The following article was originally published in the February 14th, 2014 edition of The Wall Street Journal. The author Mary M. Lane owns the copyright presented below. Several corrections have been made to the original text - PG
Of the 255,000 objects that the house of Peter Carl Fabergé created during the jeweler's lifetime, only 50 were his famed Easter eggs made of materials like platinum and diamonds for the Russian royal family.
An exhibition at Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum called The World of Fabergé, which opens on Tuesday and runs through May 18, will show four of the eggs, including the Tsesarevich Constellation Egg, an unfinished, (relatively) modest blue crystal and rhinestone egg on which Fabergé was working in 1917, immediately before the Russian Revolution.
The show's 160 objects, from the Kremlin's Moscow collection, will give visitors tsar's-eye views of the enameled cobalt blue cigarette cases, golden letter openers and almandine encrusted crucifixes enjoyed by the Russian monarchy before its members were lined up and shot by Bolshevik rebels in 1918.
"We wanted to emphasize that Fabergé's work was an attempt to maintain an outmoded form of luxury," says curator Paulus Rainer. Because the show is the largest loan of Fabergé by the Kremlin to a European museum and was granted to celebrate the 525th anniversary of diplomacy between Austria and Russia, the show won't travel.
One item in the exhibit that the St. Petersburg-born jeweler transformed is a leather notebook. He covered it in gold and translucent white and blue enamel and decorated it with pearls and platinum. Adding a practical touch, he included storage holes for pens.
Fabergé, a jeweler's son born in 1846, often designed Art Nouveau jewelry for the royal family, but most of the pieces had their largest jewels removed and sold throughout Europe to help fund the revolution. One notable exception is a set of nine earrings, bracelets and necklaces in the show. They are made of diamonds, pearls and platinum, and were found in a box meant for holding praline chocolates in a Moscow house undergoing renovations in 1991.
Because Fabergé custom-made his items for the royal family, there was ample room for inside jokes: A 1.6-inch-by-0.8-inch citrine-and-gold figurine of a French bulldog with sapphire eyes is a reference to Tsar Nicholas's nickname of "the little bulldog," says Mr. Rainer.
Yet the Easter eggs represent the zenith of customized service, because Fabergé received only one rule from his royal clients: The eggs had to be distinctly different every year and contain a surprise.
Fabergé himself refused to indulge entreaties from royal family members, even the Tsarina Alexandra, to divulge each year's theme.
After becoming the official royal jeweler in 1885, Fabergé began making his eggs more extravagant, often using the year's top demonstration of Russian political power as a theme, says Mr. Rainer. For example, in 1900 Russia completed the trans-Siberian Express, then the world's longest rail system. As an Easter present, Tsar Nicholas gave his wife a 10-inch-tall egg, engraved on its top with the complete trans-Siberian route. Inside she found a 16-inch gold train, built to scale, complete with windows, a dining car, smoking car and first-class carriage. The locomotive had rubies for headlights. The item is on display in Vienna.
Fabergé outlived the Russian Revolution, but not by much: He died in 1920, in Switzerland.
At auction, modern collectors still yearn for eggs, "the trophy pieces," according to Helen Culver Smith, a Russian art specialist for Christie's based in London. In 2007, the auction house set the record of $18.6 million for a Fabergé egg.
Due to the rarity of the eggs, Christie's, which controls 71% of the Fabergé auction market (based on its auction prices and those at Sotheby's), scours Europe for unexpected Fabergé items with royal connections, says Ms. Smith. The house set the record for imperial snuff boxes in 2010 when a Fabergé snuff box, similar to the enameled cigarette cases on display in Vienna, fetched $1.5 million.
"There are still pieces out there," she says. "The [Russian] royal family was exceedingly generous: they even gave Fabergè works to their obstetricians."
For more information on the Tsesarevich Constellation Imperial Egg, please refer to the following article;
Livadia Palace Opens Imperial Lift and Solarium to Visitors Topic: Livadia
Entrance to the 100-year-old Imperial lift at Livadia Palace
For the first time since before the 1917 Revolution, visitors to Livadia Palace can now visit the rooftop (solarium) of the palace in the recently restored 100-year-old lift. It was here that Tsar Nicholas II and his family would come to relax and take in spectacular views of Yalta and the Black Sea.
The lift was produced by Carl Flor in Germany and installed in 1911 and was one of the first lifts on the southern coast of Crimea. It was installed by the palace architect Nikolai Krasnov, in order to facilitate the movement of the Tsarevich Alexei, who suffered from haemophilia, and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, who suffered from sciatica. The lift allowed them both to reach the upper floors of the palace, including the solarium.
