A Russian Moment 11 - Aerial View of Peterhof Palace and Park Topic: A Russian Moment
Photo credit: Yandex.ru
This magnificent aerial view of Peterhof is a perfect example of the sheer size of the palace and park complex. The Grand Palace and its extensive wings spread out in both directions, complete with a gold-domed church flanking each wing.
The extensive parks on both sides of the Grand Palace are among the lovliest in Russia. The pathways are dotted with sculptures, the gardens afford a variety of blossoms and sculptured hedges. Numerous pavilions can be found in the north park leading down to the Gulf of Finland.
Gatting to Peterhof is easy, but getting there by sea is the only way to go. During the summer months, visitors arrive from St. Petersburg by hydrofoil (departing from the pier directly in front of the Winter Palace on the Neva River). I have made this journey several times and highly recommend it. You can sit back, relax, enjoy the view of maritime Petersburg, and arrive at Peterhof in style avoiding the traffic jams that seem to plague the city's highways these days.
Imperial Days at Peterhof Honour Alexander II Topic: Peterhof
The Farm Palace, located in the Alexandria Park at Peterhof will host a series of events this month to mark the 195th anniversary of the birth of Emperor Alexander II.
The life of the "Tsar-Liberator" is closely connected with that of Peterhof. It was here, during the warm summer months that he spent much of his childhood and youth. He later took up residence in the Farm Palace with his new wife, Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovina (nee Princess Marie of Hesse and by Rhine) and their children.
The Farm Palace opened to the public in 2010 after undergoing restoration. Today, it is the only major museum dedicated to the memory of Alexander II and retains many personal items associated with his life and times.
The rooms on the second floor of the Farm Palace will be open to visitors this summer
Events at the Farm Palace will take place from April 17-27 and include tours, lectures, and the opportunity to view the newly restored rooms on the second floor of the palace, which will open to the public this summer.
On a more personal note, I had the opportunity of visiting the Farm Palace last year. I was the only visitor and had the entire palace to myself. The restoration of the interiors is superb! Each room is filled with furniture, art work, portraits, photographs, and many other personal items once belonging to Alexander II and his family. The recreation of the historical interiors is so unique that one expects the Emperor to enter the room at any time. The gardens are an explosion of colour, and the surrounding park make it a must on any one's agenda when visiting St. Petersburg.
Faberge Gift of Love from Empress Alexandra to Nicholas II for Sale at Bonhams Topic: Faberge
Faberge cigarette case estimated to sell for £150,000 to £200,000. Photo: Bonhams.
The Russian Sale at Bonhams on Wednesday 5th June in London, features a stunning Imperial Romanov cigarette case of historic interest estimated to sell for £150,000 to £200,000.
This magnificent cigarette case of lavender guilloche enamel with heraldic eagle was purchased by the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, and presented to her husband Nicholas II on May 29, 1897, on the occasion of the birth of their second daughter Grand Duchess Tatiana.
Sophie Law, Director of Bonhams Russian Department comments: “There can be few items of recent Russian history that bear such a weight of sentiment – a gift of love between a doomed royal couple on the occasion of their daughter’s birth. It is made with superb craftsmanship by Faberge, but more importantly it commemorates three people whose lives were to end violently bringing to an end an historic era. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to own a Romanov item that passed from hand to hand from Czarina to Czar and would have been in daily use by Nicholas II.”
This important Imperial jewelled silver gilt and enamel cigarette case being sold by Bonhams was produced by Faberge, workmaster August Holmstrom, c. 1897.
From the Collection of Emperor Nicholas II, St. Petersburg it was moved to storage in the Kremlin Treasury in early 1917 for safe-keeping. Nationalized as part of Imperial treasures after October 1917 and probably de-accessioned (made available for sale) in late 1920s it was acquired by an American businessman in Moscow, at the Torgsin store on August 18, 1931 for 103 roubles. A copy of the original invoice is offered with the lot.
