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Tuesday, 31 March 2015
Alexander III: His Life and Reign by Margarita Nelipa
Topic: Books

Margarita Nelipa’s latest book on Emperor Alexander III is the first comprehensive biography to be published in English in more than a century on this monarch. Her extensive research explores the life and reign of this little known and unjustly neglected sovereign who ruled Russia for only 13 years, from 1881-1894.
Upon it's publication in the spring of 2014, Margarita Nelipa's book, Alexander III: His Life and Reign proved to be one of our most popular titles! The first edition sold out in 3 months, proof of her growing popularity as one of today's leading Romanov historians. A second edition of her book was published in March 2015, and is now available for purchase at the Royal Russia Bookshop.
The following review of Alexander III: His Life and Reign was published on on June 7, 2014: 
This is a substantial book about a substantial leader (in both senses!). Alexander III represented an interim figure of solidity if not repression, reigning between the reforming Alexander II and the ill-fated Nicholas II. His father and his son were murdered, whereas Alexander III died of natural causes.

The book is a comprehensive analysis of Alexander, both in his personal and political life. Fifteen chapters, a conclusion, glossary and eight appendices amount to almost 600 pages and a significant scholarly achievement. It will be of value both to those interested in Russian history and to academic historians. The only disappointment is that it would have been enhanced by the provision of an index.

The writing is clear and presents the information (collected from extensive Russian sources of the day) in an unbiased way, leaving the reader to draw their own conclusions rather than having unwarranted opinions foisted on them. For example, the book lays out Alexander’s repressive acts against the Jews and against his political opponents as well as his reforms of domestic policy, such as raising the level of education. That said, Nelipa is not without the ability to draw compassion from the reader; I suspect there will not be many a dry eye after the chapter that describes the death of his elder brother, Niksa.

The book represents a fine example of a political biography, balancing descriptions of his public acts with his private life, and indicating the connection between the two. So the death of his father at the hands of revolutionaries, and before that his father’s unconventional private life, is explained to have contributed to Alexander’s conservative if not repressive attitude to ruling both the country and his own family.

So by the time you get to the end of the book, with a touchingly written description of the death of the Emperor, you will feel that you have grown to know, and maybe respect, if not necessarily like, Alexander III of Russia.
For more information on this title, please click on the order button below:


© Royal Russia. 31 March, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:00 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 31 March 2015 8:16 AM EDT
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New Liechtenstein Museum Showcases Faberge Egg
Topic: Faberge

“Kelch Apple Blossom Egg” by Fabergé. 
Gold, diamonds, nephrite, enamel. 
St Petersburg, 1901. 
Craftsman: Michael Evlampievich Perchin. 
© Liechtenstein National Museum, photo Sven Beham
The Treasure Chamber Liechtenstein in Vaduz, the only museum of its kind in the Alps opened today in the capital city of Vaduz. The new museum will focus primarily on exhibits belonging to the Princes of Liechtenstein and other private collectors.

Thanks to the generosity of the Princely Family, visitors will have the chance to admire a number of items from the Princely Collections. With over 800 years of tradition, the Princely Family of Liechtenstein is not only one of the oldest ruling families in the world but also the owner of one of the world's oldest and continually expanding collections dating back more than 400 years. Its paintings by the Old Masters and array of arms are world-famous. The exhibition will display a selection of valuable materials, paintings, weapons, hunting knives and gifts presented by kings and emperors, such as Frederick the Great and Emperor Joseph II, to the Princes of Liechtenstein.

The museum will also showcase exhibits belonging to the Liechtenstein collector Adulf Peter Goop (1921-2011), who donated his significant collection to the Principality on 9 June 2010. Highlights include his famous collection of Easter eggs - the most diverse of its kind in the world - and in particular a selection of Russian Easter eggs from tsarist times unparalleled outside Russia. 

One of the highlights of the museum collection is the famous Kelch Apple Blossom Egg by Karl Fabergé. Also known as Jade Crest Egg, it was one of the largest eggs created by Fabergé. The egg was a gift from Alexander Kelch to his wife, Barbara Kelch-Basanova in 1901. 

Alexander Ferdinandovich Kelch was a Russian nobleman who lived in St Petersburg at the end of the 19th century. He is now known mainly as a patron of Fabergé, having commissioned seven eggs for his wife Barbara.

His wealth came from marrying his brother's widow Varvara Petrovna Bazanova, whose family had made a fortune in Siberian industry, particularly gold-mining. The Bazanov business empire collapsed after the Russo-Japanese War; the couple divorced in 1915, Varvara moving to Paris and Alexander remaining as a pauper in Russia; he was arrested and disappeared in Siberia in 1930.

