Monument to Alexander III to be established in Gatchina


Sculpture of Alexander III by Vladimir Brodarsky 

The Russian Historical Society (RIO) has announced the results of a competition to establish a monument to Emperor Alexander III, to be installed in the courtyard of Gatchina Palace, situated about 48 km south of St. Petersburg.

The winner of the competition is the Russian sculptor Vladimir Brodarsky, a graduate of the St. Petersburg State Academic Institute of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture named after I. Ye. Repin. One of the works of the young artist was recently presented at the Venice Biennale of Contemporary Art – he embodied Rembrandt’s The Prodigal Son in sculpture for installation in the Russian pavilion.

Project competition

RIO Chairman Sergei Naryshkin, noted that it was the Gatchina Museum-Reserve who initiated the idea to install a monument to Alexander III in the courtyard of the restored Arsenal Square. The Russian Historical Society and the Russian Military Historical Society announced a competition in May of last year. Call for applications was opened on 1st June 2018, in which four applications were submitted to the competition.

According to the rules of the competition, entries were required to create a monument based on the surviving first sketches of the monument to Emperor Alexander III by sculptor Paolo Trubetskoy (1866-1938), depicting the monarch sitting in a chair. Trubetskoy is well known for his equestrian statue of the emperor, which is now located in the main courtyard of the Marble Palace in St. Petersburg.

Georgy Vilinbakhov, Deputy Director General of the State Hermitage Museum for Scientific Work, noted that the Brodarsky project is closer to Trubetskoy’s plan compared to other projects participating in the competition.

Alexander III in Gatchina 

“Alexander III spent a significant part of his life here, within the walls of Gatchina Palace: here he was engaged in public affairs, spent time with his family and was involved in the activities of the Russian Historical Society, of which he was honorary chairman”, said Naryshkin.

Vasily Pankratov, director of the Gatchina State Museum-Reserve, expressed the hope that the monument’s installation will be implemented by March 2020, when the 175th anniversary of the birth of Alexander III will be celebrated.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 15 May 2019

Four Museums Centenary Project Opens in St. Petersburg

As Tsarskoye Selo, Peterhof, Pavlovsk and Gatchina celebrate their 100th anniversary as museums in 2018, their Four Museums’ Centenary Project culminates in their joint exhibition running at St Petersburg’s Manege Central Exhibition Hall from 19th September to 8th October 2018.

A museum and theatre project titled To Keep Forever, is conceptually curated by stage director Anderey Moguchy and essentially recites the biographies of the four former imperial residences by the language of modern theatre.

The display starts in a “theatre hall” with a huge golden traveler curtain which does not move but lets the viewer into a “labyrinth of time”. The exhibition’s narrative is based on a diary of a fictional character named “Olga” (voiced by the Russian movie and theatre star Alice Freindlich). Her voice on the audio guide set accompanies the visitor through the whole “travel in time”. Born in Tsarskoye Selo, Olga worked as a guide at Peterhof, then as a curator she evacuated art objects from the Pavlovsk Palace and later restored the Gatchina Palace. Her “diary” is full of real people, such as museum employees and other witnesses of historical events.

Following the narration, the exhibition space is divided into several areas representing different time periods. From the former royal residences the viewer proceeds to a Soviet park of culture and recreation and then, as the war begins, takes part in a large-scale evacuation of the museum collections and follows them along to the victory. The culmination is the palaces’ triumphal revival from the ashes and further paths into the present.

The most important part of the display consists of over 200 artefacts and archival photographs from the four museums’ collections, including 37 art objects, 12 surviving sculpture and décor fragments and photographic materials from Tsarskoye Selo. 

© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve. 26 September 2018

Monument to Emperor Alexander III Planned for Gatchina


Back in May of this year, the Russian Historical Society together with the Russian Military Historical Society announced an international competition for the implementation of a monument to Emperor Alexander III. 

