Imperial Gala at Livadia Palace, September 22nd, 2013 Topic: Maria Vladimirovna GD
Last month I reported on the heirs to the exiled royal houses of Europe and Africa who gathered at the Livadia Palace, taking advantage of the invitation of the Crimean government and HIH Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, Head of the Russian Imperial House. The following report and news footage of this historic gala reception, held on the evening of September 22nd was published by the Ukrainian Internet portal Segodnya.ua and Royal Russia.
Celebrating the 400th Anniversary of the House of Romanov, in what was once the Imperial summer residence of Tsar Nicholas II, the guests were treated to a royal gala reception. Sparkling with diamonds and smiles, aristocrats from Austria and Hungary, Serbia, Albania, Germany, Portugal, Italy, Egypt and Sudan grandly walked along the red carpet lined with a guard of honour composed of Ukrainian sailors. The only one who lingered was the King of Egypt and Sudan – Fuad II, who rushed into the crowd of onlookers, smiling confusedly into the lenses of cameras. To avoid such an incident, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, with the heir Grand Duke Georgy Mikhailovich, were accompanied arm-in-arm by Viktor Plakida, the Envoy of the President of Ukraine in Crimea.
A children’s ensemble danced “The Nutcracker” for the guests, and the Orchestra of the 36th Independent Brigade of Coastal Defense of the Ukrainian Navy amused them with an “orchestral defile”. When it sounded “God Save the Tsar” and the number “400” flared up with fireworks on the roof of the palace, the titled guests were invited into the music room for evening cocktails, where historical records of the dynasty were presented to them.
A great table was laid in the gala White Hall, where eyes went dizzy looking at all the original dishes. “Everything was cooked according to pre-revolution recipes,” one of the waiters told us. “We are treating the guests with quails stuffed with veal, patties with mushrooms, meat and cabbage, and a variety of ingenious Russian drinks. Since this event is taking place in the Crimea, we'll also be serving rack of lamb.”
At the table, the Grand Duke Georgy Mikhailovich, who was trying not to miss a single patriotic toast, and Chairman of the Supreme Council of Crimea, Vladimir Konstantinov, were sitting next to HIH Grand Duchess Maria on either side. The Grand Duchess told us that she was greatly pleased to have gathered such dear guests under the roof of the royal palace and to be celebrating the 400th anniversary of her dynasty. She was satisfied with the reception, noting that “rigid keeping of protocol can impoverish the colour of an event,” and kept saying with a smile: “Everyone is so beautiful!”
Incidentally, the Grand Duchess maintains a very busy schedule: “Her visits are planned for the next three years,” said Prince Vadim Lopukhin. “She considered it her duty not to miss this event, and to pay tribute to the Crimea and Ukraine, with which we once lived as one state.”
Toward the end of the evening, the guests were served dessert to the music of Wagner: fruit consommé, marmalade and wine from local Crimean cellars. Visiting princesses studied the unusual vegetation of the Italian patio and had their pictures taken, which incredibly pleased the heir Georgy Mikhailovich, a titled bachelor.
Prince Lopukhin disclosed a secret – that the Empress received vegetables from Ukrainian President Yanukovych’s garden as a present. “We have been eating delicious onions and tomatoes from the garden of the head of state for the second day now,” said Vadim Olegovich. “We are very grateful to Viktor Yanukovych, as there are no real fruits and vegetables in Europe.” According to the prince, Maria Vladimirovna gladly eats ‘salo’ and ‘vareniki’ in the Crimea: “By the way, ‘borscht’ and ‘pelmeni’ are often served at her Spanish home.”
For more information and photographs of this Imperial event, please refer to the following article:
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 client. According 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.”
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:
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;
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.
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.
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.
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, Regnum.ru 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.
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.
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".