The museum also features bejewelled golden Easter eggs created by other famous goldsmiths such as Pavel Akimovitch Ovtchinnikov and Alexander Edvard Tillander, gold and silver Easter eggs with intricate enamel decoration, and eye-catching porcelain and glass Easter eggs from the Imperial Manufactories. Among the latter are a number of "Tsar and Tsarina Eggs", which were commissioned each Easter by the ruling couple to present as gifts to important people. 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 31 March, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:29 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 31 March 2015 6:49 AM EDT
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Stewart Museum Hails Russian Project a Success
Topic: Alexander Mikhailovich, GD

Herbert Stewart's 1917 diary. Photo © Stewart Museum
Copyright Notice: The following article was originally published in the March 30, 2015 edition of The Pocklington Post. The author Peter Rogers, owns the copyright of the work presented below. 
The Stewart Museum at Pocklington’s Burnby Hall Gardens has had a fascinating time over the last twelve months thanks to the ongoing success of its project in relation to Major Stewart’s brother Herbert.

As readers may recall, February 2014 saw the publication of a museum booklet, Mr Stewart and the Romanovs, based upon research into the life of Major Percy Stewart’s brother Herbert and his period as an English tutor to a branch of the Russian Royal family between 1908 and 1917.

The booklet, written and published for use in Burnby Hall Gardens’ visitor centre, featured photographs of the children of the Grand Duke Alexander Michailovitch, brother-in-law to Tsar Nicholas II, and pictures of the Tsar and his children, all taken by Herbert over this period. These were used with the kind permission of the National Media Museum, in Bradford, where the albums are housed in Herbert’s original wooden Harrods box.

At the time of publication, staff at the Stewart Museum were unaware of the interest that the research would generate but, in just over 12 months, more than 500 copies of the booklet have been sold or donated to visitors, local groups, secondary schools and private individuals, including some established authors.

There have been copies sent to the USA, Canada and Europe, to the University of Bradford library, and the National Media Museum, where they are placed with Herbert’s photographs to assist in providing further context to their own collection. Copies were even sent to His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent and Her Majesty the Queen, both distant relatives of the children whom Herbert taught, and the museum received appreciative replies from their offices.

In addition to a small exhibition of copies of the photographs, there have also been presentations on the subject to groups throughout the East Riding, with these projected to run until at least early 2016. There has also been a great deal of media interest in his story, with features being recorded for local TV and radio.

Pages from Herbert Stewart's 1917 diary. Photo © Stewart Museum
Of course, the key factor in the success of this project was the chance discovery of the 22 photographic albums taken by Herbert. It established an until then unknown link between the National Media Museum and the Stewart Museum, with the former kindly allowing the Pocklington museum to use a selection of these fascinating and unique photographs, many of which had been unseen for several decades.

The research and the publicity generated led to a number of people being spoken to, each of whom had fascinating snippets of information to help build a picture of Herbert Stewart’s life. These included Penny Galitzine, a granddaughter of one of the boys whom Herbert tutored. She allowed the Stewart Museum to use a carefully preserved letter belonging to her grandfather which he had brought with him out of Russia when the family escaped the revolution in 1919 and which he had kept all his life. There was also Margaret Revell, Herbert’s niece, who provided anecdotes and personal items which have enhanced the story and, most recently, the grand-daughter of a sailor on one of the ships involved in transporting several of the family members to England on their escape from Russia in 1919. Her grandfather had kept a diary and she sent Peter Rogers, assistant estate manager at Burnby Hall Gardens and Museum, a transcript of the relevant entry he made in his diary at that time.

However, one of the most significant elements of the project to date has been the publication of Herbert’s story in the ‘Royal Russia’ magazine in Canada recently. This journal is read world-wide by people with an active interest in the period and has resulted in an illustrated account of Herbert’s life being published alongside other academic essays and short autobiographical pieces written by members of the Russian aristocracy in the years since the 1917 revolution.

A spokesperson for the Stewart Museum said: “To be invited to write for this prestigious magazine was a great honour and certainly a coup for the Stewart Museum here at Pocklington.”

The article included the first fully published transcript of his 1917 diary preserved at the Stewart Museum and has ensured that this unique document is now known to those with a serious interest in this period of Russian history and has helped put the Stewart Museum on the map in respect of this amazing story. 
© Peter Rogers / Pocklington Post. 31 March, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:40 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 31 March 2015 6:44 AM EDT
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Monday, 30 March 2015
Russia Rethinks Life and Reign of Tsar Ivan IV
Topic: Ruriks

Marble statue or Tsar Ivan IV by M.M. Antokolsky (1875). Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow
Copyright Notice: The following article was originally published in the March 30, 2015 edition of The New York Times. It has been abridged and edited for this news forum. The authors Neil MacFarquhar and Sophia Kishkovsky, own the copyright of the work presented below. Editing to the original text has been made by Paul Gilbert.