Participants are required to create a monument based on the original sketches of a monument to Emperor Alexander III created by the famous sculptor Paolo Petrovich Troubetzkoy (1866-1938).

Troubetzkoy created two monuments to Alexander III, but only one was completed: the famous equestrian statue of Alexander III, originally established on Znamenskaya Square (now – Ploshchad Vosstaniya) in St. Petersburg (1909). Today the monument stands in the courtyard of the Marble Palace. 


Troubetzkoy’s equestrian monument of Alexander III, in the courtyard of the Marble Palace

The basis for the new monument is to complete Troubetzkoy’s unfinished second project where the emperor is depicted in an armchair (see photo at top of page), originally created in 1900.

The new Alexander III monument will be installed in the courtyard of the Arsenal Square of the Grand Palace at Gatchina. “The favourite residence of Alexander III was Gatchina, and I consider it historical justice to establish a monument to him there,” said the Chairman of the Russian Historical Society Sergei Naryshkin. 

The results of the competition will be announced at the end of September 2018.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 17 August 2018


16 Portraits stolen during WWII returned to Gatchina Palace


On 20th June, Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Nikolai Patrushev and Minister of Culture of Russia Vladimir Medinsky handed over 16 previously stolen paintings to the Gatchina Palace State Museum-Reserve.

“The return of the paintings is the result of work carried out jointly with a number of ministries and departments to locate museum funds stolen during the Great Patriotic War (1941-45) from the Gatchina Palace Museum,” the press service of the Security Council of Russia noted.

The paintings had not been evacuated at the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, and these works were considered lost to this day. This is the largest such find of paintings since 1945. To date, only one of the 52 portraits that previously adorned the palace’s portrait gallery, remained in the museum’s collection.

Patrushev at the ceremony of transferring stolen paintings stressed that the Security Council will continue to orient the law enforcement agencies to continue the search for stolen and missing paintings and other art objects belonging to Russian museums. 

Minister of Culture of Russia Vladimir Medinsky called the return of the paintings “a truly historic event.” He noted that before the Great Patriotic War, Gatchina Palace Museum possessed the largest collection of portraits in the world, and now it is gradually being restored. According to the minister, the find, handed over to the museum, became a great gift for the 100th anniversary of the suburban St. Petersburg museums, which is celebrated in 2018.


History of the collection

The portrait gallery in the Gatchina Palace was created in the Arsenal Wing in the mid 19th century. The collection began during the reign of Emperor Nicholas I (1825-55), and supplemented with additional works by his successors. The collection of portraits grew, and included representatives of the Romanov dynasty (including portraits of Empresses Elizabeth Petrovna, Catherine II, Grand Dukes Pavel Petrovich and Nikolai Pavlovich), prominent Russian statesmen, portraits of foreign political and military figures, as well as representatives of European royalty (including a rare portrait of Archduke Ferdinand).

Before the Great Patriotic War, the museum’s funds numbered more than 54 thousand exhibits. After the war, 16 thousand items from the Gatchina Palace Museum had been preserved. The palace was restored only in 1976. After the museum opened in May 1985, only 8 thousand exhibits had been returned to the palace.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 21 June 2018


Memorial Plaque to Grand Duchess Tatyana Nikolaevna Unveiled in Gatchina


Memorial plaque to Grand Duchess Tatyana Nikolaevna unveiled on 8th March 2018

This article was researched from Russian media sources and written by Paul Gilbert, Founder of Royal Russia © 2018

On 8th March 2018, a memorial plaque to Grand Duchess Tatyana Nikolaevna (1897-1918) was unveiled on the building of the new railway station at Tatyanino. The station is a stopping point for the Oktyabrskaya Railway in the city of Gatchina, on the St. Petersburg (Varshavksy or Warsaw Railway Station) – Luga line. The project was initiated by the local lore club Old Gatchina, and the Russian Railways.