It is a happy coincidence that this sale coincides with the 400th anniversary of the Romanov royal dynasty’s ascent to power. The Romanovs ruled Russia for three centuries, until the Russian Revolution in 1917 when Nicholas II and all his immediate family were murdered in July 1918 in Yekaterinburg.
"The Tsar and the President" Film Presented at the Library of Congress Topic: Alexander II
A little-known friendship between Russia’s Tsar Alexander II and US President Abraham Lincoln in the mid-1800s came to light in a documentary shown in the United States for the first time Monday evening at the Library of Congress in Washington, and organizers of the event hope it can serve as a model for US-Russian relations today.
“This film ought to be in the schools. American children should know what a marvelous history we share with the Russians, and they don’t,” said former US Rep. James Symington, chairman of the nonprofit American-Russian Cultural Cooperation Foundation(A-RCCF), which arranged the screening of “The Tsar and the President: Alexander II and Abraham Lincoln, Liberator and Emancipator.”
As for the US administration, Symington said, “I don’t think they even understand Russia as well as they should because Russia is our friend, basically, through the ages, and that’s never been looked at.”
“It’s really hard to build a future when we don’t have historic perspective, and the truth is that Russia at the time of the US Civil War was the only friend of the United States. The US had absolutely no one who was on their side, so Russia was the only one,” said A-RCCF Executive Director Alexander Potemkin in an interview with RIA Novosti.
“In showing this film my hope and I think the hope of our board is that we can remember this and build on these positive things,” he added.
The 25-minute documentary, produced in Russian with English subtitles, explores a warm and cordial correspondence between Tsar Alexander II, the heir-apparent to the throne who enjoyed a privileged life from his earliest years, and Abraham Lincoln, the second child of a poor family who lived in a one-room log cabin, a self-educated lawyer who rose to power through political office.
During his reign, Alexander II wrote a series of letters to American presidents, but it was the exchange with Lincoln that reveals a personal friendship reflected in political actions that came at a crucial time for the United States.
“These were warm, friendly, familial letters between the two, not at all political, one announcing the birth of a grand duke in the family. It was all very warm, ending with ‘Wishing you great success,’ and ‘God’s love on your country,’” said Marilyn Pfeifer Swezey, a guest curator for A-RCCF who produced the US version of the 2009 exhibition entitled “The Tsar and the President,” a collection of more than 200 documents, photos and letters that form the basis for the film.
The exhibit opened in Russia in 2011, and the film debuted there. Organizers hope to show it in New Jersey and say they have also received interest from the Reagan Library in California.
Though the two men never met, and came from vastly different backgrounds, there are odd similarities. Both freed slaves in their respective countries, Alexander II with a manifesto that abolished serfdom, signed in 1861, and Lincoln with the Emancipation Proclamation, issued in 1862 and signed in 1863. And both were later assassinated.
With the United States in the throes of a debilitating civil war, “Russia was the only European country that supported the cause of the union (the North). Russia was asked, Alexander II was approached by England and France to join them in supporting the South, the confederacy, and he refused,” Swezey said.
Months later, in September of 1863, shortly after the North had lost several bloody battles, two Russian Navy squadrons arrived in America. They served as a symbol to the South and its allies that there was a barrier for any ships sent to support the confederacy.
“When the Russian fleet arrived in New York and several months later in San Francisco, Lincoln and all the officials in Washington were overwhelmed and said ‘Thank God for the Russians.’ They received the news as a powerful sign of support,” said Swezey.
“Russian-American relations right now are not very good and it’s really important to point out how close and friendly they were in the past. Maybe we should think differently about Russia, and we should think again about the fact that Russia really was a great friend in the past and I would think would be again a great friend,” she added.
Putin Revives Tsarist Regiments Topic: Imperial Russia
President Vladimir Putin has assigned the First Separate Rifle Regiment the honorary name Semenovsky, the Kremlin press service reports. “With the aim of reviving glorious military historical traditions I hereby order that the First Separate Rifle Regiment be given the honorary name Semenovsky and from now on be called the First Separate Semenovsky Rifle Regiment,” the head of state said in a decree.