The Empress particularly enjoyed this part of the palace where she loved to spend time with her family. The roof offered her a sanctuary, where she could rest, while enjoying the warm, sunny days that the Crimea offered. The solarium was decorated with her favourite plants and flowers.
After the revolution, the elevator was seldom used and fell into disrepair. Perhaps its lack of use during the Soviet years is what actually saved the Imperial lift? When workers set to work on restoring the lift in 2010, they noted its mechanism was still fully functional, and surprisingly, inside the cabin, too, was well preserved in its original form.
The lift was restored and opened to the public in April 2013. Inside is a small, but cozy cabin, paneled with mahogany, and a small stool, with room enough for only three people. The glass doors close silently and slowly and the two-storey climb to the solarium is absolutely quiet, no rattle and roar.
During my visit to Livadia Palace in 2000, I was invited to visit the solarium, however, it was only reachable at the time by stairs. It was a rare treat to say the very least, and I have many photographs of the roof top of the palace and the magnificent panoramic views this sanctuary offers. I can truly appreciate why the Empress loved this spot so much.
A Russian Moment No 31 - The Rose Pavilion, Pavlovsk Topic: A Russian Moment
The Rose Pavilion as it looks today, depicted in a contemporary Russian postcard.
In the early nineteenth century, a pavilion was erected on the threshold of the White Birch area of the park at Pavlovsk. The pavilion was constructed in 1811 by the Russian architect Andrey Nikiforovich Voronikhin (1759-1814). A simple structure, it was surrounded entirely by rosebushes and aptly named, the Rose Pavilion. The pavilion is of great historical and artistic value as a rare example of a classic wooden architecture.
As conceived by the Empress Maria Feodorovna (1759-1828), this park pavilion was to be a kingdom of her favourite flowers - roses. Everything in the decor of the Rose Pavilion was linked to the theme of the rose, including the interiors and furniture, specially created for her, and a set of porcelain decorated with roses. The pavilion itself was completely surrounded by a rose garden. New species of roses were brought from all over Europe and planted here. In 1812, «PAVILLON DES ROSES» appeared in gilt letters in French, on the pediment of the entrance to the pavilion.
The Rose Pavilion became the gathering place of artists, composers, writers and poets in the company of the empress. Her guests included Vasily Zhukovsky, Ivan Krylov, Nikolay Karamzin, Nikolay Gnedich, Fiodor Glinka, and Yury Neledinsky-Meletsky. The Empress did all she could to be a dutiful hostess to her refined and educated guests. She kept an album in which visitors were invited to write their own verses or dedications.
The Rose Pavilion was the site of a grand fete on July 12, 1814, celebrating the return of Emperor Alexander I to St. Petersburg after the defeat of Napoleon. For the occasion the architect Pietro de Gottardo Gonzaga built a ballroom the size of the Rose Pavilion itself in just seventeen days, and surrounded it with huge canvases of Russian villagers celebrating the victory. The ball inside the pavilion opened with a Polonaise led by Alexander and his mother, and ended with a huge display of fireworks.
During the Great Patriotic War (1941-45) the Rose Pavilion was destroyed by the retreating Nazis. During the 1990s, the Rose Pavilion underwent a long and arduous research and restoration work. Today, the Rose Pavilion once again blends naturally into the surrounding park, its beauty enhanced by a variety of rose bushes, the favourite bloom of Empress Maria Feodorovna. The Rose Pavilion is a delightful venue for classical music concerts during the summer months.
Russian Archives Unveils Online Project Dedicated to 400th Anniversary of the Romanov Dynasty Topic: 400th Anniversary
The Russian Federal Archival Agency have launched an online project dedicated to the 400th Anniversary of the Romanov Dynasty. The project has been prepared to familiarize the public with historic documents relating to the Romanov dynasty held in the Archives Fund of the Russian Federation.
The web site includes 1377 photographs and other images, and 587 original archival documents from the following archives: Russian State Archive of Ancient Acts, State Archive of the Russian Federation, State Archive of the Kostroma region, photographs of the Moscow Kremlin State Historical and Cultural Museum-Preserve and the State Historical Museum. The documents, photographs, etc from the archives are organized chronologically by tsars and emperors of the Romanov dynasty.
