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Sunday, 19 April 2015
Royal Russia Annual No. 8 - COMING SUMMER 2015!
Topic: Books

I am pleased to announce that the production of the No. 8 - Summer 2015 issue of our official magazine, *Royal Russia Annual is now in full swing. This issue is scheduled to go the printers in June, and available for purchase in July.   

The following full-length articles will be featured in this issue. Please note that this is just a partial list, additional articles will be added prior to publication (this summary will be updated as new articles are added):

Cover Story: Emperor Paul I: Neither Demon Nor Saint
by Andrew M. Cooperman 
For most of the two hundred fourteen years since his assassination, Emperor Paul I has either been demonized or canonized by historians. In truth, Paul I was neither demon nor saint, but rather a remarkable man who lived and reigned during an important time in Russia's history. Caught as he was between the more polished and genteel courts of his mother, Catherine the Great, and his son, Alexander I, Paul's short reign of four years is too often viewed by some as harsh and tyrannical. Others, however, have insisted that Paul's serious attempts at internal reform and international peace entitle him to greater recognition. More recent scholarship has attempted to place Paul and his policies as emperor in a balanced perspective. That Paul was a different type of monarch in both style and in policy than his mother and son is certain. However, historians are now viewing those differences on their own merits, rather than measuring them against those of Catherine and Alexander. In that spirit, this article presents Paul wielding a sceptre rather than a pitch fork, and wearing a crown rather than a halo.
Physicians of the Imperial Court
by Margarita Nelipa
Medicine intervenes not only in the lives of the common folk during the period of their vulnerability, be it during childbirth and when dying, it similarly encroached into the intimate lives of Russia’s imperial families. With the benefit of diaries and archival records, the author examines several personal physicians who attended the imperial Court over a period of two hundred years and accordingly offers a unique portrayal about several monarchs and their heirs during their final moments of life, following chronic illness or foul play. While only a select few physicians received a formal request to serve the Court, when summoned these trusted individuals gained unfettered entry into the private bedroom chambers of the emperor, the empress and their children. Though Professors Sergei Fyodorov and Evgenii Botkin are familiar to many, those who attended the courts of Peter I, Nikolai I, Alexander II and III are also deserving of recognition. 

A Loyal and Affectionate Friend. Ferdinand Thormeyer and the Family of Alexander III
by Coryne Hall
Ferdinand Thormeyer served as the French tutor to the children of Emperor Alexander III and Empress Maria Feodorovna: Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich (future Emperor Nicholas II), the Grand Dukes George and Michael, and the Grand Duchesses Xenia and Olga. Later, he became almost a substitute father-figure to Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich. Olga and Michael, especially, poured out their hearts to him about various matters. After the Revolution, Thormeyer continued to correspond with Olga until her death in 1960. His extensive correspondence with the children of Alexander III, along with photographs and drawings were sold at a Geneva auction in 2010 for more than $400,000.

The Tsar's Bride. A Story of Mikhail Romanov and Maria Khlopova's Star-Crossed Love
by Irene Galaktinovna
When the first of the Romanovs, the young Tsar Mikhail Feodorovich, first came to power, he was obliged to take a wife. Although the tsar himself was deeply in love with the girl he'd chosen, his political advisors had other plans. As a result, the tsar and his bride spent six years apart, hoping to be reunited - which ultimately never happened. Mikhail only married years later, deeply disappointed.

A Friend for Better or Worse. The Romanovs and Their Dogs
by Irene Galaktinovna
Few people realize that it was the Romanov dynasty who introduced dog breeding into Russia. The Russian Royals' relationship with their four-legged companions evolved over time, from breeding and keeping palace pooches to finally viewing dogs as trusty partners and friends.

