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.