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Saturday, 26 March 2016
Lost Romanov Icon Returned to Tsarskoye Selo
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo

Icon of the Mother of God Quick to Hearken and portrait of Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich
Photo © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve
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.

© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve / Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 26 March, 2016


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:09 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 26 March 2016 9:16 AM EDT
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Sunday, 20 December 2015
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.

© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve. 20 December, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 11:47 AM EST
Updated: Sunday, 20 December 2015 1:17 PM EST
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Saturday, 31 October 2015
On This Day: Imperial Lyceum in Tsarskoye Selo Opened
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo

The Imperial Lyceum at Tsarskoye Selo. Note the golden cupolas of the Catherine Palace Church towering above the rooftop
On 31 October (O.S. 19 October) 1811 in the suburbs of St. Petersburg,  Tsarskoye Selo, took place the grand opening of the Imperial Lyceum, founded with the goal of "education of young people, especially those who were intended for public service".

The initiative to create a privileged high school belonged to the Minister of Education A. K. Razumovsky and Justice Minister M. M. Speranskiy. The curriculum of the Lyceum was drawn up by Speransky back in 1808. The main place in the learning process was given to the sciences of moral and historical character.

Approved in 1810 by Emperor Alexander I «Resolution on the Lyceum," equated the new educational institution in the rights and benefits with other Russian universities. Education in the Tsarskoye Selo Lyceum was scheduled for 6 years and consisted of two courses 3 years each. The first course was called the initial, the second one - final. Students were taught languages (Russian, Latin, French and German), moral sciences (God's law, philosophy and foundations of logic), mathematics and physics (arithmetic, geometry, trigonometry, algebra and physics), history (Russian history, foreign history, geography), fine arts and gymnastics (painting, calligraphy, dancing, fencing, riding, swimming). The students who were preparing for a military career, in addition studied weapons, tactics, strategy and history of warfare, military topography and drawing of schemes.

The Lyceum was located in a wing of the Catherine Palace, rebuilt in 1811 by architect V. Stasov according to the needs of the institution. On the ground floor were rooms for teachers, hospital and administrative offices, on the second - the dining room with buffet, office and a Small Conference Hall. On the third floor was a Big Hall decorated with paintings on antique themes, classes and a library. The fourth floor was occupied by dormitories - rooms of students.

14-year-old Alexander Pushkin reciting his poem before old Derzhavin in the Lyceum
- painting by Ilya Repin from 1911, the school's centennial
During 33 years of existence of the Tsarskoye Selo Lyceum 286 students had graduated from it. 234 of them entered the civil service, 50 - the military service, and 2 - the Navy. Tsarskoye Selo Lyceum acquired its historical glory, first of all, owing to its graduates of 1817 - Alexander Pushkin, A. A. Delvig, A. M. Gorchakov, Decembrists W. C. Kuchelbecker and I. I. Pushchin. Many of the students had become statesmen, diplomats, senators (A. K. Girs, N. K Girs, A. V. Golovnin, D. N. Zamyatin, N. A. Korsakov, M. A. Korf, D. A. Tolstoy, etc.) or scientists (K. S. Veselovsky, J. K. Grote, N. Ya. Danilevsky, etc.).

In 1843, Nicholas I issued a Decree on introduction of the Tsarskoye Selo Lyceum in the general structure of civilian educational institutions. Tsarskoye Selo Lyceum was moved to St. Petersburg and was renamed to the Imperial Alexander Lyceum.

© Presidential Library. 31 October, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:00 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 31 October 2015 4:18 AM EDT
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Saturday, 26 September 2015
Tsarskoye Selo to Restore Chapelle Pavilion
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo

The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve announced this week that the 19th-century Chapelle Pavilion in the Alexander Park, which was almost entirely destroyed during the Second World War, is to be restored. Built to a unique design in the form of a romantic-ruined-gothic castle by famous architect Adam Menelaws, the destruction meted out to the building during the war and in the following years of neglect has taken the romance firmly out of the ruins. The pavilion has been off bounds to tourists for decades, due to the fact that the building is in danger of collapsing at any moment, which is why the territory on which it stands is fenced off to pedestrians.

The reconstruction will cost 150 million roubles, according to representatives of the museum complex at Tsarskoye Selo. The money will come from the federal budget, as part of the Culture of Russia programme. Work is expected to start in the coming months, after the Ministry of Culture and the museum complex executives agree on an appropriate construction firm to carry out the work. Then a survey of the building will be taken and immediate measures to strengthen the foundations will be implemented. 

The restoration is expected to last for a year, and then the pavilion will be used as an exhibition centre.