Princess Vera Konstantinovna Remembered
by M.N. Tretiakova and M. Ardov 
The authors have compiled an article on Princess Vera Konstantinovna, which includes an interview with the youngest child of Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich in 1994, in which she shares her memories of her parents, her siblings, among other members of the Russian Imperial family. 
Was the Tsar Right to Abdicate in 1917?
 by Vladimir Moss
Why did the Tsar agree to abdicate from the throne in that lonely railway carriage near Pskov in February, 1917? And was he right to do so? These questions are relevant not only to our understanding of the Tsar himself, but also of Russia and her destiny. For, as we know, the abdication of the Tsar led to the destruction of Russia, a catastrophe of the most terrible consequences both for Russia and the world, which are still being felt to this day. So could it all have been avoided if the Tsar had simply refused the pleas of his generals and the other plotters against him, and continued to rule?

Plus 2 collections of rare and vintage photographs:

Frozen in Time
- featuring photographic memories of the Russian Imperial family

The Lost World of Imperial Russia 
- featuring vintage photographs of Imperial Russia before the Revolution
* Our official magazine was intended to be published only once a year as an annual, but due to its popularity, Royal Russia Annual is now published twice a year, while still retaining its original name. An annual Winter edition and an annual Summer edition will now be issued.

Watch for our advertisements in upcoming issues of Majesty and Russian Life magazines. Royal Russia Annual can be purchased at the NEW Royal Russia Bookshop (Canada), (United States), Booksellers van Hoogstraten (Den Haag, Netherlands), and Librairie Galignani (Paris, France).
Please note that this summary is for information purposes only. No pre-orders for this issue of Royal Russia will be accepted at this time. Check this blog and the Royal Russia Bookshop for updates and information on product availability. 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 19 April, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:15 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 18 April 2015 2:51 PM EDT
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Beautiful Orthodox Churches of Russia No. 28 - Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral, Kazan
Topic: Beautiful Orthodox Churches

The Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral in Kazan
The Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral in Kazan is undoubtedly the most valuable architectural monument and the one of the great spiritual symbols of Kazan. Decorated in the so-called Naryshkin style, this beautiful 18th Century cathedral was built to commemorate Peter the Great's visit to the city in 1726. Visitors to Kazan were delighted with the cathedral, which was visited by all Russian emperors and empresses, from Catherine II to Alexander III, by states­men, public figures, writers, including Alexander Pushkin. The cathedral was described in the works of Alexander Humboldt and Alexander Dumas, and the world famous Russian opera singer, Feodor Chaliapin sang in the church choir. 

In 1931, a campaign was launched to close the cathedral. In 1938, the mass arrest of priests and clergy took place in Kazan, including Archpriest Vasily Petrovich Ivanovsky, who had served the Russian Orthodox Church since 1908. During the same year a decree was issued which resulted in the transfer of the cathedral to the Central Museum of Tartarstan. The first floor of the cathedral would be converted to the anti-religion museum, while the second floor would be converted to a lecture hall. The Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral was officially closed in 1939. In 1964 a planetarium was opened on the ground floor of the cathedral. In 1967 the upper church was used as a restoration workshop for the State Museum of Tartarstan.

In 1989 the cathedral was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church, the reconsecration taking place on July 25th of the same year. Since that time, the building has undergone a dramatic and extensive restoration. Nowadays it is one of the most popular places of worship in Kazan. Restoration of the cathedral’s historic interiors are still in progress on a large scale. The cathedral retained the ancient seven-tiered iconostasis with it’s magnificent ornamentation decorated accordingly to tradition of Russian baroque. This iconostasis was made between 1723-1726, and after the fire of 1815 it was restored by the artist Vasily Turin in 1824-1825. One of the most revered icons of local series is the icon of the most supreme Apostles SS. Peter and Paul.

