grand Duchess Alexandra, the eldest of Paul and Maria Feodorovna’s six daughters, was born on July 29th 1783 in Pavlovsk Palace. Empress Catherine II had been planning a marriage between her granddaughter and King Gustav of Sweden since 1793. A parure of gold, silver and diamond jewels (below) were made in the Duval workshop for the dowry in 1795.

From the top: necklace, headband, two brooches, necklace, two small bracelets, a pair of earrings, two large bracelets and a belt.

The cameos were made of papier-mâché and carved by the bride’s mother Grand Duchess Maria Feodorovna.

In the summer of 1796 seventeen-year-old King Gustav arrived in Saint Petersburg. On the day of the betrothal September 11th  the imperial court awaited the appearance of the king in the throne hall of the Winter Palace. He failed to appear, refusing to sign the marriage contract which provided for Alexandra to retain the Orthodox faith. Two months later Empress Catherine died.

Emperor Paul arranged the marriage of Alexandra to the Archduke Josef, the younger brother of Emperor Franz II of Austria in 1799. They were married on October 19th in Gatchina Palace and left for Vienna on November 12th with her mother’s parure of cameos.

Lithograph c1799 (below) of Grand Duchess Alexandra Pavlovna

On February 23rd 1801 Alexandra gave birth to a daughter who lived one hour. Nine days later on March 4th Alexandra died. The news had yet to reach Saint Petersburg when her father was killed on March 11th. Mourning for the seventeen-year-old grand duchess was lost in the shadows. Archduke Joseph buried his wife in a newly built chapel near Budapest in September 1802 and returned the dowry to her brother Emperor Alexander I.

Photograph (below) of the Chapel near Budapest

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Grand Duchess Maria & Prince of Sweden 1908 Wedding in Tsarskoe Selo

On April 20th 1908 five cannon salutes in Saint Petersburg and Tsarskoe Selo at nine o’clock in the morning announced the upcoming marriage of Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna and Prince Wilhelm of Sweden.

Photograph (below) of Grand Duchess Maria and Prince Wilhelm in the Arabesque Hall on April 20th
Aerial view (below) of the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoe Selo where the wedding was held

Tropical plants and flowers decorated the entrance hall and staircase. By 2:00 pm the higher ranks including the State Council had gathered in the church where an honor guard of Grenadiers stood in the hall in front. Hussar and Horse Guards lined the halls on the 2nd floor. Court ladies were in the Arabesque Hall and military ranks in the Silver Dining Room.

Photographs (below) of the Staircase and Church Hall c1900s and today

Photographs (below) of the Arabesque Hall c1880s and today

The imperial family and royal guests awaited the start of the procession the Chinese Hall (below c1917).
The Anna Ivanovna gold toilet set used by all grand duchesses had earlier been transferred from the Winter Palace to the Lyons Hall (below c1917) where the bride was being dressed. On either side of the mirrored table were two round ones covered with pink satin: one held a small crown and a diadem of large diamonds and the other a diamond necklace, bracelets and earrings. An ermine velvet mantle with a long train lay on an armchair and an icon and dish, with bread and salt for the blessing, on a separate table.
The Master of Ceremonies Count Gendrikov announced to the groom that the dressing had been completed. The emperor and empress then blessed the bride and the ceremony began with a twenty-one gun salute. The court ranks and Chief Marshal Prince Dolgorukov holding a staff decorated with an eagle led the procession: Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna with King Gustav of Sweden, Nicholas II and Queen Olga of Greece, Minister of the Court Baron Fredericks and Palace Commandant Dediulin, adjutants and pages, Empress Alexandra and Grand Duke Ernest of Hesse, Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana and Maria, Crown Prince Ferdinand of Romania with Grand Duchess Onor of Hesse, Prince Nicholas of Greece and Crown Princess Marie of Romania, the bride and groom with four chamberlains carrying the train, Prince Andreas of Greece and Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna, Prince Christopher and Princess Alice of Greece, Prince Karl and Princess Ingeborg of Sweden, Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich with Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna. The best men were Grand Dukes Mikhail A., Boris and Andrei Vladimirovich, Dmitry Pavlovich and Sergei Mikhailovich, Princes Christopher of Greece, John and Gabriel Konstantinovich.

Photograph c1917 (below) of the Church in the Catherine Palace
At the end of the church service there was a hundred and one gun salute. The procession passed through a corridor in the Great Hall formed by white silk screens on gilded columns to hide the dinner tables with garland of delicate greenery curled over silk. A Lutheran service was then conducted in the front hall decorated with lilies and lilacs and an altar covered with crimson velvet.

