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Sunday, 30 December 2012
Tsarskoe Selo Palaces: The View from 1917
Now Playing: Language: Russian. Duration: 3 minutes, 9 seconds
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo

The photographic archive of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve now boasts 48 autochrome plates with early 20th-century views of the Catherine and Alexander palaces. The plates were recently auctioned in Paris and happily acquired by our Museum with assistance from Mr. Michael Pyles, an American member of the Tsarskoye Selo Friends Society.

The autochromes, 140 in total, were made in 1917 by the military photographer Andrei Zeest, who was invited by the art historian George Loukomski, Head of Tsarskoye Selo Inventory Commission. The views of the Catherine Palace were taken in June-July of 1917, including the palace chapel's altar piece the latest pre-war picture of which at our archive dated from the 1860s.

The Alexander Palace interiors were photographed in August-September, soon after the Tsar's family left for exhile. Now that a comprehensive restoration of the palace approaches, the detail-rich autochromes become one of the most important resources for the museum workers, restorers and historians. Particularly noteworthy are the views of the Playroom of Tsarevich Alexei, previously unavailable, and Alexandra Fiodorovna's greenery-decorated Maple Study or Drawing-Room and the Palisander Reception Room with a vase holding a hortensia put there by the Tsarina herself.

The larger number of the autochrome plates were gone together with Loukomski when he emigrated from Russia in 1918. About 40 autochromes with the palaces were handed over to Tsarskoye Selo by Andrei Zeest's widow in the 1960s.

The said auction in Paris offered many other objects, some of which our Museum acquired with support from Mr. Mikhail Karisalov, an art collector and a longtime Friend of Tsarskoye Selo:

•Empress Maria Fiodorovna's autographed photo of 1916 (above)

•Illuminated engraved view of the Neva River and the Peter and Paul Fortress from the 1750s

•Bronze figure of Nicholas I's favourite pet poodle, Hussar

•Children's books illustated by Ivan Bilibin

•Set of eleven envelopes of different sizes with Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna's monogram

•Late 19th-century lacquered box with a miniature painting of a scene from Russian peasant life

© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve. 30 December, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 11:36 AM EST
Updated: Monday, 31 December 2012 4:22 AM EST
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Wednesday, 26 December 2012
Crosses Return to Historic Tsarskoye Selo Church
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo


Pre-revolutionary photos of the Church of Saint Julian of Tarsus, and its magnificent stained-glass iconostasis 

All of the nine crosses of the Church of Saint Julian of Tarsus at Tsarskoye Selo were restored to their original places on December 25th. Before the Revolution, the building served as regiment church of the His Imperial Majesty’s Life Guard Cuirassier’s.

A prayer service for the installation of the crosses began at 11:30 am, continuing throughout the day with winter weather conditions causing numerous delays.

The nine crosses were manufactured by Remfasad, a Russian firm based in St. Petersburg that specializes in the restoration of historical and cultural monuments.

The regiment church was built to the design of the architect V.N. Kuritsin at the corner of Kadetsky Boulevard and Kirasirskaya (Cuirassier) Street in 1896-1899. The interior decoration was created by the architect S.A. Danini.

Funding for the construction was provided by the commerce councillor, I.K. Savinkov in the style of Old Russian churches in the honour of the wedding of Their Emperor Majesties Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna.

The consecration of the upper temple of St Julian of Tarsus took place on 19 December 1899. The temple was sanctified by the arch-presbyter of the military clergy Fr. A. Zhelobovsky jointly with the arch-presbyter Fr. John (Sergiev) of Kronstadt and representatives of the Tsarskoye Selo clergy and in the presence of Their Emperor Majesties and other members of the Imperial family.

In the upper side-chapel there was an interesting stained-glass iconostasis made of multicoloured solder glass with mosaic icons surrounded by ornamental pattern. Icons was created in Munich on the base of cardboards of the professor N. Koshelev, who also painted two huge picture “The Wedding in Kanna of Galilee” and “The Miracle of St. Julian of Tarsus” on walls of the middle part of the temple. In the lower temple there was a stylish marble iconostasis and marble gravestones of Savinkov and his wife. Icons and fresco were painted by the artist Volkov.

