The wall panels and bookcase in the grand duchesses classroom were made from the same oak tree. Photo credit: Old Yalta
The Livadia Palace Museum has acquired a unique new exhibit - the original bookcase from the classroom of the daughters of Tsar Nicholas II. [OTMA was an acronym used by the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia.]
After the Bolsheviks nationalized the Imperial residences, Livadia Palace was opened as the world's first sanatorium for peasants. Much of the furniture, paintings and objects of everyday life were distributed to other museums in Russia, while others were sold through thrift shops in Yalta. In 2000, I hosted a group tour to the Crimea in which Marina Zemlyanichenko was a featured guide and speaker. Ms Zemlyanichenko was the former curator of the Livadia Palace, and author of numerous books and articles about the Romanovs at Livadia and the Crimea. She told me that a number of pieces of furniture, including rare Persian rugs were moved to the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg where they remain in storage to this day.
During the postwar period it became a guest house for members of the Soviet government. In 1953 the building was handed over to the Council of Trade Unions, and used to treat cardiology patients. In 1974, the palace became the History and Art Exhibition Centre. It was not until 20 years later, in 1993, that the Ministry of Culture of the Autonomous Region of the Crimea decided to open the Livadia Palace Museum.
During the ensuing years great efforts were made to track down furniture, art and other items that were once housed in the former Imperial residence. Sadly, the fate of most of them is unknown, so each new find is considered a great success. Recently, however, the opportunity to purchase an authentic piece of furniture from the former Livadia Palace came about. In addition to belonging to the Imperial Palace, it is interesting to note that this particular piece of furniture in the "modern style", was not only fashionable at the turn of the century, but also characteristic of the decoration of the Livadia Palace itself.
The bookcase, like other pieces of furniture in the grand duchesses classroom was made by the Austrian furniture company Jacob & Josef Kohn. In the late 19th-early 20th century Jacob & Josef Kohn had firmly established themselves in Russia. They created about a thousand pieces of furniture for the Russian Imperial family, and aristocratic homes in Tsarist Russia. They were one of the first to adopt the style of Art Nouveau and thus involved in the development of new products and designers.
Due to the wide popularity of the modern style in Russia, the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna invited the Petersburg Company factory to participate in furnishing the interiors of Livadia Palace. In January 1910, the palace’s architect Nikolai Krasnov, granted a contract to the firm on a number of interior design living spaces, in particular, the grand duchesses bedrooms, their living room and classrooms. The classroom of the grand duchesses, created in the modern style, the furniture (including the bookcase) were all created from the same oak tree. Today, the bookcase has been beautifully restored and returned to its historic location in the former grand duchesses classroom at Livadia Palace. The grand duchesses rooms, which are located on the first floor of the palace are today part of a permanent exhibition dedicated to the Romanovs at Livadia.
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 26 August, 2013