Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Empress Maria Alexandrovna’s Bedroom in the Winter Palace


The architect Alexander Briullov decorated a bedroom (307) on the 2nd floor of the Winter Palace in 1840 for Maria Alexandrovna’s wedding to the heir Grand Duke Alexander (the future Alexander II) in April 1841.

L. Premazzi Watercolor c1840s (below) of Maria Alexandrovna’s Bedroom


In a letter to her brother Prince Carl of Hesse-Darmstadt, the grand duchess described her bedroom as ‘rather large, very cheerful and pleasant and draped in pale blue silk. The old Boulle styled furniture is very good. A door leads to my boudoir’.

L. Premazzi Watercolor c1852 (below) of the Bedroom
 

Emperor Nicholas I admired his daughter-in-law and in 1850 ordered the architect A. Shtakenschneider to redecorate her rooms.  He designed new furniture manufactured by Gambs and changed the silk walls in the bedroom. The grand duchess wrote to her Darmstadt friend that it was ‘cozy and elegant in very beautiful dark-blue color’.

Photographs (below) of the Bedroom today
 


Photograph (below) of Gambs Firescreen and Cabinet in a recent exhibition
 

Sunday, 28 April 2019

Queen Alexandra’s gift to her sister Empress Maria – a 1901 Electric Car

When Queen Alexandra bought an electric car in London, she also purchased the same model as a gift for her sister. Empress Maria Feodorovna had the car delivered to Gatchina Palace for her twenty-two year old son Grand Duke Mikhail to drive.

Photograph (below) of Empress Maria talking to her sister-in-law Grand Duchess Maria of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
 
During Nicholas II’s visit to Gatchina on Friday April 27th 1901 ‘Misha took me for a ride in his new automobile and then showed me as well the speed of his new three-wheeled motorbike reaching 40 mph!

Photograph (below) of Grand Duke Mikhail driving his mother Empress Maria
 
Albert Pope’s Electric Vehicle Company Ltd. produced cars under the brand Columbia in the U.S. Their London branch The City & Suburban Electric Carriage Company Ltd. at Piccadilly Circus began selling the Columbia cars in 1897. The advantages of electric over internal combustion engines at the turn of the century were ease of starting, simplicity of control and gear shifting, cleanliness and absence of noise, smell and vibration. The firm’s engineer Hiram Maxim had also designed a motorbike based on a tandem tricycle manufactured by the company. The London branch advertised in November 1901 the names Queen Alexandra and Empress Maria in first place on their list of honorary clients.

A photograph (below) of Queen Alexandra in her electric car at Sandringham by her daughter Princess Victoria was given to the publisher for the new book ‘Motors & Motor Driving’ in 1902. The original was subsequently lost.
 
After the death of Queen Alexandra in 1925 the car was stored in a King’s Lynn garage. In 1930 it was bought by Richard Nash with the monogram and crown of Queen Alexandra removed and is now displayed in the Beaulieu museum (below).
 
 
Empress Maria’s car was never officially part of the Imperial Garage established in 1907. On December 17th 1927 the car and spare parts were transferred from Gatchina to Moscow for storage and is now part of the collection of the Polytechnic Museum awaiting restoration (below).