In 1930, the crosses and Imperial eagles were removed and the church was used for storage.

The church has been undergoing a lengthy restoration since the building was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church in 1992. The building had been left in a deplorable state. Tons of garbage left by its previous caretaker had to be removed first. Restorers then set to work repairing dilapidated walls, crumbling stone floors and stairs. In 2010, the church dome had been restored.

Despite ongoing restoration work, services are being held every Sunday. Prayers are said for the Martyr Saint Julian of Tarsus and the fallen soldiers of H.I.M. Life Guard Cuirassier Regiment. There are plans to open a museum in the lower church which will be dedicated to the regiment’s history.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 26 December, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:01 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, 28 December 2017 10:45 AM EST
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Painting from Collection of Nicholas I Returns to Tsarskoye Selo
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo


The Crimean Tatar Squadron officers of Life Guards Cossack Regiment (left) by Carl Friedrich Schulz (1796-1866), donated to the Museum by the Moscow collectors Sergei and Tatiana Podstanitsky on 25th December 2012, is one of the over forty battle pieces which Emperor Nicholas I commissioned from the German artist for Tsarskoye Selo.

The oil on canvas painting of 1850 is Schulz’s eighteenth (of the 40) work in the Museum by now. It first hung in Nicholas I’s study at the Alexander Palace and then moved to the Dressing Room of Grand Duke Alelxander Nikolayevich (later Emperor Alexander II) at the Catherine Palace, where it can be seen depicted in a 19th-century watercolour by Eduard Hau.

Registered in the palace inventory of 1938–40, the painting was soon looted by the Nazis together with other non-evacuated artworks. In 2006 it was included into Russia’s Summary Catalogue of the Cultural Valuables Stolen and Lost During World War II, published by the Ministry of Culture’s project Cultural Values - Victims of War.

The collectors purchased the painting at a German auction in 2008 from the owners who knew nothing of its real provenance. It is the third piece Sergei and Tatiana Podstanitsky bring back to the Tsarskoye Selo collection. Thanks to them, Ludwig Elsholtz's Prussian Hussars (1840) and Wilhelm Alexander Meyerheim’s Prussian Cuirassiers (1830s-1840s) returned to the Museum in 2011. The paintings, which are to be reinstalled in the Catherine Palace after the restoration of Alexander I’s rooms, will be on display at Moscow’s State Central Museum of Contemporary History of Russia in 2013.

© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve. 26 December, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:41 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 26 December 2012 6:50 AM EST
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Thursday, 6 December 2012
Tsarskoye Selo Plans Restoration of Arsenal
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo


The Arsenal situated in the Alexander Park and Tsarskoye Selo as it looks today. 

Before the Revolution, visitors to the Arsenal at Tsarskoye Selo were struck by the beauty of its interiors, including its arched windows with medieval stained glass windows. Today, the building which is situated in the Alexander Park lies in ruins. After numerous appeals, the Ministry of Culture has allocated funds for "priority restoration work" to be carried out to save the historic building.

Considered the most striking of the Neo-Gothic pavilions in the Alexander Park, the Arsenal was constructed in the early 19th century on the site of Monbijou. The former hunting lodge of the Empress Elizabeth Petrovna was built in the Baroque style by Rastrelli. It was Emperor Nicholas I who ordered the construction of the new Arsenal. 

Monbijou Pavilion. Photo Credit: Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve 

Monbijou was partially dismantled in 1819 by the architect Adam Menelaws, and following his death was completed by the Emperor's favourite architect, Konstantin Thon in 1834.

In 1827, the Arsenal became the first public weaponry museum in Russia after Nicholas I had his large weapons collection moved there from the Anitchkov Palace in St. Petersburg. 

Once restoration begins, restorers will reply on  a series of watercolours by the artist A. Rokstule who painted the interiors of this unique, three-story castle-palace.

