Tuesday, 4 October 2016
Empress Alexandra’s Wardrobe on 2nd Floor Mezzanine of the Winter Palace
In 1896, Empress Alexandra’s wardrobe was located on the mezzanine above the on-duty maids’ room on the 2nd floor of the Winter Palace. The window looked out onto the small inner courtyard.
Alexandra had brought her senior chamber maid, Magdalene Zanotti, with her from Darmstadt. In Petra Kleinpenning’s book “The Correspondence of the Empress Alexandra of Russia with Ernst Ludwig”, Alexandra wrote her brother on May 14th, 1895 “… After a month or so we shall be sending a Feldjager again to fetch Madelaine [from Darmstadt] & what else remains of my things …”
M. Zanotti was in charge of the Empress’ wardrobe and jewellery and had eight maids under her. Their on-duty room was next to the staircase off the Imperial bedroom. The maids kept leather-bound books cataloguing every article of clothing in detail.
On October 27th, 1917 Vasily Vereshchagin, the Chairman of the Art Commission, and Alexander Benois inspected many of the rooms of the Winter Palace. In his diary on October 28th, A. Benois wrote “… Suffered relatively little the private rooms of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna … surprise yet were wardrobes, which were full of Alexandra’s dresses and have not been touched, dresses hung in perfect order …”
Benois’ description differs from N. Dementiev’s, the caretaker of the property room of the Winter Palace, who had inspected the rooms on October 28th. He wrote in his report “… In the wardrobe of the Empress opened all the cupboards; dresses and underwear are randomly scattered on the floor and on the table…” Photographs taken on November 7th, 1917 confirms Dementiev’s version.
Photograph (below) of Alexandra’s Wardrobe on November 7th, 1917
In the 1970s, two ground-breaking books revealed the life of the Imperial Family to the west; Robert Massie’s “Nicholas and Alexandra” and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ “In the Russian Style”.
It was fascinating to read the details of Jacqueline Onassis’ research trip to Leningrad with Thomas Hoving. Although famous, she was frustratingly stymied in her attempts to look ‘behind the palace doors’. At Pavlovsk, she was shown Alexandra’s wardrobe and was permitted to try on her coat.
Photograph (below) of Jacqueline Onassis in Empress Alexandra’s Coat – Pavlovsk Museum 1976
Photographs (below) of Alexandra’s dresses, morning robe, gloves, stockings