Also presented are the family correspondence members of the House of Romanov - from Tsar Mikhail Fedorovich to Emperor Nicholas II, autographs of tsars and emperors and their families, documents outlining the organization of their daily life, education, hobbies, interests and abilities. Many rare personal items belonging to the Romanovs can also be seen on display in this web site.
Rare documentary evidence of marriages of Russia’s sovereigns can also be seen from the 17th-20th centuries, and materials on favourable marriages between members of the House of Romanov with representatives of major European dynasties.
Other documents of interest include materials on the circumstances and the course of palace coups, rare documents on the organization of the coronation ceremonies and the royal and imperial regalia. Then, you can see the unique materials on the organization of burials of members of the Russian Imperial family, ceremonies mourning processions, etc.
This archival web site, dedicated to the 400th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty, will be of particular interest to scholars and historians, allowing them access to new documents held in a variety of Russian archives. The web site is only available in Russian.
Monument to Nicholas II to be Erected in Thailand Topic: Nicholas II
King Chulalongkorn with Tsar Nicholas II in Saint Petersburg, during the King's first Grand Tour in 1897
The Foundation Committee of the Orthodox Church in Thailand will install a monument in Bangkok to Tsar Nicholas II and King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) of Siam. The project is in honour of the 400th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty in 2013, for which Thailand was invited to participate. The Orthodox Church in Thailand invited the famous sculptor, Sergei Isakov - Academician of the Russian Academy Arts, Honored Artist of Russia to participate in the work on the Russian part of the sculpture. Isakov has experience of capturing the image of St. Tsar Nicholas II martyr in numerous sculptural compositions.
Sergei Mikhailovich Isakov arrived in Thailand on December 16, 2013 with the assistance of the Russian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) in Thailand to begin work on the monument. Work is being carried out on the territory of the new St. Nicholas Church in Bangkok.
Assistance in the construction of the monument to Tsar Nicholas II and King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) was provided by the Nicholas Foundation (Russia) and the Foundation of the Orthodox Church in Thailand. The prototype of the monument is based on the famous picture showing two monarchs during a visit by King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) to St. Petersburg in 1897.
Russian-Siamese Royal Relations, Late 19th Century
Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, King Chulalongkorn, Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, Tsar Nicholas II with members of the Siamese royal entourage in Saint Petersburg, during the King's 1897 visit
In the late 1870-s King Chulalongkorn on numerous occasions expressed his wish to establish permanent diplomatic relations with Russia. Russian naval officers whose ships periodically came to Bangkok carried to the Russian Emperor the first Royal letters with clear intention of the Siamese government to develop bilateral trade, diplomatic and cultural cooperation with Russia. A real breakthrough in the bilateral relations was made later by the visit of the Heir to the Imperial throne Tsesarevich Nicholas, the son of the then reigning Emperor Alexander III, to Siam in 1891. It was a part of the Eastern Voyage of the Tsesarevich who was familiarizing himself with Asia and Asian affairs on recommendation of his farther Alexander III. Notwithstanding its unofficial status, the visit gave a great impulse to the advancement of relations between the two countries and in fact marked the beginning of close and long-lasting personal friendship between Tsar Nicholas II and King Chulalongkorn, and in a broader sense between two our countries and peoples.
The Russian Crown Prince and his entourage were welcomed in Siam with all due honours and utmost warmth. King Chulalongkorn personally took care of the visiting Russian Crown Prince and awarded him with the Order of Chakri. The King hosted festivities in honour of the Tsesarevich both in Bangkok and at the Bang Pa In Palace and saw him off on the last day.
Several months later a captain of a Russian naval ship delivered a letter of gratitude from Alexander III to King Chulalongkorn together with the Order of St. Andrew bestowed by the Emperor upon the Siamese Monarch - the first in the number of Russian decorations received by members of the Thai Royal family.
The visit of Prince Damrong, brother of King Chulalongkorn and Director-General of the National Department of Education of Siam, to Russia became the next step in the development of relations between the two countries. Prince Damrong was an active participant of the process of establishment and development of the Russia-Siam relations. He came to Russia in November 1891 and was received by Alexander III in Livadia - a gorgeous Royal summer residence on the banks of the Black Sea. The Prince delivered a letter and the Order of Chakri which had been sent to the Russian Emperor by the King of Siam. In his letter King Chulalongkorn re-confirmed the intention to further develop friendly relations with Russia.
Starting from 1891, official visits and personal contacts including the exchange of correspondence between the Russian Imperial Family and the Siamese Royal Family became frequent and regular and played an important role in the development of relations between the two countries. In 1893 Russia started to provide her support to Siam to resolve the conflict with her neighbours of that time. In 1896 the Russian Imperial Government invited a Royal Siamese representative to participate in the festivities on the occasion of the coronation of Nicholas II as the Emperor of Russia.