Beautiful detail of the interior have miraculously survived years of neglect
Built between 1825 and 1828 the pavilion appeared on the edge of the Alexander Park in the Landscape Park that was given the French name Chapelle. It took the form of a small Gothic church dilapidated by time.

Adam Menelaws’s design for the Chapelle consisted of two square-based towers, one of which had totally “collapsed”, and a broad arch connecting them. Among the deliberate echoes of the Gothic period was the architect’s installation of coloured glass in the windows of the building. Light penetrating them gave a spectral shimmer to the interior. The figures of angels at the base of the vaults were, like the sculpture on the White Tower, the work of Vasily Demuth-Malinovsky, while the statue of Christ that stood in the Chapelle (and is now in the collection of the State Hermitage) was commissioned by Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna from the German sculptor Johann Heinrich von Dannecker. 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia / Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve. 26 September, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:21 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 26 September 2015 6:29 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 22 September 2015
Tsarskoye Selo Director Awarded for Contribution to Russian Culture
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo

Olga Taratynova, Director of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve
On behalf of Royal Russia, it's many friends and supporters around the world, I would like to extend congratulations to Olga Taratynova on receipt of this prestigious award and in recognition for her contribution to the preservation of the palaces, pavilions and parks at Tsarskoye Selo - Paul Gilbert 
Russia’s Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky has awarded Director Olga Taratynova of Tsarskoye Selo with the Ministry’s badge For Contribution to Russian Culture, laconically describing her long-term work as ‘great’ and ‘fruitful’.
The award came on Director’s personal anniversary and was accompanied by a telegram with the best wishes from Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister of Russia.
Olga Taratynova, who became Director on 6 October 2008, took up the challenge to have the museum ready for the Tsarskoye Selo Tercentenary celebrations in 2010. The museum marked the jubilee with a grandeur appropriate to the traditions of its imperial past, completing restoration of the Hermitage, Turkish Bath and Concert Hall pavilions in the Catherine Park and the Suite of State Rooms of the Alexander Palace.  

Those accomplishments gave Tsarskoye Selo a powerful creative stimulus for new projects. The museum has restored and reopened more park pavilions (Lower Bathhouse in 2011, White Tower in 2012, Agate Rooms in 2013), expanded its collections, created Russia’s first museum of World War One in the recently restored Martial Chamber, and designed interactive children’s programs and other events of social importance (Associations, Winter Evening Of Light).

Our projects received European and Russian heritage prizes, such as Europa Nostra Award 2014 for the Agate Rooms Conservation, and Museum Olympus 2010 (including Museum of the Year) and 2013.

The ongoing restoration of Arsenal and Imperial Farm will be followed by work on the Chapel of the Catherine Palace, Chapelle, Chinese Theatre and the Alexander Palace.
© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve. 22 September, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:43 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 22 September 2015 6:50 AM EDT
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Thursday, 27 August 2015
Pierre Gilliard's Camera Presented to Tsarskoye Selo
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo

Pierre Gilliard's camera is now in the collection of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve.
It will be on permanent display in the Alexander Palace when it reopens as a multi-museum complex in 2018
The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Reserve was presented with a very unique item earlier this week: an Eastman Kodak Bulls-Eye camera, which belonged to Pierre Gilliard (1879-1962) - French teacher to the children of the last Russian emperor Nicholas II, and mentor to Tsesarevich Alexei. It was with this camera which Pierre Gilliard took photographs of the imperial family in Tsarskoye Selo and later in exile, many of which are familiar to the world today.

The camera was presented to the museum during a ceremony held in the Semi-Circular Hall of the Alexander Palace on August 26th by Mr. Jacques Moser - a great-nephew of Pierre Gilliard - who lives in Switzerland. 

Pierre Gilliard was one of the faithful few who volunteered to follow the Imperial family into exile to Tobolsk. Then he moved with the Imperial children to Ekaterinburg, however, he was denied entry to the Ipatiev House and returned to Tobolsk. In 1920 he returned to Europe via Vladivostok. In 1922, Pierre Gilliard married Alexandra Tegleva (1884-1955) - who served as a nanny to the grand duchesses for 17 years. She also narrowly escaped death. They lived in Lausanne, Gilliard’s hometown.

All documents pertaining to the Gilliard and Tegleva, are now stored at the Pierre Gilliard Foundation in the Cantonal University Library (BCU) in Lausanne (Switzerland). 

According to Mr. Moser, his mother, who was godmother to Pierre Gilliard, inherited the camera and explains that Uncle Pierre had made all the pictures of the Russian court, and that "the emperor himself held the camera in his hands." She showed him photographs - including the one in which "Uncle Pierre" is seen with the Emperor sawing wood in Tobolsk.

