Thursday, 23 July 2020

Catalogue from the Children of Nicholas II’s Exhibition

Last winter an exhibition on the ‘Children’s World of the Family of Emperor Nicholas II’ was held in a small palace on the Kolomenskoye estate. The catalogue is online (see link below photos).



Tuesday, 7 July 2020

PART II - Lost Portrait of Queen Victoria’s Granddaughters, the Princesses of Coburg

Since my blog post on the portrait of the Princesses of Coburg, Marlene Eilers Koenig confirmed that it is in Amorbach. The question of the date has now been identified by the Tsarskoe Selo Museum with F.A. von Kaulbach’s pastel of Queen Marie of Romania in their possession.

Kaulbach Pastel c1898 (below) of Queen Marie of Romania

Monogram FK and date 98

The painting may have been a gift for Duke Alfred and Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna in celebration of their Silver Wedding Anniversary held on January 23rd 1899 in Schloss Friedenstein, Gotha.

PART I – Lost Portrait of Queen Victoria’s Granddaughters, the Princesses of Coburg

Tsarskoe Selo Museum Article

Monday, 6 July 2020

A Rare Discovery of a Sculpture in Empress Alexandra’s Winter Palace Study

In 2015 Petra H. Kleinpenning, author of The Correspondence of the Empress Alexandra of Russia with Ernst Ludwig and Eleonore, Grand Duke and Duchess of Hesse 1878-1916 and Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig and Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine in Italy 1893, wrote me that she had discovered a sculpture by Georg Busch bought by Empress Alexandra in 1899 while on a visit to Darmstadt. A few days ago we were excited to confirm that the Caritas sculpture had been placed in the Winter Palace between two windows in Alexandra’s Study #185 (below c1900).

Georg Busch Sculpture Caritas (below)
The following note from Petra reveals her research on the Caritas sculpture.

From 11 September to 26 October 1899 (O.S.), Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra and their three daughters stayed with Alexandra’s brother Ernst Ludwig and his first wife Victoria Melita at the Wolfsgarten Hunting Lodge, just north of Darmstadt. On 16/28 September, a rainy day, Nicholas wrote in his diary: ‘… we spent part of the day in Darmstadt. We went there by train and sat down to lunch in the castle. … Having looked over the rooms, we drove to the New Palace, in order to show it to Niki, Kirill and Boris. On our way back to the railway station, we visited a nice art exhibition and returned home at 5 o’ clock. …’

‘An art exhibition’ – The details behind these unobtrusive words are more interesting than one might think. The Darmstädter Zeitung reported that this exhibition was the Second Hessian Art Exhibition organized by the Freie Vereinigung Darmstädter Künstler (Free Association of Darmstadt Artists). It took place at the Kunsthalle on Rheinstraße in Darmstadt, which is indeed near the station of the Main-Neckar Railway to Egelsbach-Wolfsgarten.

The Darmstädter Zeitung further reported that Nicholas bought a majolica wall fountain by Maximilian von Heider and an oil painting titled Märkischer Birkenwald by Eugen Bracht. Bracht (1842-1921) had previously created the large painting of Romrod Castle hanging in the Palisander Room at the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoe Selo.

According to the newspaper, the Empress Alexandra purchased a sculpture titled Caritas by Georg Busch. Georg Busch (1862-1943) appears to have created several sculptures titled Caritas. The sculpture bought by Alexandra represents a merciful sister, meditating while holding two small children sleeping peacefully in her arms; its bas-relief shows a sister feeding a sick person with a spoon. Alexandra’s Caritas appears to be a replica.

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Lost Portrait of Queen Victoria’s Granddaughters, the Princesses of Coburg

The four daughters of Alfred Duke of Edinburgh and Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna were painted c1893 by the German artist Friedrich August von Kaulbach (below).

Princesses Beatrice (Infanta of Spain), Marie (Queen of Romania), Alexandra (Princess of Hohenlohe-Langenburg) and Victoria Melita (Duchess of Hesse-Darmstadt and Grand Duchess of Russia)
After their marriage in 1874 and as heir to the duchy, Alfred and Maria lived both in England and the Edinburgh Palais in Coburg. After the death of the duke in 1900 Grand Duchess Maria remained in Coburg until her death in 1920.

A painting of the four daughters hung in the Drawing Room of the Palais although unknown if it was the lost Kaulbach portrait. Where is it now?

Photograph (below) of the Edinburgh Palais in Coburg

Sunday, 10 May 2020

Nicholas II’s Pool-Tub in the Winter Palace

Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra spent the first day in their newly reconstructed apartment on the 2nd floor of the Winter Palace on Saturday December 30th 1895. His bathroom (961) was located next to the Gothic Library. That evening the emperor wrote that ‘with delight I took a bath in my marvelous swimming pool-tub’  

Photograph c1930s (below) of the Bathroom’s marble pool-tub
Two days later on Monday January 1st he noted they ‘got up early. I splashed around with delight in my pool-size bathtub and after coffee I sat down to unbearable telegrams’.

