Sunday, 31 July 2016

Alexander Hall in the Winter Palace


The Alexander Hall was conceived by Nicholas I when reconstructing the Winter Palace after the fire in 1837. It was designed by A. Bruillov and dedicated to Alexander I and the 1812 Napoleonic Campaign.
The large portrait of Alexander I in the Alexander Hall was painted by George Dawe.



Hau’s watercolor of the Alexander Hall 1861
In A. Polovtsov’s diary on Sunday, April 15th, 1884 he wrote “… When I asked  A. Adlerberg about the portrait, he said he remembers Dawe’s studio in the Winter Palace (c1820) and how Alexander I went there to sit for his portrait …”

Dawe’s Studio in the old Shepelevsky Palace (now New Hermitage)
Alexander I’s portrait was removed from the Alexander Hall after the revolution. I have a photo of the blank wall with the tall ladder used for the restoration work by the Art Commission in 1920.

During the 1920-30s, paintings and valuables were transferred between the palaces, historic rooms closed and various exhibitions installed.
The photo below of the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoe Selo in 1944 has a similar painting of Alexander I. Is it the original portrait from the Winter Palace’s Alexander Hall or a copy, since numerous portraits were replicated in Dawe’s studio by order of Nicholas I after Alexander’s death?


Saturday, 30 July 2016

Fabergé – Join the Discussion Challenge - 1891 or 1892?

A call to all, enthusiasts and experts, to join the challenging discussion on the timeline for the ‘Memory of Azov’ Eggs. Was it 1891 or 1892?

My belief is that the two Eggs were made by Fabergé  for Easter 1892.

  • Alexander III commissioned Fabergé to make two ‘Memory of Azov’ Easter Eggs in 1891 for his wife and son.
  • Nicholas left on October 23rd, 1890 for the East.
  • It was not a certainty until actual sailing that the ship would be the 'Memory of Azov'.
  • With all the pressures Alexander was under, would the priority be to commission two eggs when he would have known Fabergé was already working on the next year's egg?
  • Nicholas II did not return to St. Petersburg until August 1891.
  • The time frame for Fabergé to complete two eggs in a mere three to four months is questionable.
Irrefutable proof would be an invoice. The kamer-furersky journals would note the delivery by Fabergé to the palace without specifying the contents.

What do you think?  

Friday, 29 July 2016

Fabergé - Mystery Solved!

I don’t believe it!

I have the inventory lists of Alexandra’s vitrine in her study in the Winter Palace, including the Easter Eggs, for my book.  My concentration though has been on researching the other Fabergé items in Nicholas and Alexandra’s rooms.

Photos, blogs and forums abound with Imperial Easter Eggs, being the primary topic of interest for Fabergé enthusiasts. It’s impossible to avoid, giving only a quick glance
.
Then when looking for more photos of Nicholas’ cabin on the ‘Memory of Azov’, hoping to find a glimpse of his piano, a photo of Fabergé’s model of the ship popped up in a Gatchina article (photo below).



Are you kidding me? A light bulb went on! The photo of Empress Marie’s Egg was fresh in my mind from recently uploading the photo. I had looked at Fabergé’s model at various times yet never realized there were two or that there were differences. My Bryson moment!

The Kremlin holds the two Fabergé ‘Memory of Azov’ Easter Eggs that were commissioned by Alexander III for his wife and son in 1891.

Empress Marie’s Egg



Nicholas II’s Egg




Now I am on the path to confirm if Nicholas’ egg was kept with his large model of the ‘Memory of Azov’ ship in the Winter Palace (details in my book). 

Thursday, 28 July 2016

The Odyssey of Nicholas’ Piano

On October 23rd, 1890 Nicholas left St. Petersburg to begin his eastern trip traveling on the battleship ‘Memory of Azov’.

The day before the journey Nicholas’ valet, Radtsig, requested that the piano in the Alexander Palace be rushed to the ship and placed in the cabin of the heir. The photo below shows part of the cabin.



Was the piano in the rooms of Nicholas and George in the Alexander Palace? Alexander III and his family never returned to Tsarskoe Selo to live after 1881.