Putin also recreated the Preobrazhensky Regiment last month. This name was given to the 154th Separate Commandant Regiment.
President Putin first mentioned the need to return the historical names in his address to the federal assembly in December 2012. “The morale of our Armed Forces is held up by traditions, by a living connection to history, by the examples of bravery and selflessness of our heroes. I feel that we should revive the names of the most renowned regiments, military units and major formations of past eras within the Russian army – both from Soviet times and earlier eras, such as Preobrazhensky and Semenovsky regiments,” Putin said.
The Preobrazhensky and Semenovsky regiments were created by Peter I in the late 17th century and went on to serve Russia valiantly in numerous military in the years that followed.
Faberge Reigns Supreme at Sotheby's Auction Topic: Faberge
Photo credit: Sotheby's
The April 16th Sotheby's (New York) auction of Russian works of art which included numerous pieces of Faberge brought in over $5.6 million.
The centerpiece of the Russian portion of the sale is a Rare and Important Fabergé Jewelled Gold, Nephrite, and Translucent Enamel Imperial Presentation Table Portrait by Workmaster Henrik Wigström with a miniature by Vasilii Zuev (St. Petersburg, 1909). In Imperial Russia, the diamond-studded portrait of the emperor was the most prestigious award that could be bestowed and this extraordinary piece is one of the few remaining in private hands. This piece sold above the high estimate at $413,000.
A portrait of Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna entitled The Nun by the Russian artist Mitrofanov
An exhibition dedicated to the 400th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty has opened at the Orel Regional Museum in the Russian city of Orel which is situated approximately 360 km (220 miles) southwest of Moscow.
According to museum director Andrew Minakova, the uniqueness of the exhibition is that is it presents items stored in the collections of various institutions for the first time - museums, archives and libraries. On display are portraits of the Romanov monarchs and their families, lithographs, paintings, medallions and rare photos and prints, albums and magazines, and a coronation album.
Of particular interest are the original autographs of Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich, who owned land in the region, and the Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich, known in the literature as the poet KR.
In addition, a portrait of Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna entitled The Nun, by the Russian artist Mitrofanov. The portrait comes from the collection of the Turgenev Museum and the current Romanov exhibit marks the first time that the portrait has been put on public display.
On Saturday, the Russian enamel auction house auctioned more than 200 historical relics linked with the Romanov dynasty. The items are paintings, art drawings, bronze, porcelain and glass artworks as well as pieces of furniture which surrounded the representative of the Russian czar family.
It is remarkable that the items are auctioned in line with chronological order tracing the history of the Romanov house.The first item, which is a lithograph with watercolor depicts the enthronement of czar Mikhail Fyodorovich, the founder of the Romanov dynasty. The lithograph was made by Antonina Vestfalen-Kulakova, a student of the famous Russian artist and philosopher Nicolai Rerich, in 1913. The portrait of Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna, the spouse of the last Russian Emperor Nicolas II, pained by Yakov Veber, is one of the last items of the auction.
Among the most expensive items are paintings by outstanding Russian artists Vasily Polenov, Vladimir Makovsky, Clavdy Lebedev, a unique table from the époque of Catherine II, items of imperial dinner sets.
But there are also less expensive engravings, drawings and photo albums. That means that the auction grants opportunity to collectors with different budgets to supplement their collections. The price range varies between $100 and $400,000. This is our strategy, Vladimir Labazov, head of the auction house says.
"Our company always focusing on collection items which are probably not the most expensive but which are unique. The Russian enamel auction targets first of all collectors not investors. All our buyers are Russian citizens because it is prohibited to move antique trade items out of the country".
The historical auctions organized by the Russian enamel auction house are new event on the Russian antique trade market. But already the first one which was held in February and was dedicated to the 1812 war against Napoleon gathered an unprecedented number of collectors. Russian collectors are no longer those dilatants they were in 1990s, Anastasia Degtyareva an art gallery curator, says.