Tsar Ivan IV, more popularly known to history as Ivan the Terrible, should really be considered Ivan the Not So Bad, according to a wildly popular historical exhibition held recently near the Kremlin.

The exhibition accused the Western news media of miscasting Czar Ivan IV as “the Terrible.” A display of contemporaneous German etchings that showed the 16th-century czar’s troops committing atrocities was offered as proof that labeling him a murderous tyrant was simply defamation by foreigners.

He was also the first Russian leader hit by Western sanctions, the display asserted, with a supposed ban on metal sales to Russia prompting the initial domestic production of cannons.

Sound familiar? The show was one of several recent blockbuster exhibitions that historians and others say distort Russia’s past to create false parallels that justify current Kremlin policy.

“History is being used as an ideological tool,” said Nikita Sokolov, a historian and editor. The message of some of the biggest shows, he said, was that “Russia is a besieged fortress that needs a strong commander, and anyone trying to democratize Russia and shake the power of the commander is trying to undermine this country.”

Museum officials who created some of the shows denied that they were following Kremlin orders. Rather, they said, the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union unleashed a torrent of excessively negative historical research that needed rebalancing.

“Not once has any government representative told me how history should be written,” said Yuri Nikiforov, a World War II historian. “It’s just not true that Russian historians dance to the president’s tune.”

Nikiforov works as a volunteer curator for the Russian Military-Historical Society, which government critics blame for leading the charge of ideological exhibitions. Founded in 2012 by Vladimir Medinsky, the minister of culture, in cooperation with the Ministry of Defense, the society is a quasi-public organization with an unpublished budget.

Emphasizing the glory of Russia became a cherished goal of President Vladimir Putin when he started his third term in 2012. At the founding of the Military-Historical Society — modeled on the imperial version disbanded after the 1917 revolution — Putin pledged government support and exhorted the organization to defend the values of “patriotism and the sacred duty of defending our homeland, national dignity and loyalty to our roots.”

In contrast to Nikiforov, Medinsky eagerly acknowledged the Kremlin’s advice. “We very much need these kinds of orders from the Kremlin,” he said. “They are very correct.”

Medinsky’s father, Rostislav, an adviser on veterans’ affairs, summed up the historical society’s goals this month at an exhibition of paintings celebrating Russia’s annexation of Crimea last spring.

The Military-Historical Society “is solving one of the main ideological tasks of educating citizens in the spirit of the highest patriotism,” he said. “Because there where the land is not sown, grow weeds. There where there is no ideological motive, a vacuum forms and fascism raises its head.”

The society’s blockbuster show with Ivan the Terrible and others was held last fall at the Manege, a 19th-century exhibition hall just outside the Kremlin, and drew 250,000 people.

Called “My History. The Ruriks,” it celebrated the dynasty that ruled for about 700 years, starting around A.D. 900, over the areas that became the heartland of Russia. Critics say that Medinsky used the show to promote his own interpretation of a period of Russian history that is notoriously difficult to document.

The central themes were that Russia has long been under attack, that only in unity had it been able to expel invaders and that numerous legends had grown up about its past.

Criticism was rife about its treatment of many subjects, including Ivan the Terrible and sanctions. (Not to mention the thumping techno soundtrack.)

Ivan founded the original version of the secret police in 1564, said Sokolov, the historian, and his executions were cruel, not some Western fiction. The assertion that Western sanctions prompted the first local production of cannons was also misguided, he said, because that started before Ivan’s time.

The neighboring state then called Livonia — in what is now the Baltics — did block technically skilled people from Russia, Sokolov said, but there was no metal embargo because Russia had plenty.

“It was a purely political exhibition, not an historical one,” he said.

Medinsky, the culture minister, is ready to dispute history at length. Ivan the Terrible is actually a mistranslation of Ivan Grozny, he said, a “positive” term in Russian that would better be rendered as “Ivan the Strict.” As for the czar’s human-rights record on executions, he said, that of Queen Elizabeth I of England was far worse.
© Neil MacFarquhar and Sophia Kishkovsky / New York Times. 30 March, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:50 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 31 March 2015 6:10 AM EDT
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Sunday, 29 March 2015
Faberge's Flowers Bloom at London Exhibition
Topic: Faberge

Whether a sacred sanctuary, a place for scientific study, a haven for the solitary thinker or a space for pure enjoyment and delight, gardens are where man and nature meet. Painting Paradise: The Art of the Garden reveals the way in which gardens have been celebrated in art across four centuries.

