Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Imperial Family Photograph Albums

Rare photograph of the Children’s Island, Alexander Palace in Tsarskoe Selo

Rooms of the Grand Duchesses, Alexander Palace

Empress Alexandra’s Balcony, Alexander Palace


Nicholas II outside the Alexander Palace


Monday, 16 October 2017

Mystery of the Wall Brackets

A reader asked about the projecting wall brackets in Hau’s 1870 watercolor (below) in my post on the fireplaces in the Winter Palace.

The size of the room over the Commandant’s Entrance facing Palace Square was small and narrow, the width of a window.

Photograph (below) of the Commandant Entrance c1920s

There was no permanent chandelier. The brackets were used to hang glass lanterns with a number of candles. A lantern would also be suspended from the ceiling.

An example (below)  is Pierre-Philippe Thomire’s 1785 lantern in the Petit Trianon in Versailles.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Fireplace Problems in the Winter Palace

On October 15th 1763 Catherine the Great moved into her newly renovated rooms on the 2nd floor
( #263 to #281 http://winterpalaceresearch.blogspot.ca/2016/10/plan-list-of-2nd-floor-of-winter-palace.html) in the southeast corner of the Winter Palace, facing the square.

The empress rose at five in the morning, lit her fire and then made coffee for herself. One day, unaware that the sweeper had climbed the chimney, she lit the fire and then heard swearing coming from the fireplace.. He yelled the coarsest words down believing it was the stove-lighter. The Empress hastened to extinguish the fire, laughing heartily.

Alexander I renovated his grandmother’s rooms for a visit by King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia in June 1818. He was the father of Nicholas I’s wife Alexandra. She wrote that, the first night, they had a family dinner in the small room above the porch (280) overlooking the square. The ladies sat at the table and the men ate standing up. The rooms were destroyed in the 1837 fire.

Hau’s 1870 watercolors (below) of the Dining Room (280) and the room above the porch

Photographs (below) of the former Dining Room today

A hundred years later, during the reign of Nicholas II, a chambermaid lit a fire in the fireplace in Alexandra’s study (185) and left. When the empress entered, the room was filled with smoke. The maid had forgotten to open the flue.

Photograph c1917 (below) of the fireplace in Alexandra’s Study

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Nicholas II’s Bathroom in Potsdam

During their trip home to Saint Petersburg from Darmstadt, Nicholas II and Alexandra visited Potsdam on Wednesday October 27th 1899. They stayed for the day in Kaiser Wilhelm II’s apartments in the Neues Palais. The Kaiser had moved to his grandfather’s Babelberg Palace during the visit.

After ascending the throne Wilhelm, with controversial haste, had taken over the Neues Palais as his summer residence. Part of the restoration included countless hidden doors in the walls. One door led to the Delft tiled bathroom.  

Photograph (below) of the bathroom in the Neues Palais

Nicholas II wrote that he took a refreshing bath here as they had headaches from the over-heated rooms before the 7:00 pm state dinner.

Aerials (below) of the Neues Palais

Photographs (below) of the Kaiser and his family at the Neues Palais

Arriving back at the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoe Selo on Friday November 5th, Nicholas wrote that with joy he took a bath in his swimming-pool tub!

Photograph (below) of Nicholas’ Bathroom in the Alexander Palace

Thursday, 5 October 2017

The Prince of Wales Bathtub in the Old Hermitage

The Old Hermitage facing the Neva River was completed by the architect Yuri Felten for Catherine the Great in 1787. Nicholas I had the 2nd floor rooms redesigned by Andrei Stakenshneider in the late 1840s. It was known as the 7th Spare.

The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, attended alone the wedding of his sister-in-law Dagmar of Denmark (Maria Feodorovna) to the future Alexander III in October 1866. He stayed in the 7th Spare.

Emperor Alexander II would give his guests albums of photographs of the palaces in remembrance of their stay in Saint Petersburg. One of the albums presented to the Prince of Wales was his suite on the 2nd floor. The private rooms faced the inner courtyard and larger salons the Neva.