A year later King Chulalongkorn himself paid a visit to Russia. Friendly and sincere support provided to him by the Russian Side played a very important role in the success of this trip. The highest honours, utmost hospitality and respect which had been extended to King Chulalongkorn in Russia once and for all confirmed the status of the Siamese Monarch as a sovereign equal to European Kings.
When King Chulalongkorn arrived in St. Petersburg on June 19, 1897 by the special Emperor's train, he was welcomed by the members of the Imperial Family and a military escort of the Imperial Guards. On arrival the King of Siam proceeded to the Peterhof Palace, the Imperial summer residence, where Emperor Nicholas II welcomed him. During following ten days the King of Siam visited St. Petersburg, Moscow and the main Russian naval base in Kronstadt.
King Chulalongkorn's visit prompted sincere and wide interest in Siam and Siamese affairs among Russian public. Newspapers extensively covered the visit, issuing publications about Siam and the Siamese King. For example, Vedomosti of St. Petersburg, a leading Russian newspaper wrote in an editorial: "In his person we are greeting not only one of the greatest men of our time, […] but also a true friend of Russia. The power of this friendship lies in mutual respect, in the senses of straightforwardness and simplicity common to both peoples. (…) Our friendship towards Siam is honest and non-hypocritical, which His Majesty the King of Siam can confidently rely upon".
During the negotiations in St. Petersburg Nicholas II and King Chulalongkorn agreed, as it is known, to establish diplomatic relations between Russia and Siam and to prepare the Treaty on Friendship and Maritime Navigation, which was signed in 1899. The monarchs agreed also that Prince Chakrabongse, the second son of King Chulalongkorn, would come to Russia for his studying and military training. It is also worth to note that Prince Chakrabongse's studies in Russia had paved the way to other children from the Siamese noble families to Russian universities and in the first decade of the XXth century a good few of them were getting their education in Russia.
Following the decision of the two sovereigns, the exchange of diplomatic representatives took place in 1897 and 1898. Phraya Suriya Nuvat, the Siamese Minister who was representing King Chulalongkorn in Europe with residence in Paris, received an additional appointment to the Russian Imperial Court. He had accompanied the King on his Russian trip and had been introduced to Nicholas II.
In 1898 Alexander Olarovski, the Russian Consul-General in New York, was transferred to Siam and appointed as the Russian Charge d'Affaires and the Consul General. Before his departure from America, Olarovski received a ten-page instructive letter from the Russian Foreign ministry. The major part of it contained clear directions concerning the Russian policy towards Siam. The essence of that policy was expressed in the following lines of the letter: "Your conduct in its entirety should bear the imprint of favourable attention which our august Monarch is willing to extend to the person of the Siamese King, as well as to the fortunes of his people; it should respond to the sincerity and warmth which are put by Siam at the base of our relations".
The text of the letter had been personally approved by the Russian Emperor, and diplomatic representatives of Russia in Bangkok consistently followed it.
The establishment of diplomatic relations and the signing of several treaties that followed, as well as the development of regular dynastic and personal contacts, helped to promote deeper mutual knowledge between the two peoples.
Passion of the Empress: Catherine the Great's Art Patronage Topic: Exhibitions
Driven by a thirst for knowledge and a quest for the throne, Catherine propelled herself to the role of Empress through the sheer power of her intellect, cunning, and resolve. For thirty-four years, she reigned over a golden age of Russian culture, founding what would become the State Hermitage Museum and transforming St. Petersburg into one of Europe’s cultural centers.
Passion of the Empress: Catherine the Great’s Art Patronage presents a selection of finely-crafted decorative art pieces to explore how the famous tsarina masterfully blended traditions of Byzantine art with the Western neoclassical style that was a hallmark of the Enlightenment.
With the stunning Buch Chalice as the centerpiece, twenty-seven works from Hillwood’s Russian imperial art collection form the foundation of the exhibition. Other lenders to the exhibition include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Walters Art Museum, Dumbarton Oaks, The Birmingham Museum of Art, and private collections.
When she took the throne in 1762, Catherine was determined to change the perception of Russia throughout Europe as a culturally lacking empire.
Having lived at court since 1744, when she became engaged to the future Peter III, while educating herself about Russian culture, language, and the Orthodox Church, Catherine quietly developed her own sense of style.