Photograph c1930 (below) of the steps in the pool-tub that the architect Kramskoy enlarged in 1898 (note the door at the top right that led to the Passage Room (179) and Valet (180) with spiral stairs to his dressing room on the mezzanine)

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Nicholas I and Empress Alexandra’s Bedroom in the Winter Palace

In 1826 the former apartment of Alexander I and Empress Elizabeth was reconstructed for Nicholas and Alexandra on the 2nd floor of the Winter Palace. Archival documents describe the new interiors but there have been few images of the rooms before the palace was destroyed in the 1837 fire until now.
A rare watercolor (below) of Nicholas and Alexandra’s Bedroom (184) before the 1837 fire
E. Hau’s watercolor c1859 (below) of the Bedroom (note the architect Briullov retained many architectural details)

Friday, 10 April 2020

Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra’s Celebration of Easter

In the Winter Palace on Good Friday March 22nd 1896 Nicholas II and Alexandra ‘attended at 7:00pm the service and then went around all the palace corridors and halls with the Shroud’.
Photograph (below) of the restored Cathedral in the Winter Palace today
Nicholas wrote on Holy Saturday April 8th 1900 that ‘we went with the children to Uncle Sergei’s and Ella’s to color Easter eggs’.

On Easter Sunday April 1st 1901 the Mass in the Cathedral of the Winter Palace ‘was over at 2:30am and we returned to the Malachite Hall and broke our fast with pleasure. We went to bed before 4:00am’.

Photograph (below) of the restored ceiling in the Cathedral of the Winter Palace today

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

The Last Sad Year of Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna, Queen of Württemberg

The diaries of Nicholas I reveal fascinating details of Alexandra Feodorovna’s pregnancy and birth of their second daughter Grand Duchess Olga on August 30th 1822 in the Anichkov Palace. Olga would later write a memoir of their family life up to her marriage to Crown Prince Karl of Württemberg in 1846.

Photograph c1892 (below) of the Dowager Queen Olga of Württemberg and her adopted granddaughters sixteen year old Elsa and Olga in Stuttgart
In the 1860s as Karl and Olga had no children they adopted her brother Grand Duke Konstantin’s daughter Grand Duchess Vera, mother of the twin girls in the photograph above. During the quarter century after Karl inherited the throne in 1864 the kingdom of Württemberg lost its important status with Stuttgart mainly a stopping place for family members on a tour of Europe.

In a nine month period Queen Olga mourned the deaths of her brother Grand Duke Nikolai on April 13th 1891, her husband Karl on September 24th and her brother Konstantin on January 13th 1892. Olga herself died soon after on October 18th at the age of seventy.

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Nicholas II’s Museum of Gold, Silver and Porcelain in the Winter Palace

Nicholas II was fascinated with gold, silver and porcelain table settings and often visited private and public collections. In the Winter Palace on Monday February 8th 1899 Nicholas and Alexandra ‘after lunch walked upstairs with Uncle Sergei and Ella to look at the Museum of Old Table Settings’. 

Rare Photograph c1911 (below) of the Gallery of Gold and Silver in the Small Hermitage
Nicholas approved the transfer of the Museum of Gold, Silver and Porcelain from the 3rd floor of the Winter Palace to the galleries in the Small Hermitage in 1910 for easier access to researchers and the public. The collections continued to increase during the 1900s including his uncle Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich’s silver objects.

Rare Photograph c1911 (below) of the Gallery of Porcelain in the Small Hermitage
The museum objects ‘remained at the disposal of the Marshal of the Court Count Paul Benckendorf and at any time be released for its use by the imperial court’.

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

The Clothes and Toys of Grand Duchess Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia and Tsarevich Alexei

The photographs (below) from the exhibition currently at the Kolomenskoe Museum shows parts of  the collections held by the Hermitage Museum and GARF of clothes, toys, diaries and letters of the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia and the Tsarevich Alexei.

Saturday, 25 January 2020

Nicholas I’s Baby Stroller and Grand Duchess Anastasia’s Baby Walker

During the last two centuries the baby products for the young imperial grand dukes and duchesses are familiar having been adapted to modern times.

Photograph (below) of future Emperor Nicholas I’s baby stroller later used by his brother Grand Duke Mikhail who was born two years after in 1798
Photograph c1902 (below) of Grand Duchess Anastasia in her baby walker in the Mauve Room of the Alexander Palace

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Empress Alexandra with a Group of Singers in the Winter Palace

In 1902 Empress Alexandra took singing lessons with a professor from the St. Petersburg Conservatory. A year later the photographs below show the empress joining a group of singers in her Silver Drawing Room (186) on the 2nd floor of the Winter Palace.

On the afternoon of Saturday February 8th 1903 Nicholas II noted in his diary that ‘four singers from Vienna sang various funny things in the Malachite Hall’.

Photograph c1917 (below) of the Silver Drawing Room with the Schroeder Piano
Photograph (below) of the Schroeder Piano exhibited today in the former Study (305) of Empress Maria Alexandrovna on the 2nd floor of the Winter Palace

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Emperor Nicholas II’s Winter Palace Private Garden

There was a severe blizzard during the night which stopped by morning. A mass of snow had fallen’. [Nicholas II’s Diary Friday January 26th 1901]

Photograph (below) of Nicholas with his dogs and Empress Alexandra’s little dog near the Saltykov Entrance in the Private Garden of the Winter Palace [ГАРФ, ф 601 оп.1 д.1632]

Photographs (below) of the Private Garden showing the northwest section’s 2nd floor corner balcony of Nicholas’ Study and the large gates to the Palace Embankment


Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Empress Alexandra’s Fabergé Vitrine in the Winter Palace

During a visit from Saturday January 13th to Thursday February 15th 1901 Empress Alexandra’s brother Ernest, Ducky and their daughter Elizabeth lived on the 3rd floor of the Winter Palace. A series of family photographs were taken in the Study (184) of Alexandra on the 2nd floor [ГАРФ, ф.601 оп.1 д.1632].

Photographs (below) of Nicholas II, his sister Xenia and Ducky next to Alexandra’s vitrine