The Mauve Boudoir
A Textile and Upholstery Report for the Restoration of the Mauve Boudoir and Palisander Rooms.
This report was created by Nicholson Advisory for the Friends of the Alexander Palace in 2013 in order to help in their work raising funds for the restoration of the textiles in the suite of rooms at the Alexander Palace belonging to the Emperor and Empress. French textiles were expensive at the turn of the century, and they remain justly so today for their high quality and the fact that the method of their production has hardly changed since 1900. This report was submitted to the staff of the Alexander Palace in the hope that it would be possible for the Friends to assist them in commissioning reproduction fabrics for the rooms.
In 2013, the hope was to have the rooms restored in time for the 100th anniversary of the departure of the Imperial Family from the Alexander Palace, but museum priorities were different and the most pressing project of that year was the creation and installation of the museum dedicated to the First World War which opened in the newly-restored Martial Chamber at Tsarskoye Selo in August of 2014.
There was debate for several years over whether the rooms of Nicholas & Alexandra would be restored to their original condition, including the furnishings and textiles. Today, the recreation of the furnishings and architectural details of the Maple Room, the Palisander Room, and the Mauve Boudoir are well under way by the “Stavros” firm of St. Petersburg. It is unclear whether the textiles will be accurately recreated; the cost is substantial, and it would take two or more years to have the textiles and trims recreated in France by the original mills.
I hope you enjoy this report, which is full of interesting archival information rarely seen, and I thank Bob Atchison, Rob Moshein, and Paul Brewer of the Friends for their permission to publish this work online. All photos for this article are from the collection of Bob Atchison, and may not be reproduced for any other purpose.
REPORT OF AUGUST 1, 2013
To restore the Mauve Boudoir at the Alexander Palace to its appearance at the time of the departure of the Imperial Family for Siberia in July of 1917. This will involve recreation of all the architectural elements, painted finishes, furnishings, textiles, and upholstery, as well as the reinstallation of existing (and/or recreated) works of art and objects that were kept in the Mauve Boudoir.
EXECUTIVE PROJECT SUMMARY:
The following research and documentation reveals and notes all available documentation pertaining to the upholstery and textile finishes of the Mauve Boudoir in order to arrive at a full estimate of what is required to be reproduced, and how much it will cost.
Final word on textile quantities and costs rest with Prelle, who will be engaged to reproduce the fabrics, and with the upholsterers of the Tsarskoye Selo Museum complex who will do the work, but judging from the following documentation, the Friends would be requested to source funding for the production of the following:
Violet Gourgourrand Stripe silk for the walls, curtains, and portieres +/- 225 meters
Violet Lampas Silk for the upholstered furnishings. +/- 75 meters
Coordinating silk trimmings for furniture to be reproduced from illustrations:
Deep fringe (for chair and sofa skirts?) +/- 22 meters
Narrow fringe (for shelves?) +/- 3.5 meters
70 pairs of tassels with rosettes (for Turkish pillows)
8 Pairs of Tassels with Rosettes (for the bergeres?)
4 Tassels (for bergeres?)
Marabou +/- 37 meters
Narrow Galloon Tape (chair gimp?) +/- 85 meters
Wider Galloon Tape (Bergere tape?) +/- 60 meters
Silk Cord +/- 6 meters
Fringe (for curtains) +/- 65 meters
Cord (for curtains) +/- 37 meters
Galloon (for curtains and portières) +/- 55 meters
24 Tassels with Laces (for curtains and portières)
3 Rosettes (for curtains and portières)
Prelle has created some of the most famous and exceptional textiles in the world from its mills in Lyons since 1749. Over the subsequent more than two hundred and fifty years, the house has gone under several names, absorbed dozens of smaller mills, and now exists with the premier archive of the work of the greatest weavers of the Syndicat de Lyons since the seventeenth century. Notable original and reproduced works produced by Prelle include: the summer hangings for the bedroom of Queen Marie Antoinette at Versailles (orig. & repro.), the hangings for the Choir Anteroom at the Catherine Palace (repro.), the hangings for the Throne Room of Peter the Great at the Winter Palace (orig.), and textiles for the Hermitage Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Hermitage, the Chateau de Malmaison, Chateau de Versailles, and Marble House (Newport, RI, USA).
PRELLE: THE MAUVE BOUDOIR AND PALISANDER ROOM FABRICS
In a July 30 meeting with Terry Wendell of Prelle in New York, conversation covered the following:
The Mauve Room fabric was supplied by Charles Burger a Paris retailer of silk woven in Lyons.
No textile merchant with a Paris address were responsible for weaving. All silks of that quality were produced exclusively at Lyons, and then retailed in Paris by licensed merchants, of which Burger was one.
There is a very great possibility that the textiles woven both for the Mauve Boudoir and the Pallisander Room were woven by one of the mills whose archives are currently conserved by Prelle.
