The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve has purchased a unique Romanov family archive of the mid-1860s to 1928. It is the largest assemblage of documents and photographs directly pertaining to the monarchial dynasty, obtained by the Museum for the first time in its almost hundred-year history.
The purchase from a private collector in London was made for over RUB 5,300,000 (USD $88,000) donated by Sberbank of Russia. As priceless historical memorabilia returning to the country, this archive is especially important before the centenary of the tragic death of Nicholas II and his family to be marked on 17 July 2018.
The collection includes more than 200 letters, photographs, telegrams and drawings related to Emperor Alexander III of Russia, his wife Maria Feodorovna and children Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna, Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich, Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra Feodorovna.
Of particularly great interest are three letters and a postcard (written 1917-18) from Grand Duke Nicholas Mikhailovich, a first cousin of Alexander III and an eminent historian, to the Abkhaz prince Georgy Shervashidze (Chachba), as well as some very cordial letters from the British dowager queen Alexandra (consort of Edward VII) and 1928 Christmas greeting photographs from King George V of Great Britain to Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna (who relates to nearly half of the archive).
The letters’ historical value is rivaled only by the artistic beauty of their writers’ exquisitely crafted monograms.
The archive also includes twenty photographs of members of the Romanov dynasty, such as the portraits of Alexander III, Maria Feodorovna, Nicholas II, and his sister Xenia.
Undoubtedly research-worthy, the documents added to the Museum’s reserve collection will be featured in future exhibitions and publications.
Recently purchased by the Museum at the Tennants auction in the UK, three caviar dishes of the Raphael Service now bring the pieces of the most impressive imperial porcelain set in our collection to a total of seven.
‘Just a couple of years ago, we could not even dream of having a whole set of pieces of the Raphael Service. This magnificent porcelain ensemble, conceived and manufactured for Tsarskoye Selo, had not been presented on our display at all. Rarely auctioned, several of its pieces were put up at different auction houses in a row recently. We could not resist the temptation and were lucky to win. Now our collection holds a cup and saucer duo, a plate, and four caviar dishes, all made in different years. We can now start looking for other types of pieces of this porcelain masterpiece’, says Iraida K. Bott, Tsarskoye Selo deputy director for research and education.
Designed for serving oysters and seafood, caviar dishes became an integral part of the Russian imperial table setting in the nineteenth century. All the three purchased shell-resembling pieces have cartouche handles. Typically for this service, they show the Raphael Rooms-inspired ornamental and allegorical compositions with arabesques, leaf garlands and mythical characters in roundels and figural reserves. According to the gold and red bottom marks, the caviar dishes were made in 1900 and 1902.
The seven piece set in our collection will be used in exhibitions and on display at the Catherine Palace.
A delegation of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards visited the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve on 8th April bringing with them a unique gift - a red dress uniform of the Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Scots Greys. The uniform was donated to the museum during a ceremony held in the Catherine Palace.
Tsar Nicholas II was appointed an honorary member of the Royal Scots Greys by Britain's Queen Victoria in 1894, after he became engaged to Alexandra Feodorovna (Princess Alix of Hesse), who was Victoria’s granddaughter.
Tsar Nicholas was very impressed by The Royal Scots Greys and chose to wear his full dress uniform as colonel-in-chief at various events, including his and the Tsarina’s visit to Balmoral castle in 1896, on which occasion the Imperial escort was formed by a contingent of Scots Greys. That year he spent two weeks in Scotland and was greatly impressed, noting that “Scotland is a beautiful place, but it seems to be raining everyday”.
Valentin Serov. His Imperial Majesty Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, as Colonel-in-Chief, 2nd Dragoons (The Royal Scots Greys).
The painting is held in The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Regimental Museum, Edinburgh, Scotland.
The famous Russian painter Valentin Serov portrayed the Russian tsar wearing his red Royal Scots Greys Colonel-in-Chief uniform. The portrait is now displayed as one of the highlights of the regiment’s museum in Edinburgh. To this day Tsar Nicholas II is commemorated by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (which the Royal Scots Greys became in 1971), by the playing of the Russian Imperial anthem at certain mess functions. The painting is held in The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Regimental Museum.
The uniform is now part of the collection of Tsarskoye Selo museum. Four representatives of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards donated one more uniform to the museum: Colonel Andrew Phillips; Brigadier Melville Jameson; Major Robin Maclean; and Lt. John Trotter.