After the return of Nicholas in 1891, the piano was placed in the Winter Palace. Was it in the newly renovated suite constructed for Nicholas on the 3rd floor in the Winter Palace which he never did live in? (My book describes in detail the rooms.)

In May 1899 the piano was delivered back to the Alexander Palace. 

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Doctors in the Winter Palace (1)

Who was Dr. Horne? Little is known beyond the x-rays of Nicholas and Alexandra’s hands.

His life is a mystery. Was he American since the x-rays are now held at Harvard? Or German, as the name Maximilian was used in a document? Is it Horne or Gorne since there is no ‘H’ in cyrillic?

The archives reveal a little more information in the ‘Wardrobe Accounts’ of Nicholas and Alexandra.

Dr. Horne, Court Counselor of Doctor of Medicine and hospital consultant, was an attending physician to the Imperial court. He specialized in the treatment of feet.

In 1896 the accounts show he was paid 120 rubles for two gymnastic apparatus for Alexandra.

In 1898 Dr. Horne visited Alexandra twenty-nine times in the Winter Palace (25 rubles per visit) and forty-eight times in Tsarskoe and Peterhof (50 rubles). The double payment was due to travel costs to the suburban palaces.

Nicholas II in his diary on March 23rd, 1898 wrote “… Dr. Horne who massages Alix every morning, showed us with his wife interesting experiments of the way x-rays work. He immortalized our hands with a translucent photograph on a glass record …”





How the x-rays ended up in Boston is sketchy. The Harvard Library Bulletin in 1970 quoted Lloyd Hawes’ tale of Lilly Hoffmann’s meeting with Mrs. Horne in Lapland:

“… She had carried the X-rays out of Czarist Russia and presented them to Miss Hoffmann. Mrs. Horne vividly recalled the details of the royal X-ray session. The Czar had commanded the Hornes to bring their apparatus into the St. Petersburg palace to take one of the new X-ray photographs. The apparatus was heavy and bulky. The initial energy came from the palace's electrical system. The exposure must have been made at night, for the room was plunged into darkness when the apparatus was plugged in. In the dark Mrs. Horne bumped into the Czar and apologized profusely. The Czar remarked that he would help find the trouble, and that getting the power back on was more important than apologies. To develop the plates, a clothes closet may well have been used. It was necessary to tilt the trays back and forth to wash the plates with the chemical solutions…” 

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Alexander II’s Oxygen Chamber in the Winter Palace

Emperor Alexander II’s health deteriorated further in the 1870s. He had suffered from asthma for years, unknown to the public then and now.

Count A. Adlerberg, the Minister of the Court, sent an urgent telegram on September 19th, 1876 from Livadia “… to begin work on the apparatus device according to the drawings that had been sent …”

The device was an oxygen chamber that was built in the room next to Alexander’s dressing room in the Winter Palace.

Hau’s 1871 Dressing Room Of Alexander II



There was a sofa and table inside the chamber with a communication line to the valet’s vestibule and the basement’s three-man team in the engine room.

After the death of Alexander II in 1881, the oxygen chamber continued to be maintained and repaired.


It was in 1928 when V. Vasiliev dismantled the device and transferred it to the Lesgaft Institute in Leningrad.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Fabergé – Two ' Memory of Azov' Imperial Easter Eggs

Nicholas II sailed on the battleship ‘Memory of Azov’ during his eastern trip in 1890-91.

Were you aware Alexander III commissioned Fabergé to make two Easter eggs with ‘Memory of Azov’ miniatures for his wife and son in 1891?
The famous Imperial Easter Egg in the Kremlin was presented to Empress Marie (photo below).



Alexei Oreshnikov’s  wrote in his diary on February 8th, 1922 that he unpacked in the Kremlin crates from the Anichkov Palace containing “… the gold egg with a finely made model of a battleship, probably ‘Memory of Azov’ …”
On February 27th, 1922 he wrote “… unpacking Nicholas II’s … Fabergé … in a glass egg, a tiny model of a battleship of gold and jade …”

What happened to Nicholas II’s Egg?
And if commissioned in 1891, wouldn’t the date the Egg was presented to the Empress be Easter 1892?