"The average Russian collector has changed. Now these are people who often can communicate with professionals on equal terms. I think that the Russian market is becoming more complicated and differentiated. Instead of simply hunting for new items for their collections collectors are interested in developing their collections".
Russian collectors begin to grant items from the collections for big museum exhibitions. Perhaps the portrait of Empress Maria Fyodorovna, which was bought at the auction of 400 years of the Romanov House, will soon be among the exhibits of the big exhibition of paintings by Vladimir Makovsky.
Smolny Cathedral to Be Transferred to Russian Orthodox Church Topic: Russian Church
The St. Petersburg Smolny Cathedral, which is a part of the museum complex of the St. Isaacs Cathedral State Memorial Museum, will be returned to the Russian Orthodox Church.
"The law on transfer of church property should be fulfilled and we are not against transfer of the cathedral," said Nikolay Burov, director of the complex. "We are already negotiating with the St. Petersburg metropolitanate of the Russian Orthodox Church about the return of the church, in which regular church services have been already carried out since 2010.
"Besides, it is necessary to solve the problem of the placement of the chamber chorus of the Smolny Cathedral. The well-known collective regularly performs in the cathedral, and the city authorities should find a new permanent venue for it."
Beautiful Orthodox Churches of Russia No. 7 Topic: Beautiful Orthodox Churches
Situated just south of the Moscow Kremlin is the Holy Protection Cathedral at the Saints Martha and Mary Convent. Built between 1908 and 1912 by the Russian architect Aleksei Viktorovich Shchusev (1873-1949), is considered one of Russia's most remarkable examples of Art Nouveau style.
It is interesting to note that Shchusev also built the Lenin Mausoleum which houses the mummified remains of Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin.
The frescoes and icons of the church are the work of painter Mikhail Nesterov
The frescoes and icons of the church are the work of painter Mikhail Nesterov, a protogé of the railway tycoon Savva Mamontov. Nesterov's works are noted for their lyrical colours, beautiful design and the accessible saintliness of the personage he depicts on his icons and frescoes.
The sisterhood of Saints Martha and Mary was founded in 1905 by the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, the sister of the last Russian empress, Alexandra Feodorovna. When her husband Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich was killed by a terrorist bomb, the widowed Grand Duchess organized the semi-monastic order called the Sisters of Charity and devoted the rest of her life to aiding the sick and the wounded. On July 1918 she was murdered at Alapaevsk, along with other members of the Russian Imperial family.
In 1922 the Bolsheviks removed valuable gold and silver objects such as ikon oklads, rizas, gospel covers, crosses and other ecclesiastical and liturgical objects.
In 1926, the smaller Church of SS Martha & Mary was closed, though the remaining nuns were able to remove over 200 icons and the “royal doors” from the cathedral by moving them to the Holy Protection Cathedral. Shortly after this, the order was officially disbanded, and eighteen of the remaining nuns were exiled to Turkestan in Central Asia.
In 1928, both churches were finally closed, looted, pillaged, and desecrated. The frescos by Nesterov were covered and the church was turned into a movie theater. From 1945, the Church was used by the Grabar Institute as an icon and painting restoration studio.
In 1992 the celebration of divine services was resumed in the Church of Martha and Mary, and in 1994 the sisterhood was re-established.
In 1999 the Educational Center of the SS Martha and Mary Convent of Mercy was founded, with the blessings of Patriarch Alexy II of Moscow and All Russia (1929-2008), for the purpose of training Orthodox girls as certified nurses.
The Holy Protection Cathedral was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church in 2006. It has undergone restoration and now holds regular services.
The gates of the Martha and Mary Convent
The Martha and Mary Convent is situated at Ulitsa Bolshaya Ordynka, 34 and is open to worshippers and visitors. In 1990, a monument to the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna was erected in the courtyard and can be seen to this day.