Today, the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral features a vibrant and distinctive exterior decoration - the roofs are covered in bright blue and white tiling while the peachy walls are decorated with bright baroque floral patterns - a rare example of Russian baroque to have survived to this day. The lower chapel based in the tower was used in the winter (it is smaller and has no windows). The upper part of the church (reached by climbing the steep stone staircase) has tall ceilings and unusual for an Orthodox church - windows which let in a special ethereal light effect at certain times of day. The highlight of the cathedral is its huge iconostasis covered in precious metals and stones and the view over the town from the top of the church steps. 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 19 April, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:10 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 18 April 2015 2:02 PM EDT
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Saturday, 18 April 2015
A Russian Moment No. 64 - Smolny Convent and Cathedral, St. Petersburg
Topic: A Russian Moment

A stunning aerial view of the Smolny Convent and Cathedral reflect this gem of St. Petersburg Baroque
This is the third time the Smolny Cathedral has been featured in A Russian Moment. It is without question one of the most beautiful architectural ensembles reflecting the Baroque period of St. Petersburg.

Smolny Cathedral, one of the symbols of the city of the Tsars currently owned by the state, will be returned to the Russian Orthodox Church. This was announced April 14 by Nikolai Burov, director of the museum of the four cathedrals which also includes that of Smolny. "The decision has been made: the Smolny Cathedral will be restored to the diocese," Burov told the Interfax News Agency.

Concerts are regularly hosted in the cathedral. The cathedral choir was already offered another site and an agreement was easily found: the new concert hall should be ready in three years, according to Burov.

Designed by Italian Bartolomeo Rastrelli on the banks of the Neva River, the Smolny is one of the most important churches of St. Petersburg. Designed in 1746 in the reign of Empress Elizaveta Petrovna, the work for its construction was completed only in 1835 in the reign of Emperor Nicholas I, by the architect Vasily Stasov . In 1922, the cathedral was confiscated by the Bolsheviks, like many churches in Russia, it was turned into a warehouse, until its closure in 1931. Since 1990 it has been used as a concert hall and exhibition space, while in 2010 it was again opened to worship.

In 2010 a law was passed for the restitution of religious property nationalized by the state. Since then, many historic Russian Orthodox churches, cathedrals, monasteries and convents from the tsarist period have been returned to the ROC, and painstakingly restored to their original. 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 18 April, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:57 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 18 April 2015 8:13 AM EDT
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Friday, 17 April 2015
1.4 Billion Rubles Allocated for Restoration of Crimean Palaces
Topic: Crimea

The Prime Minister of the Crimea, Sergey Aksyonov announced this week that the region will receive 1.4 billion rubles from the Finance Ministry of the Russian Federation for the restoration of palace-museums, many of which are symbols of Russian and Romanov history.

Before the Revolution, the Crimea was a popular destination for representatives of the Russian Imperial family, as well as aristocratic families - Vorontsov, Yusupov, Golitsyn - many of whom built luxurious palaces, villas and park ensembles. Currently, these palaces and parks are museums and is under the patronage of the state. 

Crimean authorities expect to receive funds in 2015 from the federal budget for restoration of the palaces at Livadia, Vorontsov at Alupka and the Khan's Palace, Bakhchisaray. It is necessary to bring the palace-museums up to proper standards so that local and foreign visitors can enjoy their architectural beauty, their respective collections and learn from their history. 

Livadia Palace - the former residence of Emperor Nicholas II and his family. The palace was constructed between 1909-1911 near Yalta on the shores of the Black Sea. The grand white limestone palace consists of 116 rooms, and the adjoining Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, built in 1860 and preserved to this day. In 1945, the palace became the venue of the Yalta Conference.

Vorontsov Palace is situated in Alupka at the foot of Mount Ai-Petri. The palace was built between 1828 and 1848  in the English Renaissance revival style as a summer residence for Prince Mikhail Semyonovich Vorontsov at a cost of 9,000,000 silver rubles. It is one of the oldest and largest palaces in Crimea, and is one of the most popular tourist attractions on Crimea's southern coast.