The inscription on the grey granite plaque reads: “The Tatyanino platform was opened on 15 September 1916, and was named after the Grand Duchess Tatyana Nikolaevna, the daughter of Emperor Nicholas II.”

In attendance at the ceremony were the head of the Old Gatchina Club Sergei Skovpnev, Gatchina regional specialists Andrei Burlakov, and Valery Machulsky, employees of Russian Railways, Director of the Gatchina State Museum Preserve Vasily Pankratov, and members of the media.


Tatyanino Station in Gatchina

The idea to create the station at the junction of Konstantinovskaya and Olginskaya streets in Gatchina arose in 1913, when the collection of donations for its construction began. However, the construction of the platform ceased with the outbreak of the First World War.

The Committee of Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Tatyana Nikolaevna cared for the victims of hostilities. During the course of military operations, arriving refugees and wounded soldiers in need of medical assistance, emphasized the need for the new station. The wounded arrived in Gatchina from the Warsaw Railway Station in St Petersburg, and then transported through the city to local hospitals. The journey was long and complicated, and it was Grand Duchess Tatyana who proposed the construction of a new railway platform to receive the wounded. Construction work was resumed in 1916 with the financial support of the Tatyana Committee, the Ministry of Railways, and the Military Department.


Grand Duchess Tatyana Nikolaevna served as a nurse at the Tsarskoye Selo hospital

In addition to the charity work carried out by her Committee, Tatyana launched a campaign for donations to aid those soldiers and officers who were wounded or killed at the front, as well as their families. Together, with her mother the Empress Alexandra, and her older sister Olga, Tatyana helped to nurse the wounded in a private hospital at Tsarskoye Selo.

The opening of the new platform received Grand Duchess Tatyana’s name as a token of special gratitude for her mercy, took place on 15 September 15 1916. Originally it was planned to be called “Baggovutovo” in honor of the former city commandant, Lieutenant-General Karl Fyodorovich Baggovut . However, the members of the Tatyana Committee insisted on assigning the platform to the name of Grand Duchess Tatyana Nikolaevna, and the platform received the official name “Tatyanino”. From June 1917, the station began to provide serve passenger trains to and from the Imperial capital.

In 1930, there were plans to rename the platform, but they were not implemented, and the station has retained its historical name to the present day.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 12 March 2018

The Revival of Gatchina Palace


Aerial view of the Imperial palace in Gatchina

This article was researched from Russian media sources and written by Paul Gilbert, Founder of Royal Russia © 2018

In 2016, the Imperial palace in Gatchina marked its 250th anniversary. The palace was built for Count Grigoriy Orlov (1734-1783), who employed Italian-born architect Antonio Rinaldi to design the Gatchina Palace. Rinaldi began work in 1766, and took fifteen years to complete the castle-style building.

After Orlov’s death, Rinaldi’s design pleased Empress Catherine I enough for her to buy Gatchina back from Orlov’s heirs, and present it to her son, the future Paul I, who commissioned his own favourite architect, Vincenzo Brenna (1747-1820), who had already reworked the Grand Palace at Pavlovsk for him, to expand Gatchina. 

The former imperial residence outside St. Petersburg, was to become a favourite among four emperors: Paul I, Nicholas I, Alexander II and Alexander III. The latter chose the palace to be one of the official residences, and periodically spent half of a year at Gatchina engaged in public affairs.

During the Revolution and Civil War, Gatchina was the site of two major events – the final fall of Kerensky’s Provisional Government in 1917, and Trotsky’s defeat of the final advance of the White Army from Estonia in July 1919. The town was renamed Trotsk for six years in the 1920s. The palace and park were opened to the public soon after the Revolution, and served as a museum until occupied by the Nazis in 1941. As elsewhere, occupation brought severe damage to the palace and park, and restoration work is still continuing over 70 years later.


