Wednesday, 16 August 2017

A Mysterious Object in Alexandra’s Bedroom

Hau’s 1870 watercolor (below) of Empress Alexandra’s bedroom in the Winter Palace
Do you know what the object is in front of the cabinet by the fireplace in the lower right of the watercolor above?

Throughout the 1800’s lung diseases affected all classes of the population including the imperial family. Tuberculosis, known as consumption, claimed many lives. A devastating loss was the death of Nicholas I’s daughter Alexandra in 1844 a few hours after the birth of her premature baby.

A spittoon, as the name implies, was a metal pot used for spitting into. It became an indispensable object in aristocratic and palace rooms. There were various designs of spittoons.

The spittoon in Alexandra’s bedroom matched Gambs furniture. Another spittoon was Bosse’s in Empress Marie Alexandrovna’s boudoir (below).


  1. ick...when did spitting go out of polite society...?

  2. Such an unpleasant thing! ; ) Seems like there would be a more polite way to deal with the issue. Also, on one hand I understand why the thing would be placed on the floor, but you'd think they'd want something - closer - to the actual spitting; I'm guessing there were lots of "misses". Blech.

    Interesting that the one from Marie Alexandrovna’s boudoir has survived. It - is - a marvelous object... but I hope they gave it a good scrubbing. ; )

  3. Oh lovely!(pulls a face) But strangely interesting.
    Where they made for all the rooms in the palace or just select ones like boudoir's and bedrooms?
    Ghostie x.

  4. Joanna,
    Once again, you have demonstrated what a keen eye for detail you have, not only to notice this object in the painting but to research it and explain its cultural importance. This is why I am a huge fan of your blog and why I am so looking forward to your book.

    1. Thank you very much for your comments. I reveal more intriguing details in my forthcoming book.

  5. The spittoons were in their private rooms. The 'ick' factor in describing items used in the 18th and 19th centuries are the same 'icks' we face today! What receptacle(s) do we use?