Khan's Palace, Bakhchisaray - built in the 16th century by Ottoman, Persian and Italian architects, it became home to a succession of Crimean Khans. The walled enclosure contains a mosque, a harem, a cemetery, living quarters and gardens. 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 17 April, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:05 AM EDT
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Thursday, 16 April 2015
Equestrian Portrait of Emperor Nicholas II by Finnish Painter Albert Edelfelt
Topic: Nicholas II

Equestrian Portrait of Emperor Nicholas II. Artist: Albert Edelfelt
Albert Gustaf Aristides Edelfelt was born on 21 July 1854 in Porvoo, Finland. He was the son of Carl Albert Edelfelt, an architect, and Alexandra Edelfelt (née Brandt). His parents were Swedish-speaking Finns. He began his formal studies of art in 1869 at the Drawing School of the Finnish Art Society, and continued as a student of Adolf von Becker (1871-1873). He studied history painting at the Antwerp Academy of Art (1873-1874) before becoming a pupil of Jean-Léon Gérôme at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts in Paris (1874-1878). In Paris he shared a studio with the American, Julian Alden Weir, who introduced him to John Singer Sargent. Later he studied at Saint Petersburg (1881-1882). He married Baroness Ellan de la Chapelle in 1888, and they had one child.

In 1896 Edelfelt spent almost the whole of the spring in St. Petersburg, painting two portraits of Tsar Nicholas II. The above portrait of Nicholas II was painted by Edelfelt based on a series of sketches approved by the Emperor. Nicholas II invited the artist to Tsarskoye Selo and later to the Imperial stables in order to capture the horse for the portrait. The completed equestrian portrait of Emperor Nicholas II wearing the uniform of the Preobrazhensky  Regiment was later hung in the Finnish Senate at Helgingfors. Today, it can be seen in National Museum of Finland in Helsinki.

Edelfelt was one of the first Finnish artists to achieve international fame. He enjoyed considerable success in Paris and was one of the founders of the Realist art movement in Finland. He died on 18 August 1905. 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 16 April, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:42 PM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 19 April 2015 4:48 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 15 April 2015
Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna
Topic: Books

Large Soft cover * 168 pages * + 325 black & white photographs
* Price: $75.00 CAD + Shipping
This is the first English-language study of the life of Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna (1854-1920). It was published in 2014 to coincide with the 160th anniversary of her birth. She was born Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, she married Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich (1847-1909) in 1874. Known as "Miechen" or "Maria Pavlovna the Elder", she was the mother of Grand Dukes Kirill, Boris and Andrei Vladimirovich and Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna.
This new title includes the following 20 chapters:
  1. Blue-Blooded Princess
  2. Brilliant Marriage
  3. An Unusual Wedding in St. Petersburg
  4. Grand Duke Vladimir's Palace in St. Petersburg
  5. The Palace of Grand Duke's Family in Tsarskoye Selo
  6. Grand Duke Kyrill Vladimirovich
  7. Grand Duke Boris Vladimirovich
  8. Grand Duke Andrei Vladimirovich
  9. Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna
  10. The August Lady of the House
  11. Small Court, Second After the Emperor's
  12. In the Field of Charity
  13. The St. Prince Vladimir Brotherhood
  14. The Emperor's Daughter-in-Law, Sister-in-Law and Amiable Aunt
  15. In Russia and Abroad
  16. Passion for Perfection and Jewels
  17. The President of the Academy of Arts
  18. Royal Colonel-in-Chief
  19. During World War I
  20. Far from St. Petersburg 

Russian historians and Romanov experts Galina Korneva and Tatiana Cheboksarova, have participated in  conferences both in Russia and abroad; delivered lectures and written articles on a regular basis on the Romanov dynasty, including nearly 30 articles devoted to the life of Grand Duke Vladimir and Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna.

The authors utilized considerable numbers of archival documents that they collected during many years researching in various archives, both in Russia and abroad for their latest book, Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, which includes more than 300 photographs from archives and private collections—including many previously unseen photographs. The sister-authors’ detailed knowledge of the Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna further enriches this very unique book.
Galina Korneva and Tatiana Cheboksarova are the co-authors of Russia and Europe – Dynastic Ties (2012), and  Empress Maria Feodorovna’s Favorite Residences in Russia and Denmark (2006).