Bringing together paintings, botanical studies, drawings, books, manuscripts and decorative arts, the exhibition explores the changing character of the garden from the 16th to the early 20th century. The work of Carl Fabergé is featured in this unique exhibition which opened in London earlier this week.
For the past century, his botanical creations for his aristocratic clients throughout Europe, including the crowned heads of Russia and England have been overshadowed by the exquisite Imperial Easter Eggs he created for the Russian Imperial family. Carved from coloured hardstones, Fabergé's flowers are set on gold stems, and embellished with jewels and enamels, these stunning pieces meticulously replicated real botanical specimens.

Nine of Fabergé's floral creations, from the Royal Collection Trust of HM Queen Elizabeth II are on display at The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace in London, England. 

(1) Philadelphus  c. 1900
Rock crystal, gold, nephrite, quartzite, olivines | 14.2 x 7.0 x 9.0 cm | RCIN 40252


A design for philadelphus, closely related to this example, exists in an unpublished album of designs from Henrik Wigström’s workshop. Philadelphus, or mock orange, was well known to inhabitants of Russia – particularly in the region of St Petersburg where during the early part of July its intoxicating scent filled gardens and wafted through open windows of dachas and estates. The popularity of the flower explains why several examples were made by Fabergé.

Marked Fabergé in Cyrillic characters

Text adapted from Fabergé in the Royal Collection 


Acquired by Queen Alexandra, date unknown

(2) Pansy c. 1900
Rock crystal, gold, enamel, nephrite, brilliant diamond | 10.2 x 3.3 cm | RCIN 40210


All three of the pansy flower groups in the Royal Collection combine the same purple and yellow colours of enamel. The similar treatment of the petals, with variations in tone and combination of matt and polished enamel, would seem to indicate that the enamelling was completed in the same workshop. Indeed, Bainbridge asserts that all the flowers were enamelled by Alexander and Nicholas Petrov and by Boitzov, the main enamellers working for Fabergé. A drawing for a similar pansy exists in an unpublished album of designs from Wigström’s workshops.

Text adapted from Fabergé in the Royal Collection


Probably acquired by Queen Alexandra; in the Royal Collection by 1953

(3) Pansy c. 1900
Rock crystal, gold, enamel, nephrite, brilliant diamond | 10.7 x 5.5 x 4.0 cm | RCIN 40505


The pansy was almost as popular as the philadelphus in Russia, flowering in spring and early summer and during the White Nights of high midsummer. This example shows the remarkable skill of the enameller in imitating the papery matt surface of the petals. It is one of three Fabergé pansies in the Royal Collection owned by Queen Alexandra.

Text adapted from Fabergé in the Royal Collection


Probably acquired by Queen Alexandra; in the Royal Collection by 1953

(4) Convolvulus  c. 1900
Bowenite, gold, nephrite, enamel, rose diamond | 11.1 x 6.5 x 2.5 cm | RCIN 8943


Convolulus, two flower heads of pale blue and two of pink enamel with one white bud, all with rose diamond centres; 13 leaves of nephrite on gold stalks climbing up an oyster enamel pole, all set in simulated soil and a bowenite trough.

King George V and Queen Mary added further examples to the remarkable collection of Fabergé flowers formed by Queen Alexandra. This study formerly belonged to Vita Sackville-West (the Hon. Mrs Nicolson, 1892–1962), the doyenne of twentieth-century English gardenwriters. The flowers are of enamelled gold centred with rose diamonds, while the leaves are of white nephrite. The plant sits in a bowenite trough, and when Queen Mary acquired it was mounted on a further base of white jade, since lost. The convolvulus was purchased from the London branch in 1908 for £35 by a member of the Sackville-West family. It was subsequently owned by Sir Bernard Eckstein, sold at Sotheby’s on 8 February 1949 and presented to Queen Mary for her birthday on 26 May 1949 by the royal family.

Text adapted from Fabergé in the Royal Collection 


Bought by Hon. Vita Sackville-West (the Hon. Mrs. Harold Nicolson) from Fabergé's London branch, 30 March 1908 (£35); Sir Bernard Eckstein; Sotheby's 1949, lot 119; presented by the royal family to Queen Mary on her birthday, 26 May 1949.

(5) Rosebuds c. 1900
Gold, enamel, nephrite, rock crystal | 12.3 x 7.7 x 4.5 cm | RCIN 40216


A spray of two rosebuds of opaque pink and translucent green enamel, with two sets of nephrite leaves on red gold stalks, set in a tapering vase of rock crystal. 