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Two Staircases, Two Rooms, Two Nicholas’

There were two ‘private’ iron circular staircases in two different rooms used by the two Nicholas’ during their separate reigns.

Confused?
Nicholas I’s staircase was located in the far corner of his wife’s Small Winter Garden room #181 on the 2nd floor of the Winter Palace, leading to the 1st floor and basement.

The following watercolor by Ukhtomsky in 1860 shows the far corner in the upper left.

Constructed in 1840, they were dismantled in 1895 during the renovations by the architect A. Krasovsky. The room was turned into Nicholas II’s private study.

The adjacent room #180 was converted into the valets’ room in 1895 with a wardrobe mezzanine above. An iron staircase was installed in the opposite corner to the door leading to Alexandra’s bathroom (photos below of the room today).




To help you visualize the style and size of the iron circular staircase, Krasovsky’s 1895 drawing is similar to the restored stairs in Alexander II’s Farm Palace in Peterhof (photo below).


Saturday, 23 July 2016

Nicholas II’s Letter to His Uncle

Nicholas in his letter to his uncle Grand Duke Vladimir in November 1896 wrote “… To avoid quarrels and strain in the family, I constantly concede, and end up looking like an idiot, without will or character!  …”

The letter confirms Nicholas’ recognition of the perception of him from the beginning. Rumors spread beyond the family and inner circle.

Friday, 22 July 2016

HM Own Chancellery - Alexander S. Taneyev

Court Ministers and officials adamantly opposed Alexander III and Nicholas II having a secretary, who could directly or indirectly influence the Emperor.

Although a secretary was rejected, parts of the Emperor’s workload were managed by various Ministry departments. The Minister of the Court handled official letters to members of the Imperial Family. Foreign Affairs were in charge of the correspondence with foreign sovereigns.

Alexander Taneyev, the head of HM Own Chancellery and father of Anna Vyrubova, prepared rescripts for court ranks, etc.

Many are unaware that Nicholas II visited Anna Vyrubova’s childhood home in St. Petersburg. The Chancellery offices were located in the left wing of the Mikhailovsky Palace where the Taneyev family occupied a state apartment.

Nicholas wrote on Friday, December 7th, 1912 “… To my Chancellery for its 100 year jubilee. After a prayer I sat in a group with all the officials and went over to Taneyev’s apartment. Had tea with the family and then looked over all the rooms upstairs and downstairs ..”


Below is an aerial view of the Mikhailovsky Palace’s left wing and its inner courtyard. 


Thursday, 21 July 2016

Nichols & Plincke [Николсу и Плинке] – ‘The English Shop’

Nichols & Plincke, the English Shop, was one of the most expensive and popular shops St. Petersburg. It was located on the northeast corner of the Nevsky Prospekt and Bolshaya Morskaya on the 2nd floor.

A section (below) of Vasily Sadovnikov’s Panorama of the Nevsky Prospekt depicts the English Shop c1830 on the left.


The photo below is a view of the corner c1900. The Arch of the General Staff Building leading to Palace Square is visible.



The English Shop supplied for example the malachite fireplace in the Malachite Hall of the Winter Palace. Members of the Imperial family were frequent patrons, browsing the aisles and buying items.

In 1839 Nicholas I bought a ‘book for income and expenditure wardrobe amounts’ to be used in 1840. It is made of green morocco leather, embossed with gilt, and cost 20 rubles.

The Emperor received a 5% discount as a “lucrative, regular customer”.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Alexander III’s Window Etching in the Winter Palace

Empress Alexandra’s famous inscription with her diamond on the window in her Study #185 in the Winter Palace is widely known: ‘Nicky 1902 Looking at the Hussars 17 March’. Walk through her Study, lift the curtain and step into the past for a moment.

Etching their name and a date on a window was a family tradition. ‘Nixa & Dagmar 1865’ and ‘Sasha & Dagmar 1866’ were inscribed on a window in Fredensborg Palace in Denmark.

‘Nicky & Alix’ was etched in 1889 at the Cottage in Peterhof. In 1896, they left their names in the Neues Palais in Darmstadt.

The windows in Peterhof and Darmstadt are lost forever. Fredensborg is the Royal family’s private home and likely preserved.