© Royal Russia. 15 April, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 15 April 2015 10:33 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 14 April 2015
Exhibition: Peterhof - the Sea Capital of Emperors
Topic: Exhibitions

Peterhof, located on the coast of the Gulf of Finland, from the time of Peter the Great was the epitome of naval glory and Russian naval victories. The emperors often made boat trips from Peterhof to watch the sea manoeuvres being held off the coast. For almost three centuries, the central sculpture of the Grand Cascade - fountain "Samson tearing open the lion's mouth" - represents the assertion Russia on the Baltic Sea. 

The Museum of the Ocean World in Kaliningrad, Russia is currently hosting the exhibition Peterhof - the Sea Capital of Emperors. More than 100 items from the Peterhof State Museum Preserve provide a chronicle of the country’s maritime history in four parts, including the naval victories of the Russian Empire, the role of the sea and the Russian Imperial Navy in various spheres of life of the Peterhof imperial residence - from the official ideology to the private life and upbringing of the August children. 

Visitors can explore items of the Petrine era, including a silver model of the boat of Peter I, Peter the Great naval uniform, models and sculptures, marine equipment (telescope, compass) from Mon Plaisir at Peterhof. Artwork includes the picturesque "Marina" painted at the end of the 17th century, thus embodying the first Russian art collection - a collection of Peter the Great. The era of Empress Catherine II is also represented, including her naval dress uniform, displayed against a background panorama of the Chesmensky Hall of the Grand Peterhof Palace. Also on display are a formal portrait of the Empress, the clock with a bust of Catherine II as Minerva, and marine accessories of her time.

In addition, the exhibition features a recreation of the Emperor's study of the late 19th century. Books, writing set, nautical instruments and paintings by Ivan Aivazovsky (the favourite artist of Emperor Nicholas I), help in recreating the working environment of the Imperial Cabinet.

Unique items related to the history of the Russian imperial yachts from the Imperial Yacht Museum at Peterhof are also exhibited. Peterhof served as an integral part of arrival for foreign heads of state and diplomat who arrived by sea during the second half of the 19th-early 20th centuries. Key items include models of the imperial yachts Polar Star and Alexandria, as well as select pieces of porcelain services made for the imperial yachts Derzhava and Alexandria. Emperor Nicholas II regularly sailed from Peterhof aboard his beloved yacht Standart.   

A naval dress worn by Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, a child’s sailor uniform worn by one of the grand dukes, marine themed toys, books and other items help to create a complete picture of the lifestyle in the northern seaside imperial residence at Peterhof.  

The exhibition is accompanied by multimedia programs designed to give visitors a broader view on the existence and importance of Peterhof as maritime and imperial residence. In particular, is the multimedia information and entertainment system Grand Peterhof Palace marking the 300-year history of the Grand Peterhof Palace.

The exhibition Peterhof - the Sea Capital of Emperors runs until 3 July, 2015 at the Museum of the Ocean World in Kaliningrad, Russia. 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 14 April, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:06 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 14 April 2015 7:11 PM EDT
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Exhibition: Gifts from East and West to the Imperial Court Over 300 Years
Topic: State Hermitage Museum

The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg is currently hosting the exhibition Gifts from East and West to the Imperial Court over 300 Years. The exhibit is currently on display East Wing of the General Staff Building, situated on Palace Square.

The exhibit represents more than 400 works of fine and decorative arts, weapons, books and numismatic valuables presented to the Russian rulers starting from Peter I and ending with Nicholas II. 

The gifts were presented during diplomatic visits and meetings; they commemorated military victories and conclusions of peace; they were given at coronations which were carried out especially solemnly. There was a custom of giving silver or porcelain sets for weddings. Sometimes the offerings were private, they were transferred during travelling. The imperial courts often exchanged gifts for family and calendar holidays, such as Christmas or Easter. Some things embodied additional semantic implication.

Donation snuff boxes can serve as an interesting example of the diplomacy language of the XVIII century; they were particularly valued, often not less than an Order. Those decorated with a monogram or a portrait of the emperor were especially valued. The popularity of snuff boxes at the Russian court is largely due to the commitment of Peter I to the European style of behaviour. 

