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400th Anniversary
A Russian Moment
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Nicholas Nicholayevich, GD
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Olga Konstantinovna GD
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Paul Alexandrovich, GD
Paul Gilbert
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Wednesday, 30 October 2013
Faberge Figure Sells for Record $5.2 Million
Topic: Faberge


Photo Credit: Stair Galleries

An attic treasure soared to a record price in 15 minutes during intense bidding in a packed sales room in Hudson, New York, on October 26th. The rare Fabergé Imperial figure ultimately sold to a phone bidder for $5.2 million (hammer price; $5,980,000 with fees) against a pre-sale auction estimate of $500,000 to $800,000.  The last of such hardstone figures sold for $1.8 million in 2005, at Sotheby’s, New York.

Nicholas II commissioned Fabergé to produce the portrait figure of N.N.Pustynnikov, the personal Cossack bodyguard (Kamer-Kazak, or Chamber-Cossack) to the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, and also a second figure, of the Kamer-Kazak to the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, in 1912.

Discovered in an attic by the executor of a Rhinebeck, NY, estate, the figure was purchased at Hammer Galleries, in Manhattan, by Mr. George Davis in December 1934, and had been in the same family ever since. The figure was known to collectors, but the whereabouts was unknown until 2 months ago.

The total number of Fabergé hardstone carvings of human figures produced by Fabergé is probably no more than fifty. They are therefore extremely rare, on a level of rarity with the Imperial Easter Eggs, and the portrait figures, depictions of known historical persons rather than simply "types," are rarer still. Very few portrait figures were produced by Fabergé.

The piece was purchased by Wartski, the famed London based jeweler, who are the jewelers to the Queen of England. They specialize in Russian pieces, most notably Fabergé. It’s not clear if they were purchasing it for stock or a private clientAccording to the London firm, “the purchase of the figure is a continuation of our long running tradition of acquiring Imperial Russian Works of Art. Wartski were Armand Hammer's prime rivals in the 1920's and 1930's in buying the confiscated Imperial treasures from the Soviet government. We have over the years owned twenty of these rare hardstone figures, as well as a dozen of the legendary Imperial Fabergé Easter Eggs.”

© ARTFix Daily. 30 October, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:27 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 30 October 2013 8:41 AM EDT
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Monument to Murdered Grand Dukes at Peter and Paul Cathedral
Topic: Peter and Paul Fortress

A memorial plaque in memory of the four Romanov grand dukes murdered by the Bolsheviks in 1919 can be found in the Grand-Ducal Mausoleum of the Peter and Paul Fortress at St. Petersburg. It was erected and sanctified on January 30, 2004, in the presence of Dmitry Romanovich Romanov, great-great-grandson of Emperor Nicholas I.

Gold letters on a white Carrara marble inscribed the words:
"Eternal memory, the most worthy representatives of the Russian Imperial House, innocent victims in January 1919 in the Peter and Paul Fortress. The names of the martyrs - Orthodox Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich, Orthodox Grand Duke Dmitry Konstantinovich, Orthodox Grand Duke Nikolai Mikhailovich, Orthodox Grand Duke Georgy Mikhailovich. "

A Decree of the Presidium of the Cheka, ordered the grand dukes to be sentenced to death. The sentence was carried out on January 24, 1919 in a yard of the Peter and Paul Fortress. Their bodies were thrown into an unmarked mass grave. In December 2009, a grave was discovered containing the remains of 17 people, plus bullets, shells, gold jewellery, shoes and fragments of clothing. In September 2013, I reported that the State Museum of St. Petersburg ordered further excavations of the fortress, with hopes to to receive further funding to assist with the identification of the remains, including costly DNA analysis.  
I have been following this discovery since 2009, and have posted numerous articles on the subject in both Royal Russia News and my blog. To review them, please refer to the following links: 
 © Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 30 October, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:05 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 30 October 2013 6:53 AM EDT
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Royal Russia Tours - UPDATE!
Topic: Royal Russia


© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 30 October, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:54 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 30 October 2013 5:58 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 29 October 2013
The Family of Alexander III at Gatchina Exhibition to Open Temporarily at Gatchina
Topic: Alexander III

The Gatchina State Museum have announced that they will open the exhibition The Family of Alexander III at Gatchina for a short period in November. Originally opened in 2007, the exhibition has been closed for months due to the restoration work on the marble staircase leading to the former private apartments of Emperor Alexander III and his family.

