Monday, 27 June 2016

My 20 year search to uncover daily life in the Winter Palace!

The Hermitage, world-renowned – the Winter Palace, sketchy.
How I knew in 1996 the location of Nicholas & Alexandra’s rooms on the 2nd floor is now lost in memory. I was oblivious of their namesakes use in the 1840s.

Serendipity when I later discovered my photo of Nicholas I’s small study on the 1st floor was identical to Konstantin Ukhtomsky’s watercolor c1850s.

One photo! How I regret not taking hundreds.
A slow progress with my research. English sources are minimal, replicating the same. The internet – a gradual growth.
The turning point was six years ago when I had access to the extraordinary work of Russian researchers. A tidal wave of primary sources.
Alexander Benois’ diary entry on editing Alexander Uspensky’s articles in the early 1900s prior to the publishing of his books on ‘The Imperial Palaces’: … Especially I had a lot of work on the texts of A. Uspensky, the participation of which I treasured because through him I got access to such an inexhaustible source of documentary information, as the archives of the Ministry of the Court …
A hundred and ten years plus separate us yet our thoughts are alike.


  1. Joanna I came across your fantastically interesting Blog by chance. I have been researching the Palace of Catherine's time as part of a long term project writing a novel with the Palace as a background. Goodness knows whether the novel will ever see the light of day, one reason in its taking so long to bring to an end, is the sheer pleasure of research. The internet has been wonderful but it leads me down so many alleyways, dead ends and occasionally to doorways through to extraordinary treasures. I suspect your blog is one of those. My specific question at this moment is related to the mezzanine above her private quarters. I want to pinpoint exactly where the stairs to the mezzanine were in 1764-6, and how extensive the mezzanine was. The reason being is that as far as I know she used the mezzanine as an initial gallery to hang her art purchases, particularly the Gotzkowsky collection - her first purchase in 1764. Her paintings were then moved to the Hermitage in stages as it was built.Have you come across a floor plan that shows the Mezzanine in detail.

    I do have a second question on a completely separate subject. For a few years after the St Petersburg 300 anniversary there was on the 300 website an extensive interactive 3d series of models of St Petersburg showing the different key stages of development. The viewers being able to navigate the city, for example all around the outside of Winter Palace and the surrounding streets, canals by mouse. I thought it was wonderful and very interesting. It was suddenly taken down never to be seen again. I have not tried very hard to find it, and get hold of the data because I persuaded myself that something so well conceived must be somewhere. I did report my find on the Alexander Palace Forum some years ago but no follow up from me nor anyone else. Have you come across it?

    Sorry to take up your time but thought I would ask on both matters. You never know.

  2. Thank you very much. I write in my forthcoming book on Catherine the Great's rooms and mezzanines in the 2nd Spare into. It is fascinating what happened after her death, in 1826 with Nicholas I and the changes after the fire in 1837.

    I am curious on the 3D series. Was there another name for it i.e. panorama?