Much attention was paid to recording and storage of gifts. This was part of the duties of the Cameral Department of the Ministry of the Imperial Court, that was in charge of the room of the imperial regalia and crown diamonds in the Winter Palace, of the storage room of precious things, stones and wardrobe of the highest noblemen, as well as of the storage room of stone products supplied by Ekaterinburg and Kolyvan factories.

Among the gifts to the Russian imperial court kept in the State Hermitage Museum, four tapestries of the “Seasons” series became the last; they were presented by Raymond Poincaré, the French President, to the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna during his visit to St. Petersburg on 20-23 July 1914. Female characters personifying seasons were inspired by graphic figures of Jules Cheret based on the sketches from which they were created.


Unfortunately, not all the gifts have lasted. Thus, a golden goblet decorated with diamonds that was presented to Nicholas I by the Serbian Prince Milos Obrenovic was withdrawn from the Hermitage collection in 1922 for sale. Then a golden snuffbox with 60 diamonds from 4 to 1.2 carats given by Mahmoud II to Nicholas I in honor of the conclusion of Adrianople peace and a golden star decorated with tafelstein (flat-face gemstone) and 8 diamonds also disappeared.

Artefacts that are most typical for the art of the giving countries, the artistic merits of which are not inferior to their historical value, are displayed at the exhibition. With their gifts the foreign countries showed, on the one hand, a deep respect for Russia, on the other hand – an interest in the development of relations with it. They all retain traces of historical events and are reified evidence of Russian history.

The Hermitage collection includes gifts of Western and Eastern nations relating to the period when the state capital was moved to St. Petersburg. Many of these works have been exhibited several times at various exhibitions in the museum and abroad. Presented for the first time together, they serve as valuable evidence of the development of relations between Russia, the West and the East from the XVIII to the early XX centuries.

The ancient custom of gifts in our time is also perceived as the norm of good neighbourly relations between the countries. These silent witnesses of “fragile diplomacy” quite clearly characterize the importance of this kind of communication.

The exhibition exhibition Gifts from East and West to the Imperial Court over 300 Years runs until 10th January, 2016 in the East Wing of the General Staff Building, St. Petersburg. 
© State Hermitage Museum. 14 April, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:03 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 14 April 2015 9:15 AM EDT
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Monday, 13 April 2015
Imperial Russian Splendour at Sotheby's
Topic: Faberge

Photo: A Fabergé Imperial Presentation jewelled gold cigarette case by workmaster August Holmström of St Petersburg (Lot 60), of rounded rectangular form, the exterior partially covered with a samorodok surface, the upper left corner with a gem-set imperial cypher of the Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna (1854-1920). c. 1895. 8.3cm long. Estimate: $20,000-30,000. Photo © Sotheby's
Copyright Notice: The following article was originally published in the April 13, 2015 edition of The Telegraph. The author Judith Miller, owns the copyright of the work presented below. 

Exquisite Fabergé artefacts are among the lots at Sotheby's sale of Russian treasures from the late Romanov period

When it comes to that heady combination of excellence and opulence in the decorative arts, there are a few places and periods that stand head-and-shoulders above others. A-list examples in the last millennium include Ming Dynasty China from the late 14th to the mid-17th century; the Italian city states of the Renaissance; France from the mid-17th to the late 18th century, under the reigns of Louis XIV (the Sun King), Louis XV, and Louis XIV; and – the focus here – pre-Revolutionary Russia around the turn of the 20th century, during the last decades of the Romanov dynasty and prior to the establishment of the Soviet Union.

Common to all were a powerful ruling elite of royal, aristocratic, and merchant classes for whom patronage of the decorative arts was not simply an aesthetic indulgence, but also an ostentatious display of wealth and status. With money either no, or virtually no object, it’s hardly surprising that the artefacts produced for uber-rich patrons by the master-craftsmen of their respective era were, simply, fabulous.