There was a relaxation break at 5:30 when the family returned to the Alexander Palace. At 7:30 the banquet for three hundred guests began in the Great Hall. On the imperial table there was a centerpiece of flowers depicting the Swedish flag. The folded menu with images from classical mythology had inside a painting of the bride in a gilded carriage with the dinner menu and the other side a view of the Kremlin with the music program.

Photographs (below) of the Great Hall c1900s and today
After the banquet the family rested in King Gustav’s apartment. At 10:30 they gathered again to formally enter the Great Hall for two circles of dancing the polonaise: Dowager Empress and the Swedish King, Nicholas and the Greek Queen, Alexandra and her brother Ernest and the second round Nicholas with the bride and Dowager Empress with the groom. Tea and coffee was then served. The two empresses with King Gustav left in a gilded carriage for the Alexander Palace to greet the newlyweds who arrived with Nicholas. Maria and Wilhelm changed clothes and departed to spend their first night in Grand Duchess Elizabeth’s palace in St. Petersburg.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Rare Photographs of the Interiors of the Grand Palace, Peterhof

The architect G. Velten restructured the Grand Palace for Empress Catherine II in 1770. Later her son Paul and daughter-in-law Maria Feodorovna occupied the suite of rooms. In the summer of 1799 part of the imperial regalia were transferred here from the Winter Palace.

Photographs c 1933, 1927 and today (below) of the Throne Hall with the glass-covered pedestal between the door and throne that was moved here from the Crown room after the revolution

The inventories of 1816, 1831, 1850, 1861 and 1889 list a ‘wooden carved pedestal with four gilded legs, arched inwards, decorated with acanthus leaves, topped with crimson velvet with a bronze rim decorated with garlands of flowers and a crystal cover’ in the Crown room [bedroom renamed in 1850] of the former Dowager Empress. 

In late August 1905 the director of the Peterhof Palace Administration mentioned in his report to the Minister of the Court about the legend of the Crown of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna that was stored in the Crown bedchamber. Fredericks in turn related the story to Nicholas II and subsequently wrote his officials that ‘His Imperial Majesty has expressed a desire to have accurate information about the crown’. The senior curator stated on November 9th 1905 that ‘there is no information about the crown in the Hermitage. It is probably the crown that entered the Moscow Armory in 1741’.

In the late 1930s the pedestal was transferred to Gatchina Palace. It was moved again. On the day before June 22nd 1941 a photograph was taken of the glass-covered pedestal on the upper floor vestibule of Pavlovsk Palace. The pedestal was lost during the war.

Photographs (below) of the Portrait Hall c1930s and today

White Dining Room c1939
Blue Reception Room c1927 by K. Kubesh who photographed Peterhof in the 1920s and 1930s and previously the interiors of the Winter Palace in July 1917
Study of the Empress c1930s with the Porcelain Chandelier [1889 Inventory]

Bedroom of the Empress c1920s – behind the gilded door was a wooden water closet with a copper basin and lead pipes

Photograph (below) of the Grand Palace in Peterhof c1932

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Rastrelli Floor Candelabras in the Winter Palace

The baroque Winter Palace was unfinished when Empress Elizabeth died on December 25th 1761. In her suite of rooms on the 2nd floor in the southeast section, the architect Francesco Rastrelli had designed four floor candelabras for the Audience Hall [now the Drawing Room 281 of the 2nd Spare]. Empress Catherine II had the apartment redesigned as she preferred the simpler neo-classical style for her private rooms. The floor lamps were transferred to the Cathedral that was consecrated on July 12th 1763.

T. Vasiliev watercolor c1837 (below) of the Cathedral in the Winter Palace with two Rastrelli candelabras

The candelabras, iconostasis and relics in the large church were saved during the fire of 1837. After their restoration, the lamps were returned to the cathedral in the late 1840s.

E. Hau watercolor c1858 (below) of the restored Cathedral

After the revolution, church services were held in the large church until April 1918. In the late 1930s, the interior was dismantled for an exhibition hall.

The floor lamps are now displayed in Emperor Alexander II’s former Library (162) and Military Library (163) on the 2nd floor. Aidan O’Boyle identified and confirmed they were designed by Rastrelli from the book ‘Russian Eighteenth-Century Furniture in the Hermitage Collection’.

Photographs (below) of Rastrelli floor candelabras in the former Library (162) and Military Library (163)

The lamps were made of wood and papier-mâché with twenty-nine candle holders. Did they not fear a fire? It would be interesting to discover if the lamps were wired in 1888 along with chandeliers and others when electricity was installed in the Winter Palace. As electrical issues are a mystery to me, I was thankful to have my lamps rewired last month by Richard Lummis of Finkle Electric Ltd. in Belleville!