Unknown, until repairs 15 years ago, was Alexander III’s window etching.

Alexander lived in the 2nd Spare suite in the southeastern corner of the Winter Palace from 1852 to 1866. He shared the rooms with his brother Nicholas until 1858, then with Vladimir.

Hau’s 1874 watercolor of the bedroom (photo below) is critical. Alexander had moved out to the Anichkov in 1866. Alterations and redecoration were likely completed. Hau depicts the room when occupied by Vladimir who left when he married in the summer of 1874.


Alexander had scratched on one of the two windows: ‘Sasha 1860’. Alexander Sergeevich Voeinoff posted on Facebook [facebook.com/groups/imperialrussia] a photograph of the pane.



For a century and a half, no one remembered and failed to notice. It is preserved in the Hermitage today.


Below is a photo of the bedroom today. Look up at the flowered tiled ceiling. The sons of Alexander II woke up to the very same view each morning.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Alexandra’s Boudoir – Photo Album & Glue

Grand Duchess Marie A. took her daughters on a visit to St. Petersburg in the fall of 1891. Princess Marie (Missy) wrote to her brother Alfred on October 4th that they went “… over the Winter Palace and Mama showed us all the rooms she lived in when she was a little girl …”

Prince Ernst and Princess Alexandra (Sandra) of Hohenlohe-Langenburg with her father the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha visited Russia from January 5th to February 21st, 1900. They stayed in the Winter Palace on the 3rd floor.

Nicholas II enjoyed his photo albums; one diary entry says it all. On October 29th, 1896 he wrote “… played around with my photographs, sorting them out in order to paste in my big album …”

The photo below of Sandra in Alexandra’s boudoir gives us a glimpse of the large tin of paste with the long brush that Nicholas used.


The brush is a 'mess' about to happen. It would have been a tense atmosphere for others when helping Nicholas paste.  I now think of our glue bottle with a slit in the red rubber top or our modern glue stick with relief!

The next photo with Sandra in the boudoir shows a door behind her. I will open it and show you the rooms beyond soon.


The smaller Royal houses have been ignored far too long. Their archives contain diaries, letters and photos of fascinating lives that should be published.

Schloss Langenburg today is a magnificent hotel [www.schloss-langenburg.de].



Do you want to come with me to the Schloss? Don’t worry if I disappear. I(we) will be sneaking off to the archives!

Monday, 18 July 2016

Winter Palace – Getty Images

The Getty image below of the northwest corner of the Winter Palace c1860, facing the Neva and Admiralty, will be confusing for many.


This is a reverse development of the plate/negative. Compare it to the correct view in the photo below c1880.


What is the process that creates this type of reversal? I have seen it in other photos: Nicholas’ study, the elephant tusks anteroom. I am following up to enquire if the Getty received a plate or print from the Bettmann.
 
Now look again at the photos: the iron balconies, small entrances, etc. What I will be sharing soon is exciting!

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Lady’s Maid – ‘Kamer-Jungfera’

A new division for the protection of “the Imperial Winter Palace and the suburban palaces”’ was formed on March 22nd, 1880.

Colonel M. Fyodorov, who led the division in the Winter Palace, hired freelance photographers to produce identity cards for all court employees and household. The palace guards’ priority was to examine servants and temporary workers, limiting their entrance to the main gate of the palace and the Black [Kitchen] courtyard.

There are rare references of servants in diaries and memoirs; they pass like ghosts. Queen Marie of Romania wrote in 1929 “… There are many names and descriptions of servants and quite simple persons, I do not wish these suppressed, my life would not be real nor complete were I only to speak of the great ones of the world …”
Archive holdings with yellowing letters, ledgers and lists, are a primary source of information on the servants. I discovered a number of the photo identity cards held in the Hermitage.

A card with the photo of the young Madelaine Zanotti, Alexandra’s maid, includes her title and name. Another is of a young maid without caption but shows her brooch. I am searching for photos of the various badges awarded to the different ranks of maids to help identify her.
Why are there few novels with the main character a palace servant, trusted with intimate secrets, surrounded by gossip? Nicholas II’s valet, Radtsig, anyone?