With the information provided by the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve and Tsarskoye Selo Friends Society, Prelle can begin a thorough search through their archives for the bills (under the name Meltzer) of 1895 in order to see if they have the original weaving specifications and samples for the fabric and passementerie (trimmings).
Prelle believes that there is a very high possibility that the original orders were placed through them and may be easily reproduced from original specifications.
If the orders were NOT originally placed through Prelle or one of their associated mills, they will need is one “repeat” of each of the original textiles in order to perform a scientific analysis to determine the original specifications (silk weight, thread count, weaving style, color), and to fabricate an authentic reproduction.
Prelle has on staff a team of historical textile specialists who have for many years worked with the top museums and institutions around the world, including the State Hermitage Museum and the Catherine Palace at Tsarskoye Selo.
They have on-staff a dedicated tri-lingual (French, Russian, and English) Russian-born researcher thoroughly familiar with the specialized production and delivery requirements of Russian Institutions.
PRODUCTION AND PRICING DETAILS
It will be impossible to formulate an accurate estimate for production of these textiles and trimmings until the fabrication specifications are finalized.
To confirm specifications for these two projects (the Mauve Boudoir and the Palisander Room) research must be executed in the Prelle Archives (six months to one year), or full samples of everything to be reproduced presented to Prelle in France by the Alexander Palace.
The archives, mills, and Prelle offices are closed for the month of August. In September, we can formulate a schedule for this project.
In the most general terms, the fabric will be the easiest part of this project. Once finalized specifications are confirmed by all parties, and the project is “on loom” it will take 6-8 weeks to weave the fabrics.
The passementerie (trimmings) for this project is the most complicated part. As with all 19th century decoration, trimmings were an integral part of the unification of any décor. In the Mauve Boudoir, because of the monochromatic nature of the design, there is an unusually wide range of styles and textures of trimmings used to emphasize the fabric.
Passementerie is still produced by hand in France, and an order of this size could take as long as two years or more to execute.
The Passementerie for this project will cost twice as much as the textiles themselves. We may be looking in the vicinity of one million dollars (+/- 30%) for the Mauve Boudoir alone.
Considering that the original textile bills were over 22,000 rubles for the room, and the most expensive Faberge egg ever produced for the Imperial Family (the 1913 Winter Egg) was just under 25,000. (About 12,500 dollars in 1913, or over 250,000 today.) The fabric has held its price and value for over 100 years
It is hoped that this project may be completed and installed in time for the 2017 anniversary of the departure of the Imperial Family from the Alexander Palace. There is enough time at this point, if we move quickly.
Prelle has noted that this is not the only project that they have. There are many long term projects already on the schedule, which will contribute to the timing.
Prelle will not estimate cost or delivery until all specifications are determined and finalized with the Alexander Palace and the Tsarskoye Selo Friends Society.
THE PRIVATE APARTMENTS “EN SUITE”
The designs for the architecture, decorations, and furnishing of the private apartments were executed to the orders of the Imperial couple in 1895-1896. We know that the Palisander Room, the Mauve Boudoir, and the Imperial Bedroom were conceived “en suite” and furnished accordingly with a progressive feeling of both lightness and intimacy. The Palisander Room was hung with straw-green silk and floors were covered with a patterned plum-colored wall-to-wall carpet that complemented the rosewood furnishings designed by Meltzer in the Sheraton taste. From the Palisander Room, where the family often took meals, and where they received their closest friends and family, one passed into the Mauve Boudoir.
The Mauve Boudoir was designed for light, airiness, informality, and modern comfort. The furniture, made of lemonwood, was painted and glazed in a faux-ivory finish and from its installation the room was lighted electrically by lace and silk-shaded sconces, picture lights, and task lighting throughout the room. The room continued the palette of the Palisander Room, but in a typical fin-de-siècle effect, the colors were reversed and lightened. While the Palisander Room had lemongrass-colors walls and a plum carpet in a mid-range value, in the transition to the Mauve Boudoir a pale lilac which graced the walls, and a pale pistachio green carpet covered the floor. These effects heightened the visual progression for guests moving from the gilded (state halls designed for the public), to the jewel-toned (Pallisander Room, Maple Room, Nicholas’ Library and Study.), to the opalescent (Mauve Boudoir), and finally to the predominantly white Imperial Bedroom (to which no one but the Emperor and Empress and personals servants had access).
The walls in the Mauve Boudoir were upholstered in lilac-colored French gourgourrand stripe fabric. The one set of curtains, and pair of portières were made of the same fabric with coordinating passementerie (trimmings) of guipure tape, gallon fringe, tassels, rope, and cording. All the upholstered furniture was covered in a coordinating monochromatic lilac silk lampas woven with a floral jacquard pattern on a striped ground. The floors were covered in a pale pistachio green wool Wilton wall-to-wall carpet with an all-over trellis pattern of leaves in a monochromatic effect.