“The upper part of uniform and the boots belonged to Colonel Andrew Phillips, who commanded the regiment and also was in St. Petersburg in 1998 at the reburial of Tsar's family,” Major Robin Maclean, the head of the regiment’s museum at Edinburgh Castle, told RBTH. “The lower part (the trousers) and gold spurs belonged to Brigadier Melville Jameson, who was the colonel of the regiment. They’ve donated it to the museum. Nowadays it would cost about £3,300 ($4,100) to be made and every officer in the regiment must have one”.
Brigadier Melville Jameson visited the Tsarskoye Selo museum for the first time. “I’ve been many times in Russia”, he told at the press-conference. “But it’s my first time in St. Petersburg. Originally I was looking for Russian bands, which could perform at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. And then for several years I’ve been involved into organization of Spasskaya Tower military tattoo in Moscow”, Jameson explained.
Brigadier Jameson spoke about historical connections between the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and Russia. The regiment was established in 1678, its first colonel was the Lieutenant-General Tam Dalyell of the Binns. He is also known as "The Muscovite De'il", because in 1656 he entered the service of Tsar Alexis I and distinguished himself as general in the wars against the Turks and in the Russo-Polish War (1654–1667).
Last formal visit of the regiment members took place in 1895. They were greeted by the members of The Russian Imperial Guard and visited Tsarskoe selo, as their brother-officers did today.
For more information on Nicholas II and the Royal Scots Greys, please refer to the following articles:
Decorative Portal Restored in the Lyons Hall of the Catherine Palace Topic: Tsarskoye Selo
One of the most elegant interiors of the Catherine Palace waiting to be brought back to life, the Lyons Hall now has a decorative lapis lazuli portal restored.
The southern doorway leading to the former Chinese Hall in the Zubov Wing of the palace is the first of the three portals to regain their spectacular décor of blue and gold.
The extremely costly and time-consuming inlay work, carried out by the restorers of Tsarkskoye Selo Amber Workshop, took seven months, 150 kg of lapis lazuli and a donation of RUB 5,000,000 from TransSoyuz Charitable Foundation (one of our supporters in the Agate Rooms restoration in 2010–13).
Created in 1781–83 and refurbished in 1848–61, the Lyons Hall completely lost its lapis wall finish during the Second World War. Its surviving furnishings include 25 lapis-decorated furniture pieces, as well as the mother-of-pearl incrusted parquets looted by the Nazis and later returned to Tsarskoye Selo after they were found in Berlin in 1947.
The eighteenth-century lapis inlay on the cornice, freeze, lower wall panels, window frames and portals was made from thin plates of Baikal lapis lazuli glued on limestone base using a technique later named Russian Mosaic. The technique was applied for facing large surfaces with thin plates of colour stone, fitted tightly to each other to create the impression of a monolith. A complete recreation of the décor will require at least 3.5 tons of lapis lazuli and a step-by-step plan, which was conceived in 1983 and adjusted in 2006–7.
The accomplished first step of the plan is the restored decorative portal. According to the restorers, who have also recreated and installed decorative gilt bronze mounts, the most difficult was making models for those mounts and fitting the lapis plates in the Russian Mosaic technique. The result of their work is amazing.
For more information on the restoration of the Lyon's Hall, please refer to the following articles:
The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve have announced that the restoration of the winter sled of the Empress Maria Feodorovna (Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg), wife of Emperor Paul I is now complete.
The winter sled was built in the workshop of the famous St. Petersburg coach maker Georg Geiger in 1807. Often portrayed in paintings and drawings, very few examples of winter sleds of the Russian Imperial family have survived the ravages of time, revolution and war.
The winter sled has been painstakingly restored to its original 19th century original thanks to the masters of restoration and research firm "Phenomenon" in Moscow. Funds for the restoration were allocated by the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation.
The most difficult parts of the restoration were the cleaning process and the extraction of the nails - there were so many. Rich mahogany wood was discovered underneath the layers of velvet.
The interior of the sled is upholstered in velvet purple, lined with wide haberdashery woven silver silk, and wool carpeting on the floor. The wooden doors are enhanced with their original silver-plated copper handles.
The sled will now be placed on permanent display in the Court Carriages Museum in the former Duty Stables building, situated near the Catherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo.
The preview of a unique exhibition Matilda . . . Costumes from the Film by Alexei Uchitel, was held today in the Grand Hall of the Catherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo. The exhibit showcases 70 magnificent costumes from the upcoming film, including ball gowns, evening dresses, uniforms and accessories. The exhibit opens to the public on 3rd December 2016.