Mr. Jacques Moser presents his Uncle Pierre's camera to to the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve
during a ceremony held in the Semi-Circular Hall of the Alexander Palace on August 26th, 2015
According to my most distant memories, I always heard about "Uncle Pierre" and his wife Aunt Alex with who had lived in Russia. Sometimes we met with him, because he was the brother of my grandfather. I recall opening the bottom drawer of his desk in the living room, and came across a square rigid case of beige leather, which contained the Eastman Kodak Bulls-Eye camera, bought by Uncle Pierre in St. Petersburg. After his return to Switzerland, Pierre, although he was an excellent photographer, no longer used it. It reminded him of the sad years and the death of the Imperial family, the fate of which he himself narrowly escaped - says Jacques Moser.

“For us, these things are particularly interesting and important as memorabilia associated with members of Emperor Nicholas II and his family, and Pierre Gilliard’s close association  as a teacher of the Imperial children,” said Iraida Bott, Deputy Director for Research and Education at the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve. “The Kodak camera is sure to become an exhibit of the Alexander Palace when we open it after a major restoration in 2018. The updated exhibition will include sections on people who surrounded the last owner of the Alexander Palace,” - added Bott.

Back in 2014 the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve received a gift of a tea set and a set of table items (32 pieces), which also belonged to Pierre Gilliard. They were handed over to the museum another Gilliard relative - his niece Françoise Gaudet, who lives in Geneva. The set had been presented to the Gilliard by one of his August pupils - the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna. The beautiful tea set were made by the famous I. E. Morozova firm, a supplier to the Imperial Court.

Earlier, in 2013, Marie-Claude Gilliard Knecht presented the museum with items belonging to her aunt, Alexandra Alexandrovna Tegleva. The items included a pocket watch presented to her by the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, and a brooch that her aunt received as a gift on the occasion of the 300th Anniversary of the House of Romanov in 1913.
For more information on previous gifts from the Gilliard collection in 2014 and 2013, please refer to the following articles: 

Silver Tea Service Returns to Tsarskoye Selo - A Gift from Grand Duchess Anastasia - includes photographs + VIDEO

Gilliard Gifts Presented to Tsarskoye Selo - includes 8 photographs

© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve / Translated and Edited by Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 27 August, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:26 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 27 August 2015 7:48 AM EDT
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Thursday, 23 July 2015
Exhibition: Court Perfumer at Tsarskoye Selo
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo

A unique exhibition opened at Tsarskoye Selo on 13 July. Court Perfumer is an interactive exhibition laboratory, on display in the Grottoes in the basement of the Cameron Gallery. The exhibit is a joint project presented by the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve and the St Petersburg Perfumers Guild. 

Special video information in Russian, English and Chinese introduces visitors to the history of Russian perfumery during the eighteenth to the early twentieth century, giving facts about perfume etiquette and secrets of perfume creation.

On display are interesting archive materials and images of old perfume bottles and early twentieth-century advertising pamphlets. Visitors can also sample the fragrances of some lost perfumes from the Tsarist Russia, reconstructed by modern experts from archived recipes. The fragrances on display are those preferred by Emperor Nicholas II, his wife Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, their four daughters Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and their son Tsesarevich Alexei.

During the exhibit,  St Petersburg Perfumers Guild will launch a new line of scents associated with St. Petetsburg, including the Catherine Park of Tsarskoye Selo fragrance. A pilot consignment of the souvenir scent is expected to be made available at the museum in the near future.

According to Oksana Chernyshova, the Guild’s president, the ‘spirit of the park’ is a well-balanced blend of wildflowers and herbs – like the regular Decorative Parterre of the Granite Terrace amid a meadow in the landscape area of the Catherine Park, which served as the inspiration. ‘A tiny drop of it on your wrist or handkerchief will bring back memories of this beautiful place’.  

Director Olga Taratynova of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve says, ‘Millions of our visitors take with them some amber and other souvenirs, photo albums and books. This souvenir scent gives them something more. It combines the emotions and visiting experience with the unique energy of Tsarskoye Selo. It’s an imaginary travel back in the time of Catherine the Great, into a fragrant meadow that she has just crossed. We are so glad that the perfumers were inspired by the Catherine Park, one of the most beautiful places on Earth’.

The exhibition: Court Perfumer runs from 13 July to 30 September, 2015 in the Cameron Gallery at the Catherine Palace, Tsarskoye Selo.

© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve and Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 23 July, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:15 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 25 July 2015 8:25 AM EDT
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Saturday, 11 July 2015
Arsenal Pavilion in the Alexander Park to be Restored Next Year
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo

Early 19th century watercolour of the Arsenal Pavilion in the Alexander Park at Tsarskoye Selo
The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve have issued a tender for the completion of repair and restoration work on the Arsenal Pavilion in the Alexander Park. The estimate that the project will cost 248.1 million rubles.

