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Topic: Tsarskoye Selo
The photographic archive of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve now boasts 48 autochrome plates with early 20th-century views of the Catherine and Alexander palaces. The plates were recently auctioned in Paris and happily acquired by our Museum with assistance from Mr. Michael Pyles, an American member of the Tsarskoye Selo Friends Society.
The autochromes, 140 in total, were made in 1917 by the military photographer Andrei Zeest, who was invited by the art historian George Loukomski, Head of Tsarskoye Selo Inventory Commission. The views of the Catherine Palace were taken in June-July of 1917, including the palace chapel's altar piece the latest pre-war picture of which at our archive dated from the 1860s.
The Alexander Palace interiors were photographed in August-September, soon after the Tsar's family left for exhile. Now that a comprehensive restoration of the palace approaches, the detail-rich autochromes become one of the most important resources for the museum workers, restorers and historians. Particularly noteworthy are the views of the Playroom of Tsarevich Alexei, previously unavailable, and Alexandra Fiodorovna's greenery-decorated Maple Study or Drawing-Room and the Palisander Reception Room with a vase holding a hortensia put there by the Tsarina herself.
The larger number of the autochrome plates were gone together with Loukomski when he emigrated from Russia in 1918. About 40 autochromes with the palaces were handed over to Tsarskoye Selo by Andrei Zeest's widow in the 1960s.
The said auction in Paris offered many other objects, some of which our Museum acquired with support from Mr. Mikhail Karisalov, an art collector and a longtime Friend of Tsarskoye Selo:
•Empress Maria Fiodorovna's autographed photo of 1916 (above)
•Illuminated engraved view of the Neva River and the Peter and Paul Fortress from the 1750s
•Bronze figure of Nicholas I's favourite pet poodle, Hussar
•Children's books illustated by Ivan Bilibin
•Set of eleven envelopes of different sizes with Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna's monogram
•Late 19th-century lacquered box with a miniature painting of a scene from Russian peasant life
© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve. 30 December, 2012