Photographs (below) of the 7th Spare Blue Bedroom in 1866 and today

Photographs (below) of the 7th Spare Bathroom with the small door on the right to the toilet and today

Photographs (below) of the 7th Spare Dressing Room in 1866 and today

Monday, 2 October 2017

The Palace in the Shadows – Oranienbaum

With its strange name and owned by minor members of the imperial family, Oranienbaum is unknown to many among the other famous palaces in Saint Petersburg.

Aerial Views (below) of Oranienbaum Palace

The palace to the west of Peterhof and opposite Kronstadt was built for Prince Menshikov during the reign of Peter the Great. A rare sight in that harsh climate were the orange trees [orangenbaum in German) he planted in the lower park.

Photographs (below) of Oranienbaum Palace

Empress Elizabeth gave the estate to her heir Peter and Catherine in 1745. The architect Rastrelli added the two side wings with towers: the right was called Ladies-in-Waiting and the left Kitchen. Although she hated the memories of her married life in Oranienbaum, Catherine the Great built the Chinese Palace and Sliding Hill after ascending the throne in 1762. When Swedish guns threatened the area in 1792, all the interior decorations were removed to Saint Petersburg: mirrors and furniture to the Tauride Palace, paintings and library to the Hermitage, etc.

Model (below) of the Sliding Hill

Oranienbaum passed to Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich, the younger brother of Nicholas I in 1825. After his death in 1849 and his wife Elena Pavlova in 1873, their only surviving daughter Catherine inherited the estate. She had married Duke George of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in the Winter Palace on February 4th 1851. They lived in the great palace during visits in the winter and in the Chinese Palace during the summer months. With Catherine’s death in 1894, her properties were shared among her three children: George, Mikhail and Elena. As a collector, George continued to decorate the luxurious interiors with rare items. Elena and her husband Prince Albert of Saxe-Altenburg lived in the Chinese Palace.

Photographs (below) of the Chinese Palace 1800s-1900s

On Wednesday July 10th 1896 Nicholas II wrote that ‘at 4:00 pm five of us went off with Mama on the Peterhof yacht to Oranienbaum to visit Tinkhen [Elena] and Albert in the Chinese Palace. After tea we looked over the house’.

At 3:00 pm on Friday June 24th 1905 Nicholas and Alexandra ‘went off in Orlov’s car through Oranienbaum along the highway for ten miles past the new Battery Defense. We walked along the seashore in a beautiful forest. On the way back we had tea at Tinkhen’s in the Chinese Palace and looked over Peter III’s house’.

Photographs (below) of the exteriors and interiors of the Chinese Palace

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Catherine the Great’s Wardrobe

How easy it is to repeat the foibles of historical figures with source(s) taken for granted as truth.

Prince Alexander Golitsyn was an old friend of Nicholas I and Alexandra and guardian of their children when they were away. He was a former page to Catherine the Great and they ‘never tired listening to his stories about the Empress’.

Painting  (below) of Catherine the Great c1779

On Thursday August 22nd 1835 Grand Duke Alexander, his sister Maria and their entourage made an expedition to Duderof, Krasnoe Selo. In the carriage with Prince Golitsyn was Maria Merder, the daughter of the grand duke’s tutor. She wrote the following story in her diary as told to her by the prince.

Catherine the Great never complained about her servants especially the females. While undressing one evening, the empress expressed her pleasure with the new gown to her wardrobe maid saying she wished always to be dressed the same way. The maid, hoping to please, immediately ordered twelve of the same outfit. When Catherine for the sixth time put on an identical gown, she asked with surprise what it meant. Upon hearing she was the unwitting cause, she good-naturedly laughed. ‘Let the people think it is my fantasy because you cannot throw money down the drain with the need to replace the dresses for me’.

Painting and photographs (below) of Catherine the Great's Dresses

There are a limited number of portraits of Catherine from the 1790s. Did she adopt the simple empire style of clothing originating in France? Or did the empress continue wearing the elaborate style of Marie Antoinette that we are familiar with?

My book will disclose what happened to Catherine’s wardrobe in the 1820s.