Her immersion in Russian tradition did not preclude the savvy Empress from maintaining ties with Western Europe. Correspondence with the French philosophes in particular eventually strengthened French taste in Russia and enabled Catherine to foster the arts, science, and education.
Though she is best known for collecting thousands of paintings, Catherine commissioned splendid metalwork, porcelain, glasswork, and books for her own use and as gifts for courtiers. It is in these objects that the blending of Byzantine and classical influences shows Catherine’s desire to forge a new direction for Russian culture and align it with the West.
Many of the objects in the exhibition bring focus to Catherine’s use of ancient and medieval carved cameos and intaglios and her incorporation of those into her commissions for new works of art. The empress not only shared the Enlightenment sentiment that carved gems were important pieces of the past, but she was also aware of the power associated with the practice of collecting cameos.
The most exquisite example of this intermingling is the Buch Chalice. Commissioned in 1790, Iver Windfeldt Buch produced two liturgical sets, each comprising a chalice and several other pieces necessary for celebrating the Divine Liturgy.
To construct the sets, Catherine provided Buch with gold and diamonds from the State Treasury and carved gems representing scenes from the life of Christ, saints, and angels, which came from her private collection. Of the gems, a thirteenth-century Byzantine cameo of the Archangel Michael is the oldest. The remaining ones are mostly contemporary.
Catherine presented a set, including this chalice, to the Trinity Cathedral in the Aleksandr Nevskii Monastery in St. Petersburg on August 29, 1791.
Other highlights of the exhibition include a glass cameo of Catherine II in the Guise of Minerva, based on a Siberian jasper cameo carved by Catherine’s daughter-in-law, Maria Feodorovna, depicting Catherine as the goddess Minerva wearing a helmet decorated with a winged sphinx crown and laurel wreath; a late 17th-century censer that is one of the most stunning examples of metalwork in Hillwood’s collection; and pieces from the Orlov Porcelain Service, the expansive set made at Catherine’s request by the Imperial Porcelain Factory for Count Grigory Grigoryevich Orlov (1734-1783).
The exhibition was organized by the Georgia Museum of Art (titled Exuberance of Meaning: The Art Patronage of Catherine the Great). A full-color catalogue accompanies the exhibition with essays by organizing curator Asen Kirin, associate professor of art and associate director of the Lamar Dodd School of art at the University of Georgia, and Dr. Scott Ruby, Hillwood’s associate curator for Russian and Eastern European Art.
Passion of the Empress: Catherine the Great’s Art Patronage opens at Hillwood Museum in Washington, DC on February 18th, and ends on June 8th, 2014.
The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve received four porcelain vases, a beautifully decorated table from the 1850s-1890s and the Night In Istanbul (lower right photo) landscape by Ivan Aivazovsky.
These objects originally from the Imperial state rooms were kept in St. Petersburg’s Gorky Palace of Culture since the 1930s. Now they are at Tsarskoye Selo, thanks to an initiative from the St. Petersburg Monuments Preservation Committee (KGIOP).
The vases with replicated old masters’ works were manufactured at the Imperial Porcelain Manufactory of St. Petersburg, where porcelain pieces were first embellished with painting copies during the time of Alexander I. The high point of this technique was the reign of Nicholas I, when the highest quality vases were produced.
Replicated by artist Kornilov, the astoundingly detailed multi-figure genre scenes with a wide rich colour gamut on the two most impressive vases show a resting place and a winter town originating from works by Nicolaes Pieterszoon Berchem and Jan Miense Molenaer, renowned Dutch masters from the seventeenth century. These pieces are spruced up with relief décor and intricately shaped handles with acanthus swirls and pine cones.
The vases arrived disassembled, with no handles and numerous lost fragments, which had to be restored by the experts from the Tsarsksoye Selo Amber Workshop. These unique historical objects are now on display at the Alexander Palace.
The 1878 landscape by Aivazovsky, one of Alexander III’s favourite painters, is expected to grace the halls of the Alexander Palace. It originates from the picture collection of merchant Kokorev, a native of Tsarskoye Selo and the tsar’s competitor in collecting. Alexander III later bought almost all of Aivazovsky’s canvases from Kokorev’s collection, hanging them at the Anichkov Palace in St. Petersburg and the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoye Selo.
After the 1917 revolution, many of those paintings went to the State Russian Museum and to some museums in Moscow, while the Alexander Palace was left with only two. The Night In Istanbul will be a worthy decoration for the WWII stricken former residence of the last monarch of Russia.