The Marble Staircase

The Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union during the Great Patriotic War (1941-45) left the grand palaces at Peterhof, Tsarskoye Selo, and Pavlovsk in ruins. The restoration of the palaces began almost immediately after the war, and continues to this day. While vast funds were allocated to the ongoing restoration of the grand palaces, the palace at Gatchina was mostly forgotten. In fact, it was not until 1984-85 that restoration of the Imperial palace at Gatchina began. Projects were continually delayed due to a lack of funding in the 1990s, however, in recent years, a number of major restoration projects have been completed in the palace. Since 2009, after a plea of former governor Valentina Matvienko, that major funding was allocated for restoration work.

Between 1874 – 1880, Eduard Hau (1807-1888) was commissioned to paint 56 watercolours of the interiors of the Gatchina Palace. In the 1870s, additional watercolours of the palace interiors were painted by another famous artist – Luigi Premazzi (1814-1891). These watercolours draw attention to detail of the rooms, including the architecture, furniture, and decorative items, and have played a crucial role in the restoration projects of Gatchina Palace.


The Greek Gallery

In 2007, the apartments of Alexander III and his family, which occupy the mezzanine floor of the Arsenal Wing were restored. Much of the historical lay-out of the rooms were preserved and now home to a permanent exhibition which depict the private life of the Imperial family.

On 1st June 2016, four newly-restored rooms in the palace’s eastern wing – the Greek Gallery, Rotary Room, Light Passage and Rotunda – heavily damaged during the Nazi occupation of World War II, opened for public viewing for the first time since World War II. According to museum workers, the interiors were restored from archival drawings, photographs and paintings.


The study of Emperor Alexander III.                            Photo:

On 30th December 2016, the Marble Staircase – one of the most beautiful interiors of the Arsenal Block of the palace was reopened – after an extensive restoration, which began in mid-2013. The grand staircase was built during the reign of Emperor Nicholas I (1825-1855) by the architect R.I. Kuzmin. The staircase was badly damaged during the Great Patriotic War. A partial restoration was carried out in the 1950s, however, it would be more than 50 years before the project was completed.

Another ongoing project is the restoration of the palace chapel – the Church of the Life-Giving Trinity. The 19th century interiors of the palace church are the only ones in the palace, which have remained almost unchanged. The church was not affected by the terrible fire during the liberation of Gatchina in 1944, nor the subsequent postwar re-planning. The church dome, stucco molding, and stained glass have all been restored. The next stage of restoration will be the recreation of the lost iconostasis.


Suite of rooms of Emperor Nicholas I currently under restoration

The private rooms of Emperor Paul I are scheduled to open this autumn, and the suite of rooms of Emperor Nicholas I and his consort Empress Alexandra Feodorovna are scheduled to open this summer. The restoration of unique fireplaces of Italian marble with hand-cut decor elements have already been recreated in the latter. Other elements which will be recreated include stucco decoration, ceiling lights, and wallpaper. Empire furniture, porcelain vases and canvases will be restored to their place, according to the watercolours of Hau and Premazzi, and pre-war photographs.

The restoration of the Chesme Gallery has been underway for some years now. It leads from the central building to the palace church. The gallery ranks among Vincenzo Brenna’s finest creations, its interior glorifying the victory of the Russian Navy off Chesme in 1770. The semicircular layout of the interior served to enhance its decorative effect. The restoration of the Chesme Gallery is expected to take several more years, but is regularly used as an exhibition hall.


One of Hackert’s paintings in the Chesme Gallery

On 28th March 1918, the former Imperial palace and park ensembles of Pavlovsk, Peterhof, Tsarskoye Selo, Gatchina and Oranienbaum, were nationalized and turned into museum reserves. In 2018, a joint exhibition, which presents documents and collections of all four museum-reserves, will take place. Each will hold their own scientific and practical conferences for specialists, as well as prepare special programs for visitors.

After decades of neglect, the Imperial palace in Gatchina is well on it’s way to joining the string of architectural pearls, which surround the former Imperial capital of St. Petersburg.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 3 February, 2018