Each room displayed a separate group of objects united by a central theme. Thus, the foyer contained suits of armour creating the illusion of an honour guard; the Albanian Room showcased the most valuable objects from the Oriental collection, including Japanese, Chinese, Persian and Turkish weapons; and at the foot of the staircase stood a group of figures demonstrating the initiation of a knight. Marvellous Spanish, Italian and German swords could be viewed in the study, and the library across the hall was filled with firearms.

The interior of the Arsenal was splendid: arrow-shaped windows filled with authentic medieval stained glass acquired at auctions in various European countries. The elegance of light, twisting columns, octagonal halls, delighted visitors. Other rooms included a bed-chamber and a Hall of Knights complete with a round table.

The foot of the staircase in the Arsenal. 

During World War II the Arsenal was badly damaged. Now, after more than 70 years of falling into decay and near ruin, the building will be restored and reopened as a museum.

"The state of the building is in a state of emergency," said Natalya Kudryavtseva, Chief Architect at the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve. "Workers are not permitted inside the building until scaffolding has been set up. The stairs have been completely destroyed, and it is not safe."

Original fragments of stucco have been found inside the Arsenal, and the structure itself, including the roof have stood the test of time and still in good shape despite more than 70 years of neglect.

The first stage of restoration will secure the doors and windows of the building, reinforce the facade, and begin the restoration of the brick masonry. The debris found in the basement took two weeks to clean up.

There is a legend of an underground passage that linked the Arsenal to the Catherine Palace, however, restorers have not found any evidence of such a tunnel.   

The restoration of the Arsenal is expected to take any where from three to five years to complete, at which time it will once again house the extant weapons collection of Emperor Nicholas I, currently in the storage reserves of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 06 December, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:33 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, 6 December 2012 8:51 AM EST
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Saturday, 24 November 2012
Great Styles of Tsarskoye Selo
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo


A recent collaboration between the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve and the St. Petersburg designers of Mantrastudio has brought forth a new memory and attention game that entertains and educates all ages with pictures of the Tsarskoye Selo collection highlights.

The game consists of 72 illustrated cards, depicting 36 unique objects in the great historical art styles of Baroque, Rococo, Neoclassicism and Empire. An enclosed game instruction inlay provides information on the title, origin, period and style of each pictured object.

The cards are supposed to be placed face down on the table. The first player turns two cards over. If they match, the player collects the set and takes another turn. If the cards do not match, the player turns them back over in the same spot, and the next player turns two cards over. Play continues until all the cards have been matched. The winner is the player who has collected the most matches – therefore it is important to remember positions and pictures of the previously opened cards.

This versatile game can be played in many different ways, depending on age of players. Possible variations are in collecting and matching the cards in accordance with styles and/or categories of the objects. And who says you cannot make up your own table rules to beef up the game to suit your great style?

The game sells for 500 rubles and is available in the bookshop which is located in the vestibule of the Catherine Palace.

© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve. 24 November, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:01 AM EST
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Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Illuminations at the Catherine Palace, Tsarskoye Selo
Now Playing: Language: Russian. Duration: 1 minute, 21 seconds
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo

On Tuesday, 30 October 2012 at 19:00 the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve invited everyone to the Main Courtyard of the Catherine Palace to admire the new permanent illumination of the former imperial residence, with inspired performances by the Kuznetsov Naval Academy brass band and the Malaya Okhta women’s drumming group.

© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve. 30 October, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 11:47 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 31 October 2012 7:51 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 23 October 2012
Great Hall of the Agate Pavilion Opens at Tsarskoye Selo
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo


The Great Hall of the Agate Pavilion at Tsarskoye Selo opened today after an extensive restoration that now showcases the beauty of this room to visitors once again.

The Great Hall is the main room of the pavilion and once served as a place of entertainment and grand feasts during the reign of Empress Catherine II.

It was Catherine who commissioned her favourite architect, Charles Cameron to construction of the pavilion. The hall is made of artificial pink marble walls and columns, and highlighted with fireplaces, decorative carvings and parquet floors.