More than 7000 original costumes and wardrobe items - shoes, headaches dresses, jewellery and accessories were created for the film. The costumes are based on historical prototypes of the late 19th-early 20th century, designed by St. Petersburg artists Nadezhda Vasilyeva and Olga Mikhailova.
The creation of the wardrobe for this film took two years to complete, and included more than 50 sewing and textile enterprises, hundreds of masters of Moscow, St. Petersburg and other Russian cities, in the manufacture of fabrics and costumes. Some of the work was done abroad, in England, India, China, Pakistan and Germany. The costume crew employed dozens of experts: artists, costume designers, embroiderers, jewellers, tailors, and historical consultants. It is interesting to note that more than 12 tons of silk, wool, velvet, cloth, gabardine, calico, cotton, organza and leather, were used in the making of the costumes. The Coronation costumes were technologically produced in the same way as a hundred years ago.
The controversial film Matilda tells the story of a three-year love affair between the future Tsar Nicholas II and the ballet dancer named Matilde Kshesinskaya. The film is scheduled for release in March 2017
The exhibition Matilda . . . Costumes from the Film by Alexei Uchitel runs until 17 April 2017 in the Grand Hall of the Catherine Palace.
After more than seven decades of neglect and ruin, the newly restored Arsenal Pavilion in the Alexander Park opened to visitors on 24th August. The pavilion will house a new display The Arsenal of Tsarskoye Selo: The Imperial Arms Collection, a joint project between the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum and the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.
The highlights of the Arsenal are the finest pieces from the Asian arms collection of Russian emperors. Like before, the main attraction of the pavilion is the Hall of Knights, which is located on the second floor of the pavilion.
With over 400 exhibits, the new museum display includes the famous 1843 oil on canvas The Tsarskoye Selo Carousel by Emile-Jean-Horace Vernet, Oriental cold steel items, 18th-19th century firearms and horse harnesses, as well as pieces of historic furniture, glassware and military uniforms.
The State Hermitage has loaned to the Arsenal some rare exhibits like a 16th-century armour set from the collection of Nicholas I, which was showcased in the pavilion during the Emperor’s time.
The first and second floor rooms now present information on the history of the pavilion and of Western European and Asian arms from the collection of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum. Modern 3D technologies in the Albanian Room help re-create the historic view of the interior from a 19th-century watercolour depiction by Alois Gustav Rockstuhl. A historical video in one peripheral room introduces into the world of medieval court festivities such as equine carousels. The Spiral Stairs Room offers e-books on the history of the Arsenal, Russian imperial libraries and arms collections.
Besides rarities from the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum’s historic collection and those loaned by the State Hermitage, visitors can see 16th-17th century Western European artefacts: plate armour, helmets, halberds and swords, purchased by the museum at different auctions.
The main pavilion of the Alexander Park, the Arsenal stands on the site of the Monbijou, a pavilion built in 1747–1750s to plans by architects Savva Chevakinsky and Bartolomeo Francesco Rastrelli. Considered one of the finest park structures in the Russian Baroque style, the Monbijou (French for ‘my jewel’) was created in the same fashion as the Hermitage Pavilion in the Catherine Park. It was also known as a hunting pavilion as it stood in the Menagerie, a wildlife and game preserve for the imperial hunt.
After years of neglect and ruin, the partially dismantled Menagerie lost its function. The Arsenal Pavilion was reconstructed as a Neo-Gothic building with four crenulated turrets to the design of Adam Menelaws in 1817–34. The magnificent interior decoration by architect Alexander Thon delighted who visited the Arsenal. The pavilion became home to Emperor Nicholas I’s collection of Western European and Asian arms and armour, with the finest pieces on display in the central octagonal Hall of Knights on the second floor. The Emperor willed that the remodelled pavilion should be named ‘Arsenal’.
A remarkable piece of Russian 19th-century Neo-Gothic architecture, the Arsenal made the whole ensemble of the Alexander Park seen by contemporaries as some kind of romantic mediaeval setting for novels by Sir Walter Scott, whose Abbotsford House in the Scottish Borders was a great influence to Nicholas I. The imperial arms collection in the Arsenal became Russia’s first public museum of arms, with over 5,000 exhibits and several guides.
In 1885–86, on the instructions of Emperor Alexander III, the unique collection of his grandfather was transferred to the Imperial Hermitage, where some of it is now on display in the Knights’ Hall and other rooms.