From 1 to November 17, during the Children's Days in St. Petersburg Festival, visitors will have the unique opportunity to visit the private rooms of the Imperial family.
The following photographs show some views of the former private apartments of Alexander III and his family at Gatchina: 








For more information and photos on this exhibition, please refer to the following article on our blog; 

Private Apartments of Alexander III at Gatchina

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 29 October, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:26 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 29 October 2013 8:54 AM EDT
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Monday, 28 October 2013
Mikhailovsky Theater Marks 180th Anniversary
Topic: St. Petersburg

Gala night in honour of the German Emperor Wilhelm I at the Mikhailovsky Theater, attended by Emperor Alexander II and Empress Maria Alexandrovna. Watercolour by Mihaly Zichy (1873)
On October 27 in St. Petersburg the Mikhailovsky Theater marked its 180th anniversary with a spectacular gala-concert. In his congratulatory message to the theater, Russian President Vladimir Putin noted that the jubilee is a “major event in the cultural life of St. Petersburg and the entire country.” He also noted that the theater today is “magnet for both recognized masters and beginning artistes,” ITAR-TASS reports.

The concert recreated over the course of a single evening the most remarkable moments of the theatre’s unique history, outlining the twisting path of its extraordinary fate. Vasily Barkhatov, who was one of the initiators and director of the gala concert, said, “The incredibly rich history of the theatre, while so dear to us, is not that well known to our wider audience. Even the avid theatre-goers among them may not recall the whole story. As a theatre building, the Mikhailovsky appeared before many of its distinguished counterparts; as a musical theatre with its own company of performers it began to take shape much later, although this did not prevent it from being involved in some of the most spectacular premières and events on the creative scene. With the help of our company of performers and our close friends, we have decided to present the theatre’s story in the form of a concert; to tell it in a natural and appealing way, making a living textbook out of the engaging history of the theatre.”

Founded in 1833 by decree of Tsar Nicholas I, the Mikhaylovsky Theater is one of Russia's oldest opera and ballet houses. It is situated in a historical building on the Arts Square in St. Petersburg. It is named after Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich of Russia. 
© Russkiy Mir. 28 October, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 10:51 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 28 October 2013 11:02 AM EDT
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Sunday, 27 October 2013
Beautiful Orthodox Churches of Russia No. 21
Topic: Beautiful Orthodox Churches

The Smolny Cathedral’s stunning blue-and-white building is undoubtedly one of the architectural masterpieces of the Italian architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli, who also created the Winter Palace, the Grand Catherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo, the Grand Palace in Peterhof and many other major St. Petersburg landmarks. 

The cathedral was built between 1748 and 1762 and served as the centerpiece of a convent, built to house the daughter of Peter the Great, Elizabeth, after she was disallowed to take the throne and opted instead to become a nun. However, as soon as her Imperial predecessor was overthrown during a coup, carried out by the royal guards, Elizabeth abandoned the idea of a stern monastic life and happily accepted the offer of the Russian throne. 

When Catherine II assumed the throne, it was found that the new Empress strongly disapproved of the baroque style, and funding that had supported the construction of the convent rapidly ran out. Rastrelli was unable to build the huge bell-tower he had planned and unable to finish the interior of the cathedral. 

On the orders of Emperor Nicholas I in 1832, work began on the final completion of the cathedral. The building was only finished in 1835 by Vasily Stasov with the addition of a neo-classical interior to suit the changed architectural tastes of the time. The Cathedral was consecrated by Metropolitan Seraphim of Novgorod and St Petersburg on 20 July 1835; its main altar was dedicated to the Resurrection and the two side altars were dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene and Righteous Elizabeth. 

In contrast to the light and vibrant exterior, the Smolny Cathedral’s interior strikes one with its unexpected austerity and cold solemnity. It has none of the lavish gilt carvings, so characteristic of baroque, neither does it have bright and vivid paintings, or abundance of fanciful ornaments. The reason for this lies in the cathedral’s construction that lasted nearly 100 years.

The cathedral's lavish Baroque exteriors give way to simple Neoclassicism interiors
In designing the interior, Stasov faced a number of challenges. It was 80 years since the construction of the cathedral began. The lavish baroque style gave way to neoclassicism. Rastrelli’s design at that time was regarded “old fashioned”, overloaded with decorative details and, on top of all that, costly. Stasov’s adherence to simple forms led him to introduce quite a few alterations in the design in his pursuit for simplicity and austerity. The white colour of the walls and restrained stucco emphasize the perfect proportions of Rastrelli’s architecture. The tall arches seem to carry the sturdy pillars with them, while hoisting the dome drum upward. All along the walls in the hall and in the dome drum are tall windows that make the huge cathedral appear incredibly lightweight and imbued with light.

