Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Empress Alexandra’s Summer Dresses in Peterhof

When the historical museum opened in the Lower Dacha in Peterhof in the 1920s, the curators requested summer wardrobe items of the imperial family from the Detskoe Selo Palace Museums. In 1926 the Alexander Palace Museum gave Nicholas II’s naval suit, naval uniform, linen shirt and other items, and Alexandra’s blue chiffon and white cambric dresses and white linen kimono.

Soft blue chiffon dress (below)
 
White cambric dress (below)
White linen kimono (below)
 

After the museum was dismantled in 1933, the wardrobe was then exhibited in the former imperial train. The empress’ dresses were placed in the maid’s compartment, evacuated during the war and are now part of Peterhof’s costume collection.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Rare Photograph of the Dining Room in the Lower Dacha Peterhof

In 1896 Nicholas II decided to reconstruct the Lower Dacha in Peterhof to increase the space for their growing family.

Photograph (below) of the Lower Dacha from the sea
 
The main building retained some of the original interiors that he had chosen when grand duke. In 1904 the dining room was redecorated.

Rare photograph (below) of the Dining Room in the Lower Dacha c1890-1903
 
Photograph c1930s (below) of the redecorated Dining Room
 
 

Friday, 27 July 2018

Grand Duchesses at Queen Victoria’s Osborne House

On Wednesday July 22nd 1909 Nicholas, Alexandra and the family ‘went ashore at 3pm and rode off in cars to Osborne. We looked over the newly constructed naval building and then the palace of the deceased queen where I had stayed fifteen years ago. We had tea at Georgie’s and May’s in Barton. We visited Uncle Berti’s three sisters at Osborne cottage and returned to the Standart at 6:30’.

Photograph (below) of the Grand Duchesses on the terrace of Osborne House’s Royal Pavilion  on July 22nd 1909  [note the 2nd floor windows of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria’s bedroom]

Photographs (below) of the lower terrace, garden and Swiss Cottage on July 22nd 1909


 

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Jewel Album of Empress Maria Fedorovna

The Jewel Album’s front page has the inscription ‘Alexandria 1894 Maria’ in Empress Maria Feodorovna’s handwriting. In the summer of 1894 a lady-in-waiting started drawing the empress’ jewels. Later in the winter of 1894-1895 after the death of Alexander III, Empress Maria began writing their descriptions in the columns.

Fourteen pages of thirty (below) from the Jewel Album
 
In 1885 the King and Queen of Denmark gave their daughter a brooch with the inscription Fredensborg with five pins; pearl, emerald, ruby, sapphire and diamond. Her brother King George I of the Hellenes gave her between 1887 and 1897 three pins: the Greek flag, Danish flag and Royal Standard of the King. In 1892 she received from her brother a gold bracelet with the white Danish elephant and in October for her 25th wedding anniversary, a badge with his initials and XXV.
 












 

Friday, 20 July 2018

A View of the Winter Palace c1880


The photograph (below) of the Winter Palace facing the Admiralty c1880 reveals with amazing clarity details of its fa├žade.



  • Empress Maria Alexandrovna’s balcony on the 2nd floor,
  • Open window of Grand Duke Sergei and Paul’s rooms on the 1st floor;
  • Awning over the Saltykov Entrance with the horse water trough in front,
  • Small entrance in the far corner. Nicholas I used this entrance to climb the spiral staircase to his Small Study and the 2nd floor. In the 1900s Nicholas II would exit from here to walk with his dogs in the private garden.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Rare Archival Inventories on Yelagin Palace


After the 1817 purchase of Yelagin Island in the Neva archipelago north of the Winter Palace, Emperor Alexander I had a summer palace built for his mother Dowager Empress Maria Fedorovna. The architect Carlo Rossi constructed the palace, pavilions and park between 1818 and 1822. The interior projects were completed under Rossi’s special orders: furniture masters Bauman and Gambs, chandeliers, candelabra and mirrors by Andrew Schreiber.

Aerial views (below) of Yelagin Palace and Pavilions today and c1931
 



The history of the palace has focused on the 1st floor ceremonial rooms and apartment of the dowager empress. There are rare published references on the 2nd and 3rd floor rooms of Nicholas I and Alexandra.

Paintings c1820s (below) of Yelagin Palace


Plans (below) of the Park and Yelagin Palace
 




The inventory dated August 8th 1822 listed a Large Study, Yellow Drawing, Main Staircase, Reception, Salon, Corner Study, Bedroom and Boudoir on the 2nd floor for Nicholas and Alexandra.

Plan (below) of the 2nd Floor in May 1898 from a negative late 1920s
 


The main staircase was made of oak with mahogany handrails. The walls had orange and white wallpaper and the carpet was green with copper rods. Empress Alexandra would hang her favorite paintings here and in 1835 two were by the brothers Gregory and Nikanor Chernetsov. A bookcase with the emperor’s personal library of books, maps and plans was placed in 1844 between the two windows instead of the former mirror.
  
The Yellow Drawing Room had two sofas, two tables, a dozen armchairs and fireplace screen. The curtains and upholstered furniture were covered in white-flowered yellow silk. In 1829 the room was redecorated with blue wallpaper from the Tsarskoe Selo factory.

Empress Alexandra’s corner study had green with gold rosettes wallpaper and the furniture was upholstered in green silk. There was a red marble fireplace.

Photograph c1920s (below) of the fireplace in the Corner Study
 


Nicholas’ small study walls were originally orange with blue rosettes, later redecorated with green wallpaper. Two of the paintings were of reclining women; one by Nikolai Maikov, the other a Titian.

The bedroom’s wallpaper was blue with gold stars. The curtains were white with blue stripes and the canopy of the double bed was white taffeta.  Of the many pillows, one was made of blue velvet and crimson with the coat of arms, another of silk. The fireplace mantle had candelabra for six candles and a bronze clock.

After Emperor Nicholas was given the floor plans of Yelagin Palace in September 1826, he ordered changes to the 2nd and 3rd floors. He allocated rooms for his valet, a wardrobe and on-duty maid. In the 1830s after the construction of the lady-in-waiting building, the grand duchesses rooms on the 3rd floor expanded with a drawing room, classrooms, study and bedrooms.

In the summer of 1827 a gazebo was erected with chintz covered garden furniture and a table for Empress Alexandra’s needlework.

The following year near the greenhouses a two room bathhouse was built for Nicholas. The dressing room with a large built-in wardrobe was covered with green calico and in the bathroom an orange patterned green leaf carpet was bought from the English store Nichols & Plinke. A small pond with two piers and a ferry was between the palace and bathhouse.




Thursday, 12 July 2018

Emperor Alexander I’s Breguet Pedometer Watch

On May 15th 1821 Emperor Alexander I purchased a military field pedometer watch from the famous French watchmaker Abraham Louis Breguet for 1,800 francs.

Photograph c1859 (below) of Alexander’s Bedroom in the Catherine Palace, Tsarskoe Selo
The Breguet watch measured the rate of marching rather than time. The silver dial had a range from 60 to 195 and the arrow counted the corresponding number of oscillations per minute. During parades the emperor was able to control the pace of marching troops by counting the steps per minute.

Photograph (below) of Alexander’s Breguet Pedometer Watch
 
Breguet watches were bought by European royals before the revolution and after, from Napoleon to the Prince Regent. Breguet worked in St. Petersburg from 1808 to 1811 when he left due to decreasing sales. After the Napoleonic wars, the expensive watches were again popular among royals and aristocrats.

Exhibition Catalogue (below) of Breguet watches in the Hermitage Collection