The Arsenal sustained considerable damage during the Second World War and remained in a neglected and ruined state for decades. It was finally restored by RemStroiFasad CJSC during September 2014 – December 2015 to plans developed for Tsarskoye Selo in 2011 by the St Petersburg Institute for Special Restoration Projects. The cost of the works including project documentation totalled RUB 305,000,000 and was mostly covered by the federal finances.
The renovated building, now equipped with accessibility accommodations for wheelchair users, has an effectively designed reception area on the basement floor, with a cloakroom, technical and service rooms and the Introduction Hall with information on the Alexander Park and the Arsenal.
The fate of the former Imperial Railway Pavilion in Tsarskoye Selo is an issue which I have been concerned for many years now. I have visited the building on numerous occasions during my visits to Pushkin, even gaining access to the interior only to be horrified by the state of neglect it has been subjected to by the elements and vandalism. Numerous efforts made during the past decade to save the building have been in vain. The latest effort is being spearheaded by a local resident who fears that time is running out, and that immediate action must be taken to preserve this unique architectural monument of early 20th century Russia.
Please take a moment to sign the petition at the Demokrator web site (in Russian. You can use an online translator to convert to English text). Upon reaching 500 signatures, the author of the petition will receive a free legal consulation.
- Paul Gilbert
Elena Troitskaya, a resident of the city of Pushkin (Tsarskoye Selo) has launched an online petition for the restoration of the Imperial Railway Pavilion in Tsarskoye Selo. Troitskaya began collecting signatures on the Demokrator web site. In her petition, she reflects on the sad story of attempts to restore this unique historical monument of the tsarist period:
In March 2009, the Imperial Railway Pavilion in Tsarskoye Selo was transferred to a long-term lease with the obligation of restoring the monument over a period of three years. To date, no work has been undertaken by the firm who secured the lease. Sadly, the 100th anniversary of station’s construction was only marked by the erection of a makeshift metal fence. Over the years, the fence has been constantly broken, giving access to the building to drunks, drug users and vandals, all of whom have left their mark of destruction to both the façade and fading historic interiors, leaving the building in a shocking state of disrepair.
How long can the destruction of this unique historic building continue? Locals want to see a full restoration of the Imperial Railway Pavilion, and opened as a museum, possibly a branch of the Museum of Railway Transport, or Museum of the Romanov family. Many museums in the city complain of a lack of space for their exhibits, so some locals believe that the building would make a perfect venue for temporary exhibits.
The Imperial Railway Pavilion is an integral part of a complex of buildings created in the style of pre-Petrine Russia, built in Tsarskoye Selo in the early 20th century. This complex includes the Feodorovsky Sovereign Cathedral, Feodorovsky Gorodok, Sovereign's Martial Chamber, and the Barracks of His Imperial Majesty’s Convoy. It is interesting to note that some of Mikhail Kurilko's paintings have miraculously survived inside the pavilion, despite years of neglect and the effects of harsh weather conditions.
Sadly, past experience in the city of Pushkin has shown that the transfer of historic buildings to private investors is often not the solution. The buildings are destroyed or collapse in the process of restoration, or simply can not be restored due to lack of the necessary funding. In the case of the Imperial Railway Pavilion, preservationists are concerned that a private owner will neglect some of the elements during the process of restoration. While they may be careful to restore the pavilions old style paintings, they may not carry out the proper restoration work necessary to preserve the delicate white stone carvings on the facade, replacing them instead with a plastic imitation to save on costs.
These concerns raise the prospect of the possibility of the Imperial Railway Pavilion coming under the administration of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve. The pavilion has a strong historic link to both the Alexander Palace, which is located one kilometre from the palace. A separate branch of the Imperial railway line and the pavilion were built at the behest of Emperor Nicholas II, who lived in the Alexander Palace. Government officials, foreign dignitaries and family members would arrive from St. Petersburg, where they would be met and transported to the Alexander Palace to meet with the emperor and/or his family.
Elena Troitskaya insists that we must not lose this unique architectural monument, we must not lose part of the historic artistic ensemble of Tsarskoye Selo of the early 20th century! Restoration must be carried out carefully and professionally by experts, urging a return to its historic original, and one which when complete would be accessible to all who come to Tsarskoye Selo.
She further proposed that the entire area surrounding the Imperial Railway Pavilion, including the imperial garages, the barracks, the Feodorovsky Gorodok and Sovereign’s Cathedral, Martial Chamber, Farm among other buildings could form an historic reserve, one which would create the spirit of a lost era, one which preserves the atmosphere of the life that flowed here a hundred years ago.