Unfortunately, the cathedral’s interior has not survived – gone are its carved, white and gilded iconostases, its magnificent balustrades of crystal balusters, glowing in sunshine of a light filled hall, a carved pulpit, and bronze chandeliers. Only images of the Cathedral’s interior dating from the second half of the 19th century came down to us. 

The church was looted by the Soviet authorities in 1922, and in 1923, it was closed down for worship by the Petrograd Council. The iconostasis of the cathedral was dismantled much later in 1972. 

In the 1970-80s, the Smolny Cathedral became a branch of the State Museum of History of Leningrad. It housed a display celebrating Leningrad’s past and present industrial achievements. In January 1990, a concert and exhibition hall was established in the Smolny Cathedral, affiliated with the Museum of the History of Leningrad. In 2004, the Smolny Cathedral became part of the State Museum St Isaac’s Cathedral. 
On April 7th, 2010, for the first time in 90 years, a divine liturgy was celebrated in the Smolny Cathedral. 

Divine liturgies are held in the Smolny Cathedral throughout the year
Today the Smolny Cathedral is still used primarily as a concert hall, with performances by the Smolny Cathedral Chamber Choir. The surrounding convent houses various offices and government institutions. On October 2nd, 2013 the St. Petersburg city authorities voted to return full ownership to the Russian Orthodox Church. 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 27 October, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:05 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 27 October 2013 2:41 AM EDT
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Saturday, 26 October 2013
A Russian Moment 17 - The Ipatiev Monastery, Kostroma
Topic: A Russian Moment

A stunning winter view of the Ipatiev Monastery. Photo © Yuriy Chulkov
The Ipatiev Monastery is a male monastery located at the confluence of the Volga and Kostroma Rivers. The city of Kostroma lies 340 km north-east of Moscow and forms part of  the popular Golden Ring of Russia tourist route.

The town was founded around 1330 by a Tatar convert, Prince Chet, whose male-line descendants include Boris Godunov. During the Time of Troubles in Russia, the Ipatiev Monastery was occupied by the supporters of False Dmitriy II in the spring of 1609. In September of that same year, the monastery was captured by the Muscovite army after a long siege. On March 14, 1613, the Zemsky Sobor announced that Mikhail Romanov, who had been in this monastery at that time, would be the Russian tsar. Since then, the monastery is considered the cradle of the Romanov house. Each successive sovereign, after coronation, made it their duty to visit the Ipatiev Monastery with elaborate and expensive gifts.

Most of the monastery buildings date from the 16th and 17th centuries. The Trinity Cathedral is famous for its elaborately painted interior. A smaller church was demolished by the Soviet authorities. There are plans to reconstruct it and consecrate it to the New Martyrs of the Romanov family. The main entrance from the riverside was designed by the celebrated Russian architect Konstantin Thon (a favourite of Emperor Nicholas I). A private house of Mikhail Romanov was restored on the orders of Alexander II of Russia, but even Konstantin Pobedonostsev questioned the authenticity of this reconstruction.

Nicholas II, the last Russian tsar, was fond of Kostroma and its Ipatiev Monastery. In fact, Kostroma’s link with the Romanov dynasty is so strong that in 1913, the 300th anniversary of Romanov rule was celebrated in this city. Nicholas II and his family were some of the first visitors to a special museum that opened in honour of this rare event.

The Ipatiev Monastery was disbanded after the October Revolution in 1917. It has been a part of the historical and architectural preservation, but authorities decided to return it to the Russian Orthodox Church several years ago, despite strong opposition from museum officials.
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 26 October, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:37 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 26 October 2013 7:04 AM EDT
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Friday, 25 October 2013
Lenin Statue Beheaded in Orenburg
Topic: Bolsheviks

The beheaded staute of Lenin in Ponomaryovka is the latest in a series of attacks on monuments to the Bolshevik leader, and another sign of the growing discontent that many Russians have towards his brutal and violent legacy. Photo Credit: VKontakte
In just the latest of numerous indignities carried out against his image in the past two decades, a statue of Vladimir Lenin was discovered to be lacking a crucial piece of the historical figure's anatomy in the southern district of Orenburg this week.

"Emergency in Ponomaryovka! Unknown people have sawed off the head of the monument to V.I. Lenin!!!!!" a user posted Wednesday on social networking site VKontakte, attaching a picture of the decapitated statue as proof, reported. 
Unfortunately for the former proletarian leader, this is not the first time that his statue has been defaced.

