Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Fabergé Album of Jewelry Drawings from 1879 to1909

The Hermitage Museum has in their collection a remarkable album of drawings by the Fabergé firm from 1879 to 1909. There are sixty pages with 1,283 sketches of jewelry designs: tiaras, necklaces, bracelets, pendants, brooches, badges. The sizes vary from full page to thumbnails and many contain official stamps and signatures.

The Fabergé album is being restored by the Hermitage Museum.

Monday, 22 July 2019

Sales of Fabergé & Other Objects from Grand Duchess Xenia’s Palace in the 1920s

Emperor Alexander III purchased Princess Vorontsova’s palace on the Moika River for his daughter Grand Duchess Xenia’s marriage to Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich in 1894. During the reconstruction by architects Nikolai Sultanov and Count Nicholas de Rochefort from 1895 to 1897, Xenia and her family lived on the 1st floor of the Winter Palace.

Photographs (below) of Grand Duchess Xenia’s Palace

After the revolution the Xenia palace was transferred to the Baltic Naval Committee. The possessions and furnishings of the grand ducal couple were placed in locked rooms. On March 16th 1918 the committee demanded the use of the Concert Hall and Billiard Room. The Art Commission headed by Chairman G. Yatmanov decided to transport the stored objects to their warehouse in the Winter Palace located in the former apartment of the Marshal of the Imperial Court Count Paul Benckendorff. A full descriptive inventory was completed at that time. Commission staff had handed directly to Yatmanov the silver toilet set that had belonged to Xenia’s great-grandmother Empress Alexandra Feodorovna.

In July 1918 the Commission was re-organized in the Novo-Mikhailovsky Palace. From July 15th to October 5th a total of 1,574 items of ‘non-museum value’ packed in sixty-eight boxes were taken there from the Winter Palace. A new register of the collection was compiled for the auction sales but they ‘did not record information on the origin of the items’. Later in 1927 eighteen stone pieces were given to various museums.

Photographs (below) of Grand Duchess Xenia and family

The original inventory completed in 1918 reveals descriptions of the stone objects that were sold without provenances during the auction sales of the 1920s:

776       Different animal figurines from multi-colored stones by Fabergé in wooden boxes

780       Condor bird figurine of light rock crystal

790       Eight parrots by Fabergé in wooden box

791       Three golden cages with birds and a Fabergé calendar with precious stones

925       Desktop clock trimmed with jasper and silver with a handle by Fabergé

930       Marble stand for pocket watches by Fabergé

998       Thermometer of Ural green stone with red enamel and gold in Louis XVI style by Fabergé in a box

1023     Gold paper knife by Fabergé in a plush case

1147     Jasper vase signed by Orlando Aristido Roma 1900

Archivist specialists at GARF are preparing for publication Grand Duchess Xenia’s diaries in forty-nine notebooks from 1884 to 1919.

Monday, 15 July 2019

Emperor Alexander III and the view of Peter the Great's Monument

In the early decades of the 1800s, large open spaces surrounded the Admiralty stretching from St. Isaacs Cathedral and Peter the Great's monument to the west and the Winter Palace to the east.

Aerial views (below) of the Admiralty

By 1874 the landscape was transformed. Private buildings had been built enclosing the square of the Admiralty facing the Neva River. The wide boulevard used for public fairgrounds on the south side was dismantled. Over five thousand trees and twelve thousand bushes were planted around the area. The open spaces ceased to exit.

Photograph c1860s (below) of the Admiralty from the south

Photograph c1880s (below) of the Admiralty from the south (note the Winter Palace on the right)
Within fifteen years the rapid growth of the trees hid the historic architecture. By personal order of Emperor Alexander III in 1890 the trees on the west side were cut down opening the view to the Peter the Great's monument from the Neva River.

Aerials c1920 and today (below) of the Admiralty

Monday, 8 July 2019

Prinzessinnen Schloss in Jena – Grand Duchess Maria Pavlova’s daughters Summer School

Five-year old Princess Augusta, the future German empress and mother-in-law of Queen Victoria’s daughter Vicky, and her eight-year old sister Maria lived with their nanny Amalie Batsch during the summer of 1816 at the Griesbach Gartenhaus in Jena (below).

Photograph and aerial view (below) of the Schloss today located in the Botanical Garden

Their mother Grand Duchess Maria Pavlova of Saxe-Weimar, daughter of Emperor Paul and Empress Maria Feodorovna, arranged the education of her daughters under the supervision of Johann Wolfgang Goethe and the artist Johann Heinrich Meyer. The property, on the outskirts of the university city of Jena east of Weimar, was rented until the grand duchess purchased the estate from the heirs in 1818. It was known as the Prinzessinnen Schloss.

Photographs c late 1800s (below) of the Prinzessinnen Schloss

Professor Johann Jacob Griesbach built the Gartenhaus to the north beyond the old Jena city walls with a view of the Saale River in 1784. For the next thirty years it was a gathering place for many famous intellectuals: Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, Johann Gottfried Herder, Georg Hegel, Wilhelm and Alexander von Humboldt.

Princess Augusta and Maria spent long periods away from their family at the Schloss: May 5th to August 30th in 1818, May 20th to September 24th in 1819, July 15th to September 24th in 1820. The lesson plans, coordinated between their tutor Karoline von Hopffgarten and Goethe, included astronomy, physics, mathematics, botany, languages, art history, literature, etc. with Jena professors.

A century later the last grand duke of Weimar sold the house to the Carl Zeiss Foundation in 1918. After restoration it is now part of the Friedrich Schiller University.

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

The Novo-Mikhailovsky Palace - from Palace to Warehouse to Auction House

Emperor Alexander II approved the architect Stakenschneider’s plans to erect a palace for his youngest brother Grand Duke Mikhail Nicolaevich. It is located on the Neva embankment between the Winter and Marble Palaces (below).

After four years of construction the grand ducal family moved into their new residence on December 9th 1861. The rooms of Grand Duke Mikhail were on the eastern side of the 1st floor facing the Neva River with his wife Olga Feodorovna’s to the interior courtyard garden.

Photographs c1911 (below) of Grand Duke Mikhail’s rooms converted into a memorial museum by his sons

At the age of majority apartments were arranged for the sons. In 1882 the future historian Nikolai Mikhailovich occupied the western half on the 1st floor (photograph below).

Photographs c1890s (below) of Grand Duke George Mikhailovich’s apartment

Photograph c1890s (below) of Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich’s Study before his marriage to Nicholas II’s sister Xenia

Photograph c1890s (below) of Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich’s Study

After the 1917 revolution the Novo-Mikhailovsky Palace was used as a main warehouse for the collections confiscated from the palaces and mansions.

In June 1929 the organization Antiques opened exhibition halls in the palace (below) to hold auction sales of the art objects.