Acquired by Queen Alexandra, date unknown

(6) Wild roses c. 1900
Rock crystal, gold, enamel, nephrite and brilliant diamonds. | 14.8 x 7.8 x 6.4 cm | RCIN 8958


A spray of three wild roses of opaque pink enamel with brilliant diamond centres and red-gold stamens, two sets of three nephrite leaves on red gold stalks in a trumpet shape rock crystal vase. A similar realistically modelled study exists in the India Early Minshall Collection, Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio. A previously unpublished drawing from an album of designs executed by Henrik Wigström relates closely to this flower study.

Text adapted from Fabergé in the Royal Collection 


Probably acquired by Queen Alexandra; in the Royal Collection by 1953

(7) Wild rose c. 1900
Rock crystal, gold, nephrite, enamel, diamonds | 14.6 x 5.9 x 4.0 cm | RCIN 40223


A single wild rose of pink and white opaque enamel with red gold stamens and brilliant diamond centre, one set of three nephrite leaves on a green gold stalk, set into a rock crystal jar. 


Probably acquired by Queen Alexandra; in the Royal Collection by 1953

(8) Bleeding heart  c. 1900
Rock crystal, gold, nephrite, rhodonite, quartzite | 19.0 x 15.3 x 6.2 cm | RCIN 40502


A double spray of bleeding hearts, carved in rhodonite and quartzite, with three sets of three carved nephrite leaves on dull green gold stalks in a rock crystal vase

Queen Mary acquired this study of bleeding heart in 1934. The nephrite leaves are carved to show the characteristic shape and veins of the plant and the bell-shaped flowers are made of carved and polished rhodonite with quartzite stamens. To ensure that the flower is as true to nature as possible, the flowers are suspended from gold stems, articulated en tremblant so that they can move gently, as if blown by the wind.

Text adapted from Fabergé in the Royal Collection 


Acquired by Queen Mary, 1934

(9) Lily of the valley  c. 1900
Rock crystal, gold, nephrite, pearls, rose diamonds | 14.5 x 7.8 x 5.5 cm | RCIN 40217


The delicate lily of the valley was the favourite flower of Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna. The imperial family, like other members of the wealthy in Russian society, were able to afford flowers imported from the south of France, which were kept on ice to preserve their freshness during the long train journey to Russia. Fabergé was able to replicate the charm and beauty of flowers through the ingenious use of precious metal and stones. The stems of this flower are of gold, the leaves of Siberian nephrite and the bell-shaped flowers of pearl edged with tiny rose diamonds, all resting in a vase of rock crystal carved to replicate the refraction of a flower stem in water. This flower was purchased by Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna in December 1899 for 250 roubles and is presumed to have been a gift to Queen Alexandra.

Text adapted from Fabergé in the Royal Collection 


Queen Alexandra, by whom bequeathed to Princess Victoria; King George V

The exhibition Painting Paradise: The Art of the Garden runs from Friday, 20 March 2015 to Sunday, 11 October 2015 at The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace in London, England. 
© Royal Collection Trust and Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 29 March, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:36 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 29 March 2015 6:41 AM EDT
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Peterhof Marks 300th Anniversary of the Grand Palace
Topic: Peterhof

The Grand Palace at Peterhof celebrates it's 300th anniversary in 2015
This year marks the 300th anniversary of the Grand Palace at Peterhof. Last month, the Peterhof State Museum Preserve held a presentation of the program of events scheduled for 2015, dedicated to the historic anniversary of the Grand Peterhof Palace, former residence of the Russian sovereigns and their families.

The history of Upper chambers in Peterhof (future Grand Palace) is counted from the decree by Peter I, who commanded “To make tents in Peterhof, as well as to dig a canal from the sea…and to face with masonry”. The decree dated January 24 (February 4, new style) 1715, is stored in the Russian State Historical Archive.

The Grand Peterhof Palace – is the creation of the great Rastrelli, the monument of Russian military men and diplomatic triumphs, one of the most luxurious palaces of the Russian empire, without exaggeration, the most visited museum of modern Russia.

The Peterhof State Museum-Reserve has prepared a series of events, timed to the anniversary of the palace. The program of the anniversary year contains exhibitions, conferences, events, holidays. The website of the museum-reserve will inform about them during 2015.

During the presentation held on February 12th guests were informed of the following events and exhibits:

-The exhibition action in the Parade suite of the Grand Palace “History in Details”.

The exhibition action is devoted to the subject of historical collections of decoration of the Grand Peterhof Palace. Objects of decorative furniture, lamps, paintings - are presented as witnesses before which events of three century history were unfolded. Participants of the rally will be given the opportunity to consider some of them more closely. The campaign is designed for individual visitors, families and small groups and will last until the end of April.