Whereas the wood in the Palisander Room was dark and French-polished to a high gloss, all the furniture and architectural work in the Mauve Boudoir was executed in lemonwood, and then painted and glazed in imitation of ivory. Anatoly Kuchumov wrote that the style of the room and its furnishings was “Louis XV” but again, the character of the room is really English in nature.
While other aspects of the Mauve Boudoir may have been partly responsible for its charm, clearly the largest decorative effect of this room lay in the impact of such a large quantity of opalescent lilac-hued silk against ivory-painted wood, and the changeable quality of the color and diffused light as it passed from natural light during the day, to low-voltage electrical spot and task lighting for the paintings and on the tables, and finally, light from the wood burning fireplace and the oil-burning icon lamps at night. This impact, combined with its eclectically designed furnishings, modern electrical lighting effects, an important collection of art glass, and a collection of paintings largely valuable for their personal associations, made what Robert Massie referred to as “the most beautiful room in Russia.”
TEXTILE REPORT: MAUVE BOUDOIR
The room was designed and executed by Roman Meltzer of the firm of F. Meltzer & Co., St. Petersburg. Roman Meltzer’s design specified a great deal of upholstery, and we are able to see exactly how many pieces were ordered and paid for, and should be able, based on photographs and these records to deduce correct yardage, as well as the manner of upholstery. The following are the pieces from the Meltzer bill. Those italicized are the pieces that include upholstery, or the work of upholsterers.
LL 48/Ll. # 47.
Furniture Trade House F. Meltzer S. Petersburg
Bill: to Tsarskoselskoye Court Administration - February 20, 1896
The work done to order of Their Imperial Majesties in Alexandrovsky Palace - The Study of Her Majesty
Furniture, decoration of the walls, etc, with carving and painting in imitation of ivory.
1 Sofa 175 rbls
4 Armchairs, carved 560 rbls
1 Large Armchair with a down pillow 175 ''
1 Large corner Sofa with down pillows and large
corner- stand with shelves and a small cabinet, fitting
and installation included 1.775 "
2 Armchairs, soft 110"
4 Chairs, carved 340"
2 Stools 116"
1 Stool for the piano 90"
1 Chair for the desk 90"
1 Desk with a stand and a small closet,
upholstered with soft leather (in Russian: cotea) 765 "
LL. 47 on the back
1 Table-stand, rectangular, by the window 175 rbls.
1 Small teatable, oval, with a stand 230 "
1 Screen /three-part/ of plate glass with facet 285 "
1 Closet-stand by the piano behind the sofa 320 "
1 Large round table by the corner sofa,
decorated with soft leather and bronze
casters 390 "
New panelling for the piano in the style of the room 485 "
1 Table, rectangular, with the shelf by the sofa 240 "
1 Stand-shelf, hanging over it with a small closet 325 "
1 Small round-table 110 "
1 Small show-case 225 "
1 Stand-closet for music 250 "
1 Standing shelf for music, portable 68 "
1 Library book-case, large, with the sofa,
with down pillows and bolsters, with small
draperies, decorated with soft leather inside,
installation included 1,250 "
1 Table-stand by the large sofa 250 "
1 Fire-place, large, with mirror and shelves
over it, faced with marble, with a step,
installation included 1.950 "
Trivet for it, made of forged polished iron 235 rbls.
Bronze fireguard in front of the fireplace
with wide screen and a set of irons 340 "
1 Screen of three parts, with plate- glasses with facets. 50 "
1 Platform [jardinière] for plants, large, carved in front of the
windows, with copper inserts 565 "
1 Platform [jardinière] for plants behind the sofa 96 "
4 Foot - stools 112 "
1 Basket for papers 70 "
Wooden panels for the walls with battress [batting?] behind
the piano, with stand for flowers, with built-in
open closets near the fire-place with draperies;
partition behind the sofa;
frames for fixing fabric;
fitting and installation including 1.875 "
Cutting and stitching fabric and fustian for the
walls and fixing it; upholstering and binding work 384 "
Decoration of 2 windows
1 Winter sash, rectangular
1 Summer sash, rectangular
1 Carved sash, for semicircular window, made of oak-
wood, with removable frame, window frames,
windowsill and plate
and; fitting, installation and
painting including 825 "
LL. 48 on the back
A set of fixing ware for windows /16 hinges,
4 angle-bars and 2 hooks for upper window-panes/ 60 "
4 Window-bolts, of gilded bronze 350 "
3 Ledges for 1 window and 2 doors, installation
including 66 "
Cutting, stitching and installation of 1 curtain and
2 draperies/portieres 270 "
1 Railing [Curtain rod] of gilded bronze, with rings for the large
window 85 "
Cutting, stitching, fitting and installation of the
carpet and felts, etc. 300"
Rails for pictures around the room, installation included 185 "
115 Felts for packing things by 75 kop 86 rbls 25kop.
29 sheets of paper " " " 58 rbls.
