Monday, 18 June 2018

A Century of History in the Tauride Palace

During the reign of Emperor Paul, the Tauride Palace was turned into a regimental barracks and its furnishings used to decorate the new Mikhailovsky Castle. In 1802 Alexander I had the palace restored stating that ‘everything will be the same at the time of my grandmother [Empress Catherine II]’.

Aerial view (below) of the Tauride Palace
The palace faced the Neva River, connected by a canal with a small harbor, until 1863 when the Water Tower and other structures were built.
B. Petersen’s Paintings c1797 (below) of the Tauride Palace from the Neva and garden sides
Empress Elizabeth sent her mother Amalia of Baden the plan of her apartment on Friday November 7th 1805. ‘The furnishing is not excessive luxury, there are even people who think there are too few. What I like by this drawing is to tell the story of these three years; the first we mourned the death of Grand Duchess Elena, the second the marriage and departure of Grand Duchess Maria [to Weimar] and this year the Emperor’s’.

Plan (below) of the Tauride Palace: Entrance Hall #1, Domed Hall #2, Hall of Columns #3, Winter Garden #4
During her visit to St. Petersburg, Princess Volkonskaya toured the palace on July 30th 1810. ‘The main hall is beautiful. We also went through the rooms of the imperial family. The Dowager Empress are extremely gorgeous but Empress Elizabeth’s are distinguished by their simplicity. They showed us the front room of her daughter who died [Elizabeth 2/11/1806-30/4/1808]. Her bed, the table on which she was dressed, everything is left as it was. Then we went to walk in the garden’. Later Alexander II ordered the garden opened to the public on July 24th 1861 with the entrance through the Sovereign Courtyard.

With the deaths of Empress Elizabeth in 1826 and the Dowager Empress Maria in 1828, the ladies-in-waiting corridor on the 3rd floor of the Winter Palace was overcrowded. Nicholas I decided to move the retired ladies to apartments in the Tauride Palace. Alexander II transferred ownership of the palace to his son Alexei in 1880, reverting back to state property a few years later when the grand duke bought another property.

On December 10th 1899 Grand Duke Konstantin noted that ‘at the request of the young Empress a large Christmas Fair was organized in the halls of the Tauride Palace with society ladies agreeing to be saleswomen’. Nicholas wrote that ‘with Ella and Sergei we went after lunch to the city to the Tauride Palace for the opening. A mass of items had been set up. There were four or five lady-sellers at each table’. On Saturday December 18tharriving at the Winter Palace Alix went to receive a heap of ladies who had taken part in the bazaar’.

From March 6th to September 26th 1905 Sergei Diaghilev, under the patronage of Grand Duke Nicholas Mikhailovich, held a Historical Exhibition of 2,286 Russian portraits in the Tauride Palace. The halls were decorated with old furniture and objects stored in the Tauride and huge warehouses. ‘From Catherinehof palace, we found magnificent furniture of Elizabethan time, black and gold Chinese design, which was in very bad condition. From Yelagin, fine Karelian birch furniture of Pavlovian time and from Princess Altenburg’s Kamennoostrovsky palace, white and gold empire furniture made according to Rossi’s drawings’.

While installing the portrait of Alexander I a ‘worker fell off the ladder, through the canvas. He was unhurt but there was a huge hole in the belly of the emperor. There was incredible turmoil. After the Hermitage restorer Sidorov stretched the canvas on a marble table and ironed out the scars, everyone was amazed. There were no traces left’.

Photograph (below) of Alexander I’s portrait in the Tauride Exhibition
The exhibition closed early to complete the reconstruction of the palace for 1906. The winter garden was dismantled to erect the Duma’s hall.

Photographs (below) of the interiors today

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