- The exhibition of new acquisitions "Dowry of Russian princess. Items from the silver service of Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna" in the Dance Hall of the Grand Peterhof Palace.

The exhibition presents the latest acquisitions to the collection of the State Museum "Peterhof". Wedding of the daughter of Nicholas I and the Crown Prince of Württemberg was held in Peterhof in 1846. This holiday - with ballet outdoors, stunning illumination - has become one of the highlights of the Peterhof history of the XIX century. Silver service for 500 persons, made for dowry in the trendy "English shop N. Nichols and Plinke", was made in the style of "second rococo", is decorated with two-headed eagles and the monogram of the bride. Gradually service were scattered in private collections. Nineteen subjects were brought in Peterhof in 2005. In late 2014 the museum's collection has been enriched with a few more items. After the exhibition service will be placed on a permanent place in the exposition of the Grand Palace. 

-Multimedia information and entertainment system “The Grand Peterhof Palace” in the entrance area of the Grand Palace. 

Interactive multi-table to be established in the entrance area of the Grand Palace. Visitors in an exciting and visual forum can get acquainted with the history of the major milestones of the Grand Palace. 

Further exhibitions, conferences, events, and holidays scheduled for 2015 will be announced on the Peterhof State Museum-Reserve and the Royal Russia news blog during the course of the coming year ahead. 
© Peterhof State Museum Preserve. 29 March, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:13 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 29 March 2015 5:23 AM EDT
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Faberge from the Royal Collection Trust on Display at Holyroodhouse Exhibit
Topic: Faberge

A dazzling selection of gold from the Royal Collection has gone on display in Scotland for the first time in a new exhibition at The Queen's Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh.  It includes exquisite items of jewellery and personal accessories that give an insight into the tastes of generations of Queens and Consorts.

Gold explores and celebrates the qualities of the rare and precious metal through over 60 items from across the breadth of the Royal Collection, incorporating sacred and ceremonial items, including those of Fabergé.

Mikhail Evlampievich Perkhin (1860-1903)

Patch box 1894
Four-colour gold set with moss agate and rose cut diamonds | 4.6 x 4.1 x 2.5 cm | RCIN 9133
Photo: Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II


By including moss agate in mounted jewellery and boxes, Fabergé was continuing a long tradition. Originally mined in India, these agates were known as mocha stones after the town on the Red Sea from which they were imported to Europe. The term 'moss' agate came about because deposits of ferrous and manganese oxides infiltrated the stone, thereby forming tree- and moss-like patterns. In the eighteenth century moss agate was discovered in Germany and it became much sought after in Europe, both for collectors of natural history specimens and for incorporating into snuff boxes and jewellery. Fabergé's source of the material was Siberia. His craftsmen also produced enamel with patterns simulating moss agate. Mark of Michael Perchin; gold mark of 56 zolotniks (before 1896); Fabergé in Cyrillic characters.Text adapted from Fabergé in the Royal Collection and the catalogue entry from "Gold", London, 2014. 


Presented to Queen Mary when Duchess of York by Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna, Christmas 1894


Cigarette case 1903
Three-colour gold, rose diamonds, cabochon ruby | 1.4 x 9.4 x 6.8 cm | RCIN 4344
Photo: Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II


This sumptuous cigarette case was given to King Edward VII as a fortieth wedding anniversary present by his sister-in-law, the Dowager Tsarina Maria Feodorovna, on 10 March 1903. Its elegant rounded rectangular shape is composed of red, yellow and white gold, a typical technique of Fabergé’s work, in a sunburst design centring on the combined cipher of Edward and Alexandra and on the reverse the date, 10 March 1903 XL 1863–1903, all set in diamonds. 

Marked with a Moscow gold mark of 56 zolotniks (1896-1908); K. Fabergé in Cyrillic characters; the mark of Ivan Britzin, assay master.

Text adapted from Fabergé in the Royal Collection and a catalogue entry from "Gold", London, 2014. 