You will be pleased to know, therefore, that on Thursday 16th April there’s a great opportunity – provided your pockets are of suitable depth – to purchase some of the surviving artefacts from the late Romanov period. Specifically, Sotheby’s in New York are holding an "Important European Silver, Vertu, and Russian Works of Art" sale, and while it will include some wonderful non-Russian pieces – notably, a fine collection of European gold boxes, a lovely selection of English Georgian silver, and some stunning 20th-century Italian jewellery, objets vertu, and silverware by Buccellati, of Milan – it is the 134 Russian lots that really stand out for me.

Apart from furniture, most collecting fields are catered for. They include Christian icons; ceramics, notably from the Imperial Porcelain Manufactory, of St. Petersburg; bronze figures and carved hardstone figures; imperial medals and badges; and photographs of Russian Tsars Alexander III and Nicholas II. Better still, at least to me, are the gold, silver, and enameled pieces – decorative table wares, jewellery, and objets vertu, a small selection of which I have chosen for illustration here – that are, stylistically, uniquely Russian, and in that sense perfectly encapsulate the distinctive aesthetics of both the time and place.

Of course, their desirability also resides in the most exquisite craftsmanship, and when that carries the Fabergé brand – as it does with many of the lots – then desirability is elevated to an even higher level. Founded in St. Petersburg in 1842,  bestowed in 1885 with the coveted title "Goldsmith by special appointment to the Imperial Crown", and best-known for its gold, silver, enameled, and gemstone incrusted Imperial Easter Eggs, the House of Fabergé’s personification of master-craftsmanship resonates to this day, and will ensure not only huge interest in the sale, but also, probably, the exceeding of estimated prices.

Important European Silver, Vertu, and Russian Works of Art starts at 10 am on Thursday 16th April at Sotheby's New York. 
© Judith Miller / The Telegraph. 13 April, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:43 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 13 April 2015 7:54 AM EDT
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Sunday, 12 April 2015
A Russian Moment No. 63 - Nicholas II's 17th Costume from the 1903 Ball in the Winter Palace
Topic: A Russian Moment

During my recent visit to Moscow in March, I took the opportunity to revisit the Armoury Museum located within the walls of the Kremlin. It is without question one of Russia’s finest museums, filled with treasures that will certainly appeal to any one with an interest in the Romanov dynasty.

Among the treasures is the 17th-century costume worn by Emperor Nicholas II at the  famous luxurious ball held in the Winter Palace, St. Petersburg on February 11 and 13, 1903. All the visitors wore fancy dress of the 17th century, from the time of Tsar Alexis Mikhailovich (1629-1676), the second tsar from Romanov dynasty. 

Nicholas II’s costume is on display in Room 6 of the museum, which houses a rich collection of secular and ceremonial costume. The tsar’s 1903 costume can be seen in Showcase 45, which also includes the dresses and uniforms worn by the empresses and emperors during their respective coronations. Among them are the uniform worn by Emperor Nicholas II, the dress and mantle worn by Empress Alexandra Feodorovna during their coronation held in May 1896.

His 17th-century costume and shashka (hat) are made from the finest materials and design: “velvet, brocade, silk, satin, leather, sable, gilded thread braid, gold, precious stones, pearls, weaving, braiding, casting, chasing, engravings, carving and enamel.”

During my visit to St. Petersburg in June 2014, I attended the exhibition, At the Russian Imperial Court, held in the State Hermitage Museum. Among the hundreds of costumes dating from the 18th to early 20th centuries were 10 original costumes worn by members of the Russian Imperial family and the aristocracy from the 1903 Costume Ball. These include Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, Prince Dimitry Golitsyn, Princess Zinaida Yusupova, among others. On the reverse side of the display case hang 18 black and white portraits of others in attendance at the historic ball. To date it is one of the finest Romanov themed exhibitions which I have ever had the privilege to view. 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 12 April, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:29 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 12 April 2015 6:37 AM EDT
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