The monument was beheaded once before in the 1990s, said regional Communist Party head Vladimir Novikov, who noted that monuments in several nearby towns have suffered similar fates.

The statues are generally made of plaster and impossible to repair, so local residents inspired to restore the revolutionary to his former glory must raise enough funds to erect a new one, Novikov said.

The ubiquitous Lenin monuments have faced hard times since the fall of the Soviet Union, with most post-Soviet countries having dismantled or destroyed them as soon as they achieved independence.

Within Russia the statues have come to hold a rather more ambiguous position. While they serve as a rallying point for the country's Communist Party and are looked on fondly by some residents, they are also frequently subject to petty acts of vandalism.

Alexander Kurdyumov, a State Duma deputy from the Liberal Democratic Party, proposed last year to have all monuments to Lenin removed from the centers of Russian cities. The idea received support from some United Russia members but was vociferously opposed by the Communist Party, Izvestia reported.
© The Moscow Times. 25 October, 2013 

Editor's Note: There are many people (myself included) who still believe that Lenin gave the order to murder Tsar Nicholas II and his family in 1918. During my recent visit to Moscow, a colleague of mine told me that a recent Russian made documentary claim to have found documents in the archives which prove that Lenin did in fact order the liquidation of the last Imperial family. I have yet to confirm these findings.  
Further, he is responsible for the deaths and suffering of millions of innocent people when he unleashed the Civil War and the Red Terror that followed. His hatred towards religion led to the endless violence against the Russian Orthodox Church. Lenin also signed the shameful Treaty of Bretsk-Litovsk with Germany on March 3, 1918. For these reasons, among many others, his body should be removed from the mausoleum where his memory is glorified on Red Square and interred in a cemetery - Paul Gilbert. 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 25 October, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 4:33 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 25 October 2013 4:47 AM EDT
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Made in Russia - Imperial Porcelain
Topic: Collectibles


Appreciated by kings and presidents, gaining awards in international exhibits in London, Paris and New York, Russian Imperial porcelain is a prestigious brand, proud of its imperial heritage and valued for its solid quality.
The enterprise established by the order of Peter the Great’s daughter, Empress Elizabeth, was created to “serve native trade and native art”, and it has been doing so brilliantly for more than two and a half centuries.
The Imperial Porcelain Factory (or Manufactory) was established by Russian chemist Dmitry Vinogradov in 1744 in the town of Oranienbaum, currently Lomonosov, 40 kilometers west of the northern capital St. Petersburg. The talented mining engineer studied metallurgy in Freiberg and invented the formula of the Russian porcelain, though the first attempts to reveal the secret of porcelain making were made back in 1718 by Peter the Great during his visit to Saxony.
From the very beginning the factory produced wares exclusively for the ruling Romanov family and the Russian Imperial Court. But it is the Golden age of Catherine the Great that is considered the age of prosperity for its production, as it was obliged to produce fine porcelain and to bring profit.
After half a century of tough times, the beginning of a new 19th century marked a revival for the factory as by that time it had become one of the leading porcelain factories in Europe.
In the 1990s the enterprise started exporting its production to countries unfamiliar with its wares, particularly the US and Japan. In 1999 an American investing firm bought a controlling interest in the factory, which resulted in a long legal battle in Russia and eventually in a legal victory for the American investors. However, three years later they sold it to Nikolai Tsvetkov, president of oil firm Nikoil.
Recently the factory started producing hand-made copies of porcelain exhibited in the State Hermitage Museum collection. The pieces are stamped "Imperial Porcelain, 1744, St. Petersburg," along with the double-headed imperial eagle. The pieces made after 2002 held the back stamp with a red or a blue monogram along with the words "Hand Decorated, 1744, St. Petersburg, Russia", while the first post-Soviet export back stamp was a red monogram, saying "Made in Russia". 
© Voice of Russia. 25 October, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 4:20 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 25 October 2013 4:29 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 23 October 2013
Journey to Moscow, a Short Summary of My Visit
Topic: Paul Gilbert

I have just returned from an 8-day visit to Moscow, my first to the Russian capital in 8 years. The main purposes for my visit were to partake in the wonderful exhibitions marking the 400th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty and to conduct research for the Royal Russia magazine and web site.

The highlights of my October 2013 visit to Moscow include:

The Petrovsky Palace

My personal interest in this palace is based on my fascination with the Coronation ceremonies of the Russian sovereigns. The palace was built during the reign of Catherine the Great, and it was here that all successive Russian monarchs stayed before their official entry into Moscow for their coronation in the Kremlin.

