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Between 1721, when Peter the Great proclaimed himself emperor, and 1917, when the Revolution brought the Romanov dynasty to its end, the Russian imperial court luxuriated in a style of living nearly unparalleled in history.

The wardrobe, jewellery, palaces, churches, furniture, objets d'art, and table settings produced for the court were more magnificent and elaborately crafted than even those created for the French and British thrones. Although lavish ostentation was the hallmark of courts throughout Europe, it tended to be reserved for grand occasions. In Russia, opulence was the signifying character of every aspect of imperial life. In fact, with the possible exception of the Pharaons of Egypt, no other rulers in history so consistently fueld an insatiable thirst, a constant search for more as did the Russian aristocracy.

Imperial Apartments, Empresses Boudoir .At its height in the mid-nineteenth century, the empire of the Romanovs comprised more than one sixth of the earth's surface. It was a "whole world, self-sufficient, independent, and absolute" - flaunting the greatest wealth in Europe. Its culture, both rich and brilliant, would continue to shine, decades after the demise of its imperial benefactors. This was the world that ended with the murders of the last of the Romanovs: Nicholas II and Alexandra, and their five children. The glorious palaces, exquisite art and music, and opulent furniture and jewelry of the Russian imperial family are survivors of a lost world of tzars.

Imperial Style Candelabra.The 1917 revolution wiped out the Russian wealthy class and abruptly ended the flow of luxury goods. Many of the existing pieces found their way to Western Europe and America as Russian emigres sold them in order to live.

In the 1920s the Bolsheviks, hard pressed for cash, sold tsarist treasures and other art and antiques to wealthy collectors and dealers, dispersing such rarities as most of the Imperial Easter Eggs created by Faberge for the tsars
Carraige belonged to Catherine the Great.
Carraige belonged to Catherine the Great.

Kremlin. Empress's study.Kremlin Apartments

n the interiors of the Imperial Apartments in Kremlin the architects and designers used the decorative elements of baroque, rococo and classicism to making each room a different and perfect artistic creation.

The living area of the rooms is adorned with elegant carvings and gildings, exquisite wall hangings, magnificent furniture and beautiful fireplaces.

The rooms are brought to life by breathtaking chandeliers gilded with gold with multi tiered garlands of crystal pendants. The floors are covered with carefully selected patterned carpets. The doors are made of various types of wood and richly decorated with inlay and relief woodcarvings.

Kremlin. The Green Drawing Room.
Kremlin. The Green Drawing Room.

Empress's bedroom.The St. Catherine Hall is adjoined on the north by three rooms, the State (Green) Drawing Room, the State Bedchamber and the State Dressing Room, which contain a remarkable collection of Russian decorative and applied art of the nineteenth century.

The Green Drawing Room is a spacious room with a vaulted ceiling painted by the Italian artist. The walls are hung with green and gold cloth, and the doors and tables are inlaid with bronze, tortoiseshell, mother-of-pearl and precious types of wood in the Boulle style. There are also articles of bronze and porcelain, of which the most noteworthy is the candelabra in "Japanese" style with sixty-six candleholders and vases for flowers. Chair from the Red Drawing Room.

The porcelain for them was designed and created by the Imperial Porcelain Works in St Petersburg. The furniture mainly by the St Petersburg's workshops and the textiles for the upholstery, curtains and wall hangings by the G.G.Sapozhnikov Moscow factory.

The main decoration of the Red Drawing Room are the columns of monolithic greenish-gray Italian marble and the fireplace of jasper made in the Urals.

Moscow, Terem Palace, the Throne Room.

Alexander Palace

The right wing of Alexander Palace. Detail of the photograph, 1998.On the territory of the Tsarskoje Selo estate, 15 miles outside of St. Petersburg, in the northern part of the Alexander Park, against a picturesque landscape stands a wonderful palace with more than two centuries of history. This is the Alexander palace, the Royal residence. Built in the end of the 18th century, Alexander palace is the architectural monument of classicism.

Alexander Palace.

The foundation was laid in 1792 by order of Empress Catherine II the Great, and the palace presented as a gift to her first and favorite grandson, Grand Duke Alexander Pavlovich (the future Emperor Alexander I) on the occasion of his marriage to Grand Duchess Elizaveta Alexeevna (1779 - 1826).

The Alexander Palace Egg. Stamped FABERGE in Cyrillic.Presented by Tsar Nicholas II to his wife, the Empress Alexandra on Easter 13 April 1908, this Faberge Easter Egg (on the right) has a tiny model of the Alexander Palace inside it. Nephrite egg with gold incrustations was also made of 54 rubies and 1805 rose-cut diamonds, silver, jade, rock crystal, glass, wood, velvet, bone and enamel, designed with 2 diamonds and 5 miniatures of the Imperial children, containing a representation of the Alexander Palace in gold inside.

The Alexander Palace egg was never sold to the West and still remains in Russia.

Drawing room in Alexander Palace, Watercolor, 1863
Drawing room in Alexander Palace, Watercolor, 1863.

Following the 1905 Russian Revolution, the Alexander Palace became the permanent residence of Emperor Nicholas II, who had been born in Tzarskoje Selo. It was here that the 22-year reign of the last Russian Emperor was passed.

During the Russian revolution of 1917, the last imperial family, Nicholas and Alexandra and their children, were imprisoned in the palace. This place, which was once their favorite escape from St. Petersburg was now their captor. The intimacy they had struggled to protect at Tsarskoe Selo was lost. On the morning of August 1, 1917, the Tsar's family was taken from the palace and sent into exile in Siberia.

Grand Duchess Maria, one of the daughters of Nicholas II outside the Alexander Palace.
Grand Duchess Maria, the daughters of Nicholas II outside the Alexander Palace. F. Feichel, Watercolor on paper. 1858.

On June 23, 1918, the Alexander Palace was opened to visitors as a state museum.

Then, with German troops advancing towards Russia during World War II, all of the palace's treasures were evacuated. But not everything could be saved. Gold leaf, inlaid wooden and tile floors, as well as intricate decorations on the palace's walls were lost. Much of the palace - the Parade Room and much of the left wing - was damaged during the war. Parts that were not damaged include the Imperial Wing and the State Rooms which stayed mostly intact.

During the World War II Alexander palace was seized by German troops. The halls of the Alexander Palace housed the German headquarters and gestapo, and the cellars became a prison. The square in front of the palace was turned into a cemetery for SS soldiers.

Currently, twenty rooms of the palace are in their original condition. The exterior of the palace, on the other hand, has suffered. It has not been touched since 1947 and is in need of new paint and stucco. After many years of neglect, the palace needs countless repairs to return it to its former condition when it was inhabited by the last Russian imperial family.

To learn more about Alexander Palace please visit Tsarskoe Selo museum website.


ivan the terrible
 peter the great  |  nicholas the second  |  anastasia  |  imperial style  |  regalia  |  jewellery

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