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Gothic Library – Alexander II’s Diaries

On returning to St. Petersburg from Paris in 1908, Grand Duke Alexei A asked Nicholas II’s permission to search for Alexander II’s 1880-81 diaries on behalf of Katia Yurevskaya, Alexander II's morganatic second wife. A dispute had arisen over her claim that three million rubles were promised to her by Alexander II.

Nicholas and his mother reluctantly agreed as the search included Gatchina palace.
The diaries were not found until the summer of 1909 in Nicholas’ Gothic Library in the Winter Palace (photo below).


Vasily Shcheglov, chief librarian of HM Own Library, read the diaries. In order to guarantee no references were found relating to Katia’s claims, Shcheglov sent them to A. A. Mosolov to review.
Nicholas’ irritation, and how in the loop he was, is apparent in his lengthy letter on August 12th, 1909 “… Why did Shcheglov send both my Grandfather’s diaries to Mosolov? Immediately return them to my library in the Winter Palace …”

Friday, 15 July 2016

The Odyssey of the Elephant Tusks

Among the gifts Nicholas II brought back from his 1890-91 Eastern trip were two elephant tusks. They were stored for two years in the Anichkov Palace.

In the winter of 1893-94, Nicholas’ collection was exhibited in the Hermitage for the Imperial Saving Service Society charity under the auspices of the Empress.

The elephant tusks were displayed in the Great Hall #214 in the Old Hermitage. The photo below is from the catalogue album.

Six weeks after moving into the Winter Palace, Nicholas wrote on Thursday, February 15th, 1896 “… After reading through reports this morning, I fiddled around with several pieces of mine, which I arranged in the Reception Room …”

The tusks were placed in front of the fireplace in the Reception Room #176 on the 2nd floor (photo below c1899).


On November 9th, 1917 fourteen days after the October Revolution, the Art Commission under V. Vereshchagin started photographing the rooms of the Winter Palace. The photo below shows the tusks through the small door to the anteroom #175.



The elephant tucks are exhibited in the Hermitage today.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Moscow Coronations

I like to figure out codes. Martin Scorsese wrote “… Leo Marks [Between Silk and Cyanide], a brilliant cryptographer … I was immediately swept into his secret world of codes and ‘undecipherables’, trying at times (without success) to unravel the puzzles myself …”

When reading about the new book by Janet Aston and Greg King on the Moscow Coronations [www.facebook.com/LifefortheTsar], I remembered how odd that three of the coronations ended in the number 6:

Nicholas I – 1826
Alexander II –1856
Alexander III – 1882
Nicholas II – 1896

Thirty years (1826-1856) and  forty years (1856-1896) separated the reigns. The odd number is 1882, the only Emperor who did not live in the Winter Palace.

I am mystified why officials, reviewing previous coronations in 1896, did not heed the mistakes in 1856. Negative reactions were widespread when crowds stampeded on Khodynsky Field and then Alexander II attended the ball given by the French Ambassador, Comte de Morny.


The 1856 incidents are forgotten today, 1896 dominant.

Fabergé and Nicholas II’s Meeting

Did Fabergé ever meet with Nicholas II? Speculation is widespread, proof never discovered. I am convinced the two men did meet.

Nicholas II delighted in old table settings. After ordering the Diamond room in the Winter Palace to be relocated from the 3rd floor to the 1st floor in 1895, a Museum of Porcelain and Silver was then placed on the 3rd floor over the Small Church
Nicholas II’s diaries reveal his fascination.

Monday, February 8th, 1899 “… Uncle Sergei and Ella for lunch. We walked upstairs with them to look at the museum of old table settings …”
Wednesday, March 27th, 1902 “… I looked over the famous collection of Russian porcelains and crystals in Nikolasha’s house …”

Friday, April 12th, 1902 “… I showed Nikolasha the porcelain museum upstairs …”

Previously in 1898 in Tsarskoe Selo, Nicholas wrote on Tuesday, June 2nd “…We looked over things in the Arsenal - old interesting table settings, various porcelains, faience and crystal objects, kept from time immemorial…” and on Thursday June 11th, 1898 “…Fredericks for lunch…”.