The restoration of three additional rooms in the Agate Pavilion are underway, and the building is expected to open as a museum once again in the spring of 2013.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 23 October, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:35 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 23 October 2012 10:04 AM EDT
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Orangery at Tsarskoye Selo to be Restored
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo


The Large Orangery at Tsarskoye Selo.  

The restoration of the large orangery at Tsarskoye Selo is now underway. The 18th-century greenhouse is considered to be one of the finest examples of Russian architecture in the city.

Originally constructed in 1751, historians still debate over who was  the original architect of the building: Sawa Chevakinsky or Francesco Rastrelli. It was rebuilt in 1820 by Vasily Stasov and lost some of its original Baroque features at the time. 

The orangery was severely damaged during the Second World War, but was later restored. In 2010, the facade was repainted, so the current restoration is the first major work on the building since the 1950s. The building is currently under the administration of the St. Petersburg Agricultural University.

Local preservation groups have concerns about saving the building and that it may in fact be too late as the building is is in a terrible state of disrepair. The roof leaks, and the plaster work done in the 1950s was so poorly done that the walls still have traces of where the building was struck by shells during the last war. There are fears that the ceilings could collapse at any time. 

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 23 October, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:54 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 23 October 2012 12:00 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 10 October 2012
White Tower at Tsarskoye Selo Opens
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo


Guests arrive for the opening of the White Tower. Photo Credit: 

A ceremony marking the official opening of the White Tower too place at Tsarskoye Selo today. Situated near the Alexander Palace, it is the first pavilion in the Alexander Park to be restored.

Emperor Nicholas I ordered the construction of the White Tower between 1827-31 by the architect Adam Menalas. The emperor's sons used the tower to engage in military and gymnastic exercises.

The building was badly damaged during World War II, and fell into a terrible state of neglect and disrepair during the Soviet years, however, a decision was made to restore the tower in 1980. A further revival of the building was carried out in the 1990s in which retored many of the original elements of the facade, which included the balconies and terraces, decorative elements such as the sculptures of knights and lions. The original spiral staircase was replaced by a wooden staircase. The reconstruction of the White Tower was based on historic photographs in the archives of the Tsarskoye Selo Palace Museum.

The White Rower was a favourite spot for the children of the last Russian tsar, Nicholas II to play, particularly during the long winter months. It was here that the children were seen sliding down the hills on tobaggons, often joined by their devoted father. These photographs have been preserved. 

Visitors can now view the restored interiors of the tower and climb the steps to an observation deck. The White Tower is the tallest pavilion in the park at nearly 38 meters (nearly 125 feet) in height, and offers commanding views of the Alexander and Catherine Parks, the nearby Feodorovsky Cathedral and the city of Pushkin (Tsarskoye Selo).

For more information on the history and the restoration of the White Tower at Tsarskoye Selo, please refer to the following articles (including vintage photographs) @ Royal Russia;

||| The White Tower to be Restored at Tsarskoye Selo (January 1st, 2012) |||

||| Restoring Tsarskoye Selo (May 16th, 2012) |||

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 10 October, 2012


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:33 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 14 October 2012 7:52 AM EDT
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Thursday, 4 October 2012
Monument to Nicholas II at Tsarskoye Selo
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo


I have discovered a new monument to Emperor Nicholas II at Tsarskoye Selo.

The monument was erected in 2011 on the site of a chapel built near the Alexandrovskaya Railway Station. The chapel was a memorial to Alexander II erected after an assassination attempt on the emperor's life in Paris in 1867. It was  demolished by the local Soviets in 1949.

It was from the Alexandrovskya station that Emperor Nicholas II, his family and retinue departed Tsarskoye Selo and sent into exile in the early morning hours of 14 August [O.S. 01 August] 1917.

There are now three monuments to Russia's last tsar found at Tsarskoye Selo.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 04 October, 2012

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 5:58 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 6 October 2012 10:00 AM EDT
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