In former Tsarskoye Selo, which now is named Pushkin town - the suburb of St Petersburg, there are two summer palaces of the Russian emperors. Alexander Palace is the elegant two-storey classical yellow edifice, with the Corinthian white colonnade gracing the central part and two large wings at both sides. It is situated to the north from the majestic Catherine Palace and encircled by the vast landscape Alexander Park. This structure was the witness to the rise and fall of the Romanovs house.
History of Alexander Palace
Catherine the Great made no secret of the fact that she considered her natural son Paul to be incapable of ruling Russia. She wanted her grandson Alexander to be the next emperor. For this reason she was bringing up the boy herself and married him to the princess of Baden when Alexander was only 15. Empress ordered the summer palace to be built for the teenage couple. The Italian architect Giacomo Quarenghi was commissioned to construct the classical style palace in Tsarskoye Selo, the favorite summer retreat of the empress Catherine II. Quarenghi started construction works in 1792 and completed the palace in 1796. Alexander and his wife Elisabeth moved in their new home in June 1796, during the last year of Catherine’s reign. When Alexander became the emperor he never used it again.
Alexander Palace in 1830s became the summer home of his younger brother, Nicholas I. He and his wife Alexandra preferred the classical austerity of this palace to the baroque luxury of Catherine Palace.
But there is another Russian Imperial couple who are associated with this palace all over the world. They are also Nicholas and Alexandra, but lived in the same building half a century later. The last Romanovs lived here every summer, and since 1904 made it their permanent residence. Nicholas II practically ruled Russia from here. In March 1917 he returned to Alexander palace from the Headquarters, having abdicated the throne, no longer the Emperor, but Colonel Romanov. Here the family was kept under the house arrest and from here they were exiled to Siberia.
During the Soviet times Alexander Palace briefly functioned as the museum, showing the life of the “bloody Nicholas II’. In 1930s it was the sanatorium and the orphanage. In 1941 Alexander Palace was occupied by the Nazis. The damage was immense. The Soviet government was not interested in the proper restoration of the building. Recovery of the palace began only in 1990s.
Architect Giacomo Quarenghi has travelled across Europe studying architecture in various countries. His greatest inspiration in professional career was the work by the Italian 1500s master Andrea Palladio “The Four Books of Architecture”. Palladio based his ideas on the achievements of Ancient Greece and Rome. Quarenghi was commissioned by Catherine the Great as the champion of Palladian architecture and Neo-Classical style, since she herself preferred this style in architecture above everything else.
Alexander Palace turned out to be one of the best highlights of Quarenghi’s career in Russia. He was very busy in St Petersburg during 2 decades, working as the royal architect and designing dozens of buildings for various government bodies. But still one of his earliest works, Alexander Palace, is considered to be the pearl among them all by most top art historians. Alexander Palace was eventually designed as the summer home of the Imperial family, so its outlook is airy and light. The courtyard façade is the excellent specimen of Neo-classicism. Palace building is facing the north; the façade is adorned by the two rows of columns, making up the Corinthian colonnade passage. There are two bronze statues in front of the colonnade, representing young athletes playing traditional Russian outdoor games. These boys are supposed to promote Russian traditions, but they do not look like true Russian peasants at all. Sculptures have perfect images of Greek gods: this was the peculiar feature of classicism in sculpture.
The Halls of Alexander Palace
By 2010 the first three state rooms of the palace: the Semi-Circular Hall, the Portrait Hall and Marble Drawing room have been restored. They showcase the solemn Neo-classical style. Actually one can stroll across all three of them since they have no connecting doors and look like one gigantic hall. The left wing had the private chambers of Nicholas and Alexandra, the last Russian Royal couple. They both loved them very much, and Alexandra herself supervised the design and furnishings. When children were born their rooms were set up on the second floor.пии. Мы имеем уникальную возможность любоваться подлинными залами, где жила великая императрица.
Marble Drawing Room
This interior has another name also: Billiard Hall. Under Nicholas I billiard game became very popular among gentlemen, especially the military men. Every noble house had the special room for the billiard. Under the last Tsar billiard moved out of this hall into the left wing of the palace. This hall has become one the reception rooms. In 1860s it was graced by two paintings: the portrait of Empress Alexandra, the wife of Nicholas I; and portrait of Queen Victoria, the diplomatic gift from Queen of Great Britain to Nicholas I. Both portraits have survived wars and revolutions and are exhibited in this chamber.
This is the center of the gala suite of rooms. This chamber had the least number of changes in the course of history and looks almost the same as Quarenghi made it. The walls of the room, like in the other two, are faced with shiny artificial marble. The hall gets its name from the apse, which is semi-circular and the central door leads onto the terrace overlooking the garden. Through these doors on August 1, 1917, the “Former Tsar’s Family” has left Alexander Palace forever. The leader of the Provisional government Alexander Kerensky exiled them to the city of Tobolsk in Siberia.
The Portrait Hall
This chamber gets its name from the big number of portraits of the Romanovs family members, including Nicholas I, his four sons, Alexander I and Catherine the Great. This was also the ceremonial room, decorated with the French Jacob furniture, grand bronze chandeliers dating back to Catherine the Great and exclusive parquetry in a diamond pattern.