Applications will be accepted until noon on August 26, the winner will be announced 28 August 2015. Completion of the work is estimate to take up to 17 months.

The project requires restoration of the facades, building structures and finishes, device engineering systems and equipment, as well as repairs to the road path network.

The Arsenal Pavilion was built in 1834 in the style of medieval Gothic buildings. The two-storey building, consists of four square towers, the central section includes four vaulted rooms and a spherical cupola. During the 19th to early 20th centuries, the Arsenal housed a museum of weapons. During the 1930s, it was used for cultural work. During World War II the Arsenal was badly damaged.

To date, the building stood without repair and preservation for more than 70 years, destroyed. In 2012, emergency and urgent restoration work was carried out on the Arsenal Pavilion to prevent further damage from the elements and for the conservation of the existing structure.

The current state of the Arsenal Pavilion. Emergency restoration work was carried out on the building in 2012
For more information on the Arsenal Pavilion, including the restoration work carried out in 2012, please refer to the following article:

Tsarskoye Selo Plans Restoration of Arsenal

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 11 July, 2015 


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 4:54 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 11 July 2015 5:12 AM EDT
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Friday, 5 June 2015
Restoration of Catherine Palace Chapel to Cost 1 Billion Rubles
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo

Watercolour ofthe Church of the Resurrection in the Catherine Palace by E.P. Hau, c. 1850
Some very exciting news from Tsarskoye Selo this week! The Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve has issued a request for tenders for the restoration of the interior of the Church of the Resurrection in the Catherine Palace.

The maximum price of the contract is nearly 1 billion Rubles. The winner will be required to carry out a restoration of the brickwork in places of dense humidity, plaster walls and ceilings, preserved stucco decoration of the ceiling and wall decor.

There are also plans to recreate fragments of the ornamented wooden carved decorations on the walls, including the gilded columns and wooden frames and the wooden sculptures of angels and cherubs. 

In addition, the responsibility of the winner of the tender will be responsible for the preservation and restoration of the ceiling painting Glory of the Holy Spirit, the preserved part of the ceiling painting The Ascension Christ, and restoration and reconstruction of lost-preserved icons. 

Applications for the contest will be accepted until June 19, and the winner to be announced on June 23. The Palace Church of the Resurrection was consecrated on July 30, 1856. Over the years, the church was restored twice after fires in 1820 and 1863. During the Great Patriotic War, the church was severely affected by Nazi shelling and looting. The restoration is expected to be completed by July 2018.

During the postwar years efforts were made to conserve the palace chapel. Some restoration work was carried out in 2002 which included the strengthening of the building, replacement of the double-glazed windows, reconstruction of utilities, heating, electricity and ventilation.

Over the course of my many visits to Tsarskoye Selo over the past two decades, I have only ever seen the interior of the palace chapel on one occasion. That was during a visit to the Catherine Palace in the 1990s with one of the many tours I organized during that decade. The chapel lacked any icons, frescoes or any church items whatsoever. The dark purple walls and lack of light presented Rastrelli's masterpiece in a very sad state. The announcement of the palace chapel's impending restoration will be welcome news for any one who has ever fallen in love with this beautiful palace and its rich historical ties to the Romanov dynasty. 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 05 June, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:46 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 8 June 2015 8:37 AM EDT
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Saturday, 30 May 2015
Exhibition: Romanovs at Tsarskoye Selo
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo


The Romanovs at Tsarskoye Selo exhibit in the Catherine Palace has been completely updated. The new permanent exhibition reopened on May 27, 2015, in the halls of the Little Enfilade of the Catherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo. This small suite of six rooms were destroyed during the Second World War, the interior decoration was never recovered and has since been used for temporary exhibitions.

Designers decorated the exhibition space in a new way which feature about 100 items—some of them displayed for the first time. The exhibit is divided into sections, each highlighting the owners of the imperial residence from Empress Elizabeth Petrovna to Emperor Nicholas II.
The updated exposition in detail introduces visitors to the history of the Romanov dynasty and the fates of the crowned owners and their families, who adored this country residence.

The new exhibition (similar to the original is built in chronological order) displays the iconic pieces from the historical collection of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve. These include formal portraits, dresses and gowns, uniforms, furniture, bronze and china. These unique historical exhibits from the palace-museum collections reflect the personal tastes, preferences and interests of members of the Romanov dynasty. Each room is accompanied with multimedia screens which provide short documentaries about the owners of Tsarskoye Selo, complete with images that show the residence as it looked at the time of its respective Imperial sovereign. 


 © Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 30 May, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 1:32 PM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 30 May 2015 4:52 PM EDT
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