The palace is not open to the public, therefore I was very fortunate to receive a special VIP tour of the palace last Thursday. My three hour tour with the director of the palace included the grounds, the ground floor, which hosts a small museum on the history of the palace, one room of which contains items from the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II in 1896, and a scale model of the palace. A vestibule is dominated with majestic pillars and busts of all the Romanov monarchs who stayed in the palace, from Catherine the Great to Nicholas II.

The second floor includes a suite of rooms, all decorated with furniture reproduced from the original. I saw the room in which Napoleon stayed during his unwelcome visit in 1812, as well as the balcony in which he stood while watching Moscow burn.

I will be writing an extensive article on the history of the Petrovsky Palace, which will appear in the No. 5 (Winter 2014) issue of Royal Russia Annual, to be published in January 2014. The article will include my personal notes and photographs taken during my visit to the palace. 

The Martha and Mary Convent 

A beautiful spot that most visitors to Moscow are unaware. The secluded convent of the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna hides behind a stone wall with latticed gates on Ulitsa Bolshaya Ordynka. Passing through an iron gate, one is transported into an island of peace and tranquility. The grounds are beautifully maintained, and a life-size monument to Saint Elizabeth is surrounded by flowers, left by Orthodox Christians who come to pray in the church.

The Holy Protection Cathedral has been restored, and inside, one can still see the wonderful frescoes by the renowned Russian artist Mikhail Nesterov. I purchased a candle from one of the sisters and went into a side chapel which contains icons of Saint Elizabeth and the Holy Royal Martyrs. It was here that I lit the candle and prayed, also taking time to reflect on the the grand duchess and her work among Moscow's less fortunate, which, by the way, continues to this day.

The convent also includes several other buildings including an interesting museum dedicated to the life and work of the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna. In 2009, the Convent published a blue leatherbound pictorial album, which contains beautiful high quality photographs of Ella, with text in Russian and English.

The Romanovs: Portrait of a Dynasty

The venue for this exhibition is the new War of 1812 Museum (the former City Duma in Tsarist days, and the Lenin Museum in Soviet times) on Red Square, and now part of the State Historical Museum.

The exhibition offers more than 400 works, including colour portraits, busts, miniatures, drawings and photographs of members of the Romanov dynasty. Arranged in chronological order, the exhibit tells the story of the portrait genre in Russia—from the early “parsuna” (secular portraits) of the 1670–80s (represented by a portrait of Tsars Mikhail Fedorovich and Alexei Mikhailovich), up to 70 original pre-revolutionary photographs of members of the Russian Imperial family (mostly the grand dukes and grand duchesses). This exhibition was beautifully presented, with descriptions in both Russian and English. An enormous hard cover exhibition catalogue (in Russian only) compliments this exhibit at 2500 Rubles! 

The Coronations and Anointing of Russian Tsars and Emperors at the Moscow Kremlin

This large scale exhibition is spread over three floors in two separate buildings within the Kremlin. The 16th-17th centuries on the ground floor of the Assumption Belfry, the 18th-19th centuries on the ground and upper floor of the Patriarch Palace.

The exhibit is composed of almost 400 historical relics of high artistic merit, from pieces of state regalia to rarely seen archival documents, photographs and etchings, the exhibition is intended to reveal the atmosphere of coronations and consecration ceremonies in Russia as well as to explore the evolution of these solemn rituals throughout several centuries.
Of particular interest are the numerous coronation uniforms and dresses of Russian Emperors and Empresses. Also, the ceremonial uniforms of Cossacks, heralds, senators, etc. The sheer number of exhibits are both exhaustive and breathtaking, I spent an entire afternoon here!  

For me personally, this exhibition is the most interesting and beautiful of all the Romanov themed exhibitions that I have attended over the years. The 2-volume catalogue is simply magnificent!   

My visit to Moscow would not be complete without a visit to the Christ the Saviour Cathedral to see its stunning interiors, and the Tretyakov Gallery, my favourite art gallery in Russia, and the foremost depository of Russian fine art in the world.  

During my stay, I did a tremendous amount of research, compiling pages of notes, and more than 300 photographs, some of which are shown above. I look forward to sharing them with Royal Russia subscribers on my web site and blog, as well as the pages of Royal Russia Annual in the coming weeks and months ahead. 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 23 October, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:56 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 22 December 2017 4:29 PM EST
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