Given to Edward VII by the Dowager Tsarina Marie Feodorovna as a fortieth wedding anniversary gift, 1903

Mikhail Evlampievich Perkhin (1860-1903)

Frame with miniature of Tsarina Marie Feodorovna  c.1895
Four colour gold, violet guilloché sunburst enamel containing watercolour miniature | 9.0 x 7.8 x 7.3 cm | RCIN 40107
Photo: Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II


This portrait miniature of the Dowager Tsarina Marie Feodorovna was painted by Johannes Zehngraf and is based on a photograph by Alexander Alexandrovich Pasetti of 1894. Marie Feodorovna (1847-1928), born Princess Dagmar of Denmark, married the future Tsar Alexander III in 1866. In contrast to the Tsar, she enjoyed the excitement and extravagance of court life in St Petersburg. She had great admiration for Fabergé and his artistry and in 1882 she personally endorsed his work by purchasing a pair of gold cuff links in neo-Greek style from the Pan-Russian exhibition in Moscow. Following her husband’s death in 1894, her son Nicholas II continued the tradition of presenting her with a Fabergé Easter egg. In a letter dated 8 April 1914 to her sister Queen Alexandra, she describes how on receipt of the egg for that year she told Fabergé ‘vous êtes un génie incomparable’. Even during the first decade of the twentieth century, in a period of particularly difficult political relations between England and Russia, Marie Feodorovna visited England several times, notably in 1902 for the coronation of Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. Following the Revolution in 1917, the Dowager Tsarina escaped to the Crimea and was eventually rescued with her daughter, Grand Duchess Xenia, by a British cruiser sent at King George V’s insistence. After a brief stay with her sister and nephew at Sandringham, she returned to Denmark, moving finally to Hvidøre, the villa outside Copenhagen she shared with Queen Alexandra. Even at Hvidøre, where she was to spend the remainder of her life, she was not without objects by Fabergé, having earlier had seals made for use there; of these there is an example in the Royal Collection. Mark of Michael Perchin; gold mark of 56 zolotniks (before 1896); Fabergé in Cyrillic characters. Miniature signed Zehngraf.Text adapted from Fabergé in the Royal Collection and the catalogue entry from "Gold", London, 2014. 


Acquired by the Prince and Princess of Wales (later King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra), c.1895
The exhibition Gold runs from Friday, 27 March 2015 to Sunday, 26 July 2015 at the Queen's Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse. 
© Royal Collection Trust and Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 29 March, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 3:57 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 29 March 2015 6:40 AM EDT
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Saturday, 28 March 2015
The Alexander Palace: Pages from the History
Topic: Alexander Palace

Soft cover * English text * 34 pages * 61 photographs - mostly colour!
Price $25.00 + Postage - $6.00 Canada & USA - $11.00 All Other Countries 
Imported from Russia, this is the first English-language book on the Alexander Palace. Copies of this book are now available for purchase from the Royal Russia Bookshop.

This small, but richly illustrated book offers a history of the Alexander Palace and it’s August residents, from Emperor Alexander I to the last residents, Emperor Nicholas II and his family. 

The text explores the history of the palace and it’s residents, particularly that of Nicholas II and his family; the post revolutionary period, the Soviet years, post WW2 period, restorations to the present day.

The book contains 61 photographs and illustrations - mostly colour. These include images of the palace and it’s interiors (historic and contemporary), as well as the members of the Russian Imperial family who resided at the Alexander Palace from the beginning of the 18th to early 20th century.

The text is written by Larissa Bardovskaya, Chief Curator of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve since 1984. She is the author of numerous books on the Romanovs and their palaces at Tsarskoye Selo.
© Royal Russia. 28 March, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:13 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 29 March 2015 8:36 AM EDT
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A Russian Moment No. 61 - Iconostasis of the Ascension Convent, Moscow Kremlin
Topic: A Russian Moment

The grand six-tier iconostasis of the Ascension (Voznesensky) Convent has been preserved to the present day
in the Cathedral of Twelve Apostles in the former Patriarch’s Palace of the Moscow Kremlin
The Ascension (Voznesensky) Convent was founded at the beginning of the 15th century very near the Spassky (Saviour's) Gate of the Moscow Kremlin. Over the centuries, many of the wives and sisters of the Moscow grand princes found peace in the Ascension Convent, which was one of the most famous and respected convents in Russia. 

In Soviet times religious buildings in Russia were ruthlessly destroyed or reconfigured as warehouses, museums or archives. In 1929, this destiny also befell the Ascension Convent in the Kremlin to make way for a military training facility. Its demolition caused unprecedented opposition within society and well-known figures from around the world wrote letters to Stalin. However, despite the outcry, the monastery was demolished. Today its previous location in the Kremlin is recalled as an empty rectangle next to Spasskaya Tower.

However, few know that the historic iconostasis of the Ascension Convent has been preserved to the present day. Despite having little time to save the church’s cultural valuables, the employees of the Armoury Museum managed to save the grand six-tier iconostasis, created around 1679. It was moved to the Cathedral of Twelve Apostles in the former Patriarch’s Palace of the Moscow Kremlin, where it can be seen during a visit to the Kremlin.