10 Cart-horses for delivery to Tsarskoe Selo 60 rbls
5 Wagons " " " 1.575 "
The amount paid for delivery of things by railway 74 rbls 50 kop
Sum-total for the above specified work 17,181.75 rbls in silver
The efforts and costs here are considerable. We may see from the billing that Meltzer was responsible for the execution and hanging of the curtains and portières, the preparation of the walls for the hanging of the silk and for the execution (if not the covering) of all the upholstered furniture for the room, both built in and moveable.
The bill from the silk purveyor in Paris gives us more clues
Rue des Petits Champs, 39
Paris, le 18 Aout 1895
Monsieur F.Meltzer, St.Petersburg
metrage F c F c
220''80 tournure royale reseda 19- 4195 20
11.80 22.70 25.50
60 " Lampas moryneute reseda 58 3480 -
75.50 Lampas violet 88- 6644 -
44.80 43.50 44.30
219.90 Gourgourant violet 39 8576.10
Réseda is French for “Mignonette” or wild lemongrass. This is clearly the “Straw Green” upholstery for the walls, curtains, and portières of the Palisander Room. The terms “Tournure Royale” and “Lampas Moryneute” [sp. Mornayeuté? In the style of Mornay?] are technical terms describing the weaves of silk employed. The meterage for the Lampas and Gourgourrand is for the Mauve Boudoir.
The following invoice from F. Meltzer & Co. incorporates the bill from Charles Burger for the fabric, but also indicates most of the passementerie, or trimmings, required for the finishing of the room.
Furniture Trade House F. Meltzer S.Petersburg
Bill: to Tsarskoselskoye Court Administration
February 20, 1896
For fabrics, carpets, trimmings etc., commissioned by us to the order of Their Imperial Majesties for Alexandrovsky Palace
For the Study of Her Majesty
74 1/2 meters of the fabric "Lampas violet" for the furniture
per the bill of Ch. Burger (by 88 frs. - Frs. 6.644~ by 38 2,524"72
Trimming-Set for the furniture
30 arsh. of the fringe, wide, by 13 rbls 390''
4 1/4 '' of the fringe, narrow, by 6 r. 25”50
70 pairs of Tassels with rosettes for pillows, by 4 r. 280''
8 pairs of Tassels with rosettes for the furniture by 4r.50k 36''
4 Tassels, by 3r.50k 14''
51 arsh. of marabou by 1r.50k. 76r 50k
120 arsh. of galloon, narrow, by 50k 60''
84 arsh. of galloon, wider, by 60k 50,40
8 arsh. of cord, by 30k 2,40
For the walls.165 arsh. of fustian, by 40k. 66''
LL.53 on the back
116 arsh. of Agramant by 2.75 319''
61 arsh. of Agramant, narrower by 1.60 97.60
14 arsh. of Agramant, narrow by 50k 7''
For 1 curtain and 2 portieres:
207 arsh. of lining by 1.10 227.70
96 '' '' of fringe 6.50 624''
51 arsh. of cord by 1.50 76.50
24 Tassels with laces 8.0 192''
78 arsh. of Galloon 2.0 156''
3 Rosettes with trimming 12.0 36''
127,5 arsh. of Fustian 40k 51''
1 Sliding Curtain for the rectangular window with
trimming set etc. 175''
1 Large sliding curtain, made of silk with fringe,tassels, etc. 296'
183 1/2 arsh. of the carpet on the floor by 9.0 1,651.50
880 arsh. of Cord for the picture rails by 30 264''
45 Rosettes 290''
219.90 meters of fabric "Bourgoundviolet" for the walls
and curtains per the bill from Ch. Burger
by 39 f. Frs. 8,567.10
by 38 3,258.92
These bills point to all the fabric and passementerie needed for the Mauve Boudoir and the Pallisander Room. In the appendices are a letter from Grand Duchess Elizabeth regarding the “English Taste” and the arrangement of the rooms of Nicholas & Alexandra at the Winter Palace indicating the family’s attraction to English style (Appendix 1), a series of detailed photographs of these upholstered pieces with close-up photographs of upholstery, trimming, and carving detail arrangements (Appendix 2), and finally, images of the period fabrics themselves, as well as potential replacements (Appendix 3).
While the current Russian name for the room, “Сирень Кабинет” most literally translates as “Lilac Cabinet” or “Lilac Office,” the room was referred to in English as the “Mauve Boudoir,” by the Empress and by her contemporaries, (CF