It was a semi-official visit to the Arsenal with court procedures in place including museum staff to attend their majesties.
In the following days, the senior curator of the Imperial Hermitage wrote to the Minister of the Court, V.B. Fredericks, on June 25th, 1898 “…the court jeweller Fabergé informed me that the Emperor has deigned to order a peacock table decoration and it pleased His Majesty to point to the Peacock located in the jewellery gallery of the Imperial Hermitage. Due to this, Fabergé turned to me with a request for approval for him and his mechanic to go to the Hermitage to study the internal structure of the said mechanism…” On the paper is the ministerial resolution ‘Allow’.  

The statement ‘Fabergé informed me that the Emperor has deigned to order’ is crucial. He would have been an attendee at the Arsenal and conversed with the Emperor.
Are you convinced?

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Daughter of Emperor Alexander II

Grand Duchess Marie A. (1853-1920) is a remote figure. She is rarely referred to in memoirs and, if quoted, leaves an impression of a demanding and angry woman.

Anna Tiutchev wrote on December 14th, 1854 “… Tonight I was with the little Grand Duchess [Marie] … [Nicholas I] came to feed her soup … said to me: ‘I come almost every night to feed soup to my cherub, it is the only good moment of the whole day’ …”
The death of Nicholas I in 1855, the ill health of the Empress and the estrangement of their parents, impacted Marie’s and her brothers’ childhood.

Diana Mandache, in her excellent editing of the letters in ‘Dearest Missy’, reveals an authentic portrait. I like the Grand Duchess.
A glimpse into her life is her January 30th, 1891 letter; “… When I was about your age, I used to loose my voice regularly once or twice a year to the intense horror of old Countess [Tolstoy], who tried then to shut me up for weeks until my Mama interfered and said it was nonsense. The old Countess got into a very bad humour, so I don’t know which was worse …”

My chapter on Grand Duchess Marie’s 5th Spare apartment in the Winter Palace includes Anna Tiutchev, Countess Alexandra Tolstoy, Marie Fredericks, etc., yet much more needs to be discovered.
Will Grand Duchess Marie’s diaries and letters ever be published? I dream researchers are editing at this moment!

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Mezzanine – Small Church Staircase

The door to the mezzanine is located on the first landing of the Small Church Staircase.

The length of the room stretches to the 1st floor’s Large Corridor. Did it extend across the corridor connecting with the mezzanines over the 4th Spare?
I am also researching on the storeroom(s) use. Was it a repository for the Rector of the Small Church or a pantry?

To give you an idea of the scale, the photo (below) shows fragments, after dismantling, of the mezzanines that spanned the Rastrelli Gallery.
 

Monday, 11 July 2016

Nicholas II’s 'Hidden' Staircase

How did I miss the connection?

In my previous post, I wrote about the six internal staircases in Nicholas and Alexandra’s half. One was an iron circular staircase, installed in 1895, that went from Nicholas’ 2nd floor room to the basement’s door to the private garden.
With over 50 binders of research material on the Winter Palace, hundreds of tabs, overlaps are inevitable. Unknowns are filed temporarily until confirmed.  Memory is critical when needing to reference several binders for writing my book.

I looked at my c1926 photo of the dismantling of the iron staircase on the 1st floor for the post.
Later going through another binder I was stunned, realizing a c1922 photo shows the same room, only the protruding walls were still intact.

What was puzzling, now seems simple!

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Staircase to the Telegraph Tower

There were 117 staircases listed in the 1888 plans of the Winter Palace.

A primary staircase is located between the Small Church, the Rotunda and the Gallery/Corridor. The official name, Small Church Staircase, connects all 3 floors and overlooks the Large Inner Courtyard.
 
E.Hau’s 1869 watercolor (above) shows the passage from the 1st floor to the landing.

A small door, embedded in the wall, accesses a mezzanine (below).



The two tier window variations are apparent on the right of the courtyard façade.
 
On the 2nd floor, one French door opens and is protected with an iron grill. Interior grills, visible through the upper panels of the door, are for the next interior landing.

A 3rd floor door leads to the attic staircase where offices for Ministry staff were located and iron stairs to the Telegraph Tower.
 