For more information on efforts to save the Imperial Railway Pavilion at Tsarskoye Selo, please refer to the following article (which includes my own photographs):
Note: this article has been edited and updated from its original by Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia
An icon belonging to Emperor Alexander III’s brother, Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich (1850-1908), was returned to Tsarskoye Selo on 25 March 2016.
Preserved in the Museum’s collection until World War II, the Icon of the Mother of God Quick to Hearken has been donated to the museum by Ms Gabriele Demming from Germany.
She and her sister, Ingeborg Schenk, inherited the icon after their father’s death in 2014. Their uncle Franz Feldhaus was a chaplain assigned to the military unit ‘I.D.58’. There are no details as to how the icon got into the man’s hands, but he was known to have used it at his unit’s field altar during services. He passed the icon onto his mother, Gabriele and Ingeborg’s grandmother, shortly before he died in Neukuhren (now Pionersky, Kaliningrad Oblast) in February 1945. The icon was later inherited by his brother, Gabriele and Ingeborg’s father.
The sisters tried to look for the icon’s original owner and sought help from Professor Wolfgang Eichwede of the University of Bremen, a well-known German historian who found this icon listed in the Summary Catalogue of the Cultural Valuables Stolen and Lost During World War II.
The icon comes from the historic collection of Tsarskoye Selo. It was registered in a pre-war inventory of the Museum and bears the inventory numbers but was not evacuated from the Catherine Palace in 1941.
According to an inscription on it, the icon was presented to Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich on 21 May 1875 during his second visit to the monastic state of Mount Athos in Greece. He stopped there during his 339-day voyage around the Greek Archipelago and the Mediterranean on the frigate Svetlana in 1875-6. He also visited Queen Olga of Greece (née Grand Duchess Olga Konstantinovna), his aunt in Athens.
On the way from Constantinople in July 1867, Alexei landed on the shores of Athos for the first time and witnessed the laying of the Cathedral of St Apostle Andrew. The Grand Duke presented a six-ton bell for its 40 m bell tower, the highest one on Mount Athos with twenty five bells.
According to tradition, the Quick to Hearken icon is one of the oldest icons of the Mother of God, originally painted on Mount Athos in the 10th century and now kept there at the Docheiariou, an Eastern Orthodox monastery. The later copy presented to Grand Duke Alexei was revered in the Romanov Family, especially by Grand Duchess Elisabeth Feodorovna and by the family of Emperor Nicholas II, in whose rooms at the Alexander Palace it is believed to have been kept.
Clothes from Era of Nicholas II Donated to Tsarskoye Selo Museum Topic: Tsarskoye Selo
Note: this article has been edited from the original by Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia
Dresses, blouses, a skirt and a boater hat make up a set of exquisite early twentieth century clothes donated to Tsarskoye Selo on behalf of the Montreal-based Slavic Culture Society Svetoch (Quebec, Canada) by its President Zinaida Volodina. These items have joined the collection of Women’s Clothing at the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve.
These high-quality donations with filigree decoration were made in the 1900s and 1910s. Svetoch acquired them from private collections at different times.
‘Our Women’s Clothing currently counts a limited number of items from the historic collection that have survived or were returned to the museum after WWII’, says Ms Katherina Potselueva, Tsarskoye Selo Women’s Clothing Curator. ‘That is why the museum acquires artefacts of a particular historical period corresponding with the formation of the Tsarskoye Selo residence. Things from the early 1900s are of interest to us as means of recreating the authenticity of the reign of Nicholas II. Our displays at the Alexander Palace and the Martial Chamber are entirely devoted to that period.’
Hats and skirts are represented in the collection much less than dresses and blouses, while women’s boater hats have never been presented here before. All the donated items will be put on display.
Ms Volodina became a member of the Tsarskoye Selo Friends Society in 2006. Over the past years she, on behalf of Svetoch, donated to the museum a British late-19th-century silver photo frame with authentic 1860s pictures of Queen Victoria (grandmother of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna), Princess Alice (Alexandra’s mother) and Prince of Wales (Alexandra’s uncle, the future King Edward VII), as well as bottles of the last Russian imperial family’s favourite perfumes and sheet music with a Christmas carol authored by Emperor Nicholas II. All these materials are now being studied by the research staff of Tsarskoye Selo.