Alexander III and Finland - Imperial Summer Holidays Topic: Alexander III
A new exhibition dedicated to Emperor Alexander III will open next week in Finland. Alexander III and Finland - Imperial Summer Holidays will open February 14th and run till May 18th, 2014 at the Maritime Centre Vellamo in Kotka, Finland.
The exhibition is a joint venture with the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, The Museum of Kymenlaakso and the National Museum of Finland in Helsinki.
Alexander III ruled Russia and served as the Grand Prince (Duke) of Finland from 1881 to 1894. The Finns built a fishing lodge for the emperor in Langinkoski, Kotka (1889), to where Alexander III and his family retired for a few days in the summer, to lead a modest country life. The emperor spent his days fishing and chopping wood while his Danish-born spouse Dagmar, also known as Marie Feodorovna, made food for the family. The freedom the emperor enjoyed in Langinkoski in the summers was in stark contrast to the highly regulated life and court etiquette that he had to endure in St Petersburg.
The Alexander III and Finland exhibition showcases the life and leisure of the imperial family through paintings, watercolours and period items. Alexander III made a total of 31 trips to Finland, occasionally accompanied by Albert Benois, who immortalised the landscapes of these trips in his watercolours. The exhibition also includes a few paintings that depict the landscapes of south-eastern Finland. A wholly different perspective is revealed by pieces that depict the emperor’s official life in St Petersburg and his coronation in Moscow.
The exhibition includes portraits of the emperor and empress painted by Ivan Kramskoi and Carl Wenig’s oil painting Russian Girl. The exhibition is complemented by numerous period objects, such as glass and silver Fabergé items and items from the Imperial Porcelain Factory, including a plate that belonged to a set used on the emperor’s yacht Tsarevna. Some of the items from the collections of the State Russian Museum will be displayed in Finland for the first time.
From the National Museum of Finland, the exhibition includes parts of the emperor and empress’ personal washing set and a screen given to the empress as a gift, designed by Albert Edelfelt and Gunnar Berndtson.
The exhibition is further complemented by items on loan from the Imperial Fishing Lodge in Langinkoski, which celebrates its 125th anniversary. The items will be displayed in the Museum of Kymenlaakso’s main exhibition from 14 February to 30 September 2014. Visitors can look forward to seeing, for example, authentic silverware used at the fishing lodge, a waffle iron adorned by the two-headed eagle of Russia and a pair of sturgeon-patterned silver fish server.
The Alexander III and Finland exhibition also includes a publication with the same title, which will be available in Finnish, Russian and English from the Vellamo museum shop.
Portrait of Lenin Reveals Hidden Portrait of Tsar Nicholas II Topic: Nicholas II
NOTE: This article was updated with a VIDEO (in Russian) on Friday, February 28th, 2014 - PG
A unique discovery was made last summer at the 206th School in St. Petersburg. A portrait of Bolshevik leader, Vladimir Lenin which had hung in the school for decades was being prepared for restoration when restorers noted some damage in the bottom corner revealing a small painted fragment of someone’s boots. Experts from the State Russian Museum were called in and upon closer examination discovered a painted over portrait of Tsar Nicholas II underneath.
The portrait was then transferred to the St. Petersburg Art and Industry Academy (founded in 1876 as the School of Technical Drawing of Baron Alexander von Stieglitz) where it was carefully examined further by staff. The portrait of Lenin by Vladislav Izmailovich depicts the Bolshevik leader with the Peter and Paul Fortress, the burial place of the Russian tsars in the background. Academy staff used varnish to remove the water-soluble layer of paint on Lenin’s portrait revealing the original portrait of the tsar, painted by the Russian artist Ilya Galkin Savich (1860-1915).
Savich's works are little known outside of Russia, but his portraits and other paintings are in the collections of the State Russian Museum. Towards the end of the 19th century, among his admirers were members of the Imperial family. His other portraits of members of the Imperial family include Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna and Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna.
Vyacheslav Mashkov, the Head of the Department of Painting and Restoration at the Academy, noted: "It's amazing how well preserved the portrait is. It is in great condition!"
The formal unframed portrait of Nicholas II is now on display in the Great Hall of the Art and Industry Academy in St. Petersburg. Several reference sites are visible, however, staff are confident that a full restoration is possible. The full restoration of the portrait will be carried out with the assistance of experts from the State Hermitage and State Russian Museums in St. Petersburg.
To watch a video (in Russian) of the discovery of the hidden portrait, please click on the following link;