Nicholas II wrote in his diary on Saturday, March 1898 “… I crawled onto the roof from the old telegraph tower and delighted myself in the spectacular view …”

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Fabergé Cup

A part of the inventory of Nicholas & Alexandra’s bedroom c1910 included “Registry Own, His Imperial Majesty the Emperor Gold Goblets”. The list described 17 goblets.

No. 14 Crystal cup, cup holder in gold, the work of Fabergé. December 26, 1906.
Although I do not know its location today or if the date was inscribed, we now have its provenance.

 

Leak in the Ceiling

Words we shudder to hear today!

In July 1850, water stains were seen on the ceiling of Nicholas I’s small study #17 on the 1st floor.
The Winter Garden #181, above on the 2nd floor, had required the reconfiguration of the 1st floor ceiling creating a mezzanine. In the middle of #181, marble stairs led down to a small fountain. Water tanks and a boiler were installed under the stairs.

Officials determined  “ … the water comes from … the fountain … past the downspout …” During the repair, it was found “… the leakage occurred from the fact that in the fountain bowl putty around the copper drainpipe soaked …” [RSHA F.472]

Friday, 8 July 2016

‘Hidden’ Internal Staircase

There were six ‘hidden’ internal staircases in Nicholas & Alexandra’s suite, four near the inner courtyard, two off the Dark Corridor. The main Saltykov entrance and staircase are next to their rooms. Of the six, two were circular, made of iron and three are preserved today.

The main staircase of the six was named ‘Stairs and Entrance of Their Majesties’. It connects the three floors and the basement and includes access through small doors to the mezzanines.
An elevator was installed in 1840 from the basement to the 2nd floor. Designed by A. Fullon, it was made of mahogany with brass bars, doors and handrails and a mahogany chair, upholstered in red morocco. The elevator was replaced by architect N. Gornostaev in 1888.

This is the stairway Nicholas II wrote of in his diary on Wednesday, January 3rd, 1896 “… We had supper together and made use of the entire evening hanging photographs in the small pass-thru hall and up and down the stairway …” On Thursday, January 4th, 1896 he wrote “… Alix and I went to take a look at items from my sojourn collection [Eastern trip 1890-91]. We chose some pieces to set up in our rooms, as well as on the landing and along the stairway …"
Original elements have survived; the elevator’s strong metal ‘rails’ protruding from the walls and the stair rails. A.Bruillov’s painted ceilings from 1840 are in wonderful condition.

On one of the landings, there is a half-circle niche with a painted ceiling “in lovely blue colors” similar to the niche shown E. Hau’s c1850’s watercolor of Empress Marie’s Bath.
 

Paleis Soestdijk - Grand Duchess Anna Palovna

When looking at Mårten Hougström  [www.facebook.com/marten.hougstrom], photos of Paleis Soestdijk, the former palace of GD Anna Pavlovna, Queen of the Netherlands, reminded me of a question I had reading Grand Duchess Olga N’s memoir.




She wrote in 1835 “… With her [GD Anna P.] arrogant face and cold eyes, she did not like Papa. I think she was in a bad mood, but generally she feared him, while Aunt Maria Weimar, Papa’s sister too, was respected by all, despite her certain sluggishness …”
Her memoir was written from 1881 to 1883. I tend to believe the intervening years of controversial relationships between Wurttemberg and Holland impacted her later view of her aunt.

There are scarce sources in English on the life of GD Anna Pavlovna. A caricature is the general impression describing her insistence on royal prerogatives within her family and inner circle.
I am curious. Do archival fonds contain diaries and letters on her visits to the Winter Palace, viewing her former rooms? The opportunities for Dutch authors, researchers and translators are widespread today to reach English readers.

GD Olga N. also wrote about Prince Alexander Golitsyn, an old family friend, who supervised the children when Nicholas I and Alexandra F. were away.  “… [Prince Golitsyn] kept a diary about us, which was sent on a weekly basis to Papa. He [NI] answered with the next courier, writing [in pencil] on the edges of the sheets. I do not know whether these letters have survived; there were drawings and full of jokes …”
The diary survived!