In August 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed the reconstruction of the Ascension Convent and the nearby Chudov Monastery. As of January 2015, the decision remains unresolved, and during my recent visit to Moscow in March, I can confirm that work on the Kremlin Presidium or "Building 14" which was constructed on the site of the Chudov and Ascension monasteries had come to a grinding halt. The fate of the reconstruction of these historic buildings now rests with UNESCO and the Russian government. 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 28 March, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:57 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 28 March 2015 8:13 AM EDT
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Friday, 27 March 2015
Alexander, Napoleon & Josephine, a Story of Friendship, War and Art from the Hermitage
Topic: Exhibitions

In 2015, as the Battle of Waterloo is commemorated throughout Europe, the Hermitage Amsterdam will turn the clock back to the decisive years that preceded Waterloo, the days of Napoleon Bonaparte and two exceptional and very different contemporaries: Tsar Alexander I, his friend and enemy, and Joséphine, the love of his life.

More than two hundred magnificent paintings, sculptures, personal possessions, gowns and uniforms, objets d’art and impressive weapons will tell the story of two mighty rulers and a woman with great personality. The central themes are friendship, war and politics, as well as Joséphine’s great art collection, which included Dutch and Italian masters such as Potter, Van der Werff, Luini and Canova. The two men come even physically close, in Napoleon’s death mask and in a medallion with a lock of Alexander’s hair. A significant part of Joséphine’s collection eventually came into the possession of the Hermitage, and many of the highlights will be on display in the Netherlands for the first time.

A story in four scenes

Our story begins in 1807. Napoleon and Joséphine were seeing very little of each other, because of the many wars that Napoleon was waging across the European continent. Joséphine was on her own in their love nest, Château de Malmaison, just outside Paris. That year, Napoleon and the tsar concluded the Treaty of Tilsit, establishing a coalition for peace intended to change the political constellation in Europe and Asia. In the process, they formed a friendship that seemed genuine and enduring. After fifteen days, they said farewell, and in the years that followed they exchanged many diplomatic gifts.

The treaties were intended as an eternal seal on their peace and their friendship. But they proved impossible to enforce, and a new war broke out. The disastrous turning point was Napoleon’s Russian campaign of 1812. Few events in history have made such a strong impression as the French retreat from Moscow in that year. The most catastrophic episode for Napoleon's army, however, was probably the crossing of the ice-cold Berezina River. In just a few days’ time, tens of thousands of soldiers died in battle, froze to death, drowned or starved. Many of them came from the Netherlands, a fact that is still well-known today, thanks to an illustration by Jan Hoynck van Papendrecht used in Dutch schools for many years and included in the exhibition. The drama of the campaign surges to life in works such as four large battle paintings by Peter Hess. The Russian campaign put an end to many years of success for Napoleon and his Grande Armée. The French army was massacred: out of 600,000 soldiers, less than 100,000 survived.

The Tsar also suffered heavy losses, but he held a victory parade in Paris. Napoleon was utterly defeated and sent into exile. In Paris, the Tsar contacted the former empress, Joséphine, who received him at Malmaison. Just as the Tsar and Napoleon had once developed a warm friendship, the Tsar and Joséphine did the same. There are various, often contradictory stories about the motivations of the two. In any case, she gave Alexander one of the greatest gifts a tsar could ask for: the ancient Gonzaga Cameo, from the 3rd century BC. Alexander invited her to come and live in St Petersburg, but she never had the chance to take the invitation into consideration because of her early death. Shortly after a stroll with the Tsar, the former empress died of pneumonia. The rest is history.

The Tsar was not only the victor, along with his allies, but also the buyer of Josephine’s famous art collection. By the time of her death, it comprised more than four hundred works, by masters such as Potter, Metsu, Van der Werff, Rembrandt, Claude Lorrain, Luini, Schidone, David Teniers the Younger, Terborch and Canova. She had purchased many of these works herself, and many others were gifts from Napoleon, war trophies from conquered territories. Alexander bought a large number of paintings and sculptures in 1815 for the then-astronomical sum of 940,000 French francs. Joséphine’s daughter Hortense and son Eugène came under Alexander’s protection, and a generation later Joséphine’s grandson married a Romanov princess, creating a tie of blood between the two families. Partly for this reason, many of the works in her collection ultimately found their way to the Hermitage. Her descendants married into the royal families of Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway and Sweden.
The exhibition Alexander, Napoleon & Joséphine, a Story of Friendship, War and Art runs until 8th November 2015 at the Hermitage Amsterdam. 

© Hermitage Amsterdam. 27 March, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:21 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 27 March 2015 12:27 PM EDT
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