Monday, 13 February 2017
Empress Alexandra’s Bathroom
In 1828-1829 the court architect Monferrand decorated Empress Alexandra’s bathroom in the Spanish Moorish style. A. Briullov recreated the design for the new room on the 2nd floor of the Winter Palace after the 1837 fire.
Hau’s 1870 watercolor (below) of Alexandra’s bathroom
Gambs’ workshop had made the furniture for the bathroom from Montferrand’s sketches in 1830 as part of a large order of Gothic furniture for the Cottage in Peterhof. The ‘...fickleness of fashion trends and artistic tastes...’ in the 1820s creates the juxtaposition of Moorish and Gothic within this small space.
On the right in the watercolor, beneath the large mirror, water from the crystal hot and cold taps flows first into bowls and then cascades into the marble bath. After visiting Italy in 1845, Alexandra would import large quantities of sea salt from Palermo for her baths: 1145 kilos in 1848 and 1,022 kilos in 1849.
On the left, Briullov designed the Moorish style stained glass window above the white Italian marble fireplace.
In 1895, the room was redesigned by Meltzer for Alexandra, the wife of Nicholas II. The Moorish window was replaced with an Art Nouveau stained glass that has not survived.
Photograph (below) of the Inner Courtyard with the large plain glass bathroom window (the first window from the left on the 2nd floor next to the long narrow window)
Alexandra’s bathroom has been preserved today: while and blue tiles, panels, wallpaper, staircase door with mirror, toilet. In my collection of photographs, one shows a porcelain toilet with wooden seat reflected from a mirror near the light blue fireplace.
In Hau’s watercolor above, the door next to the curtained sofa was retained in 1896 and led to Nicholas II’s valet room. The wooden door is still there behind the screen in the photo below. That is the door through which I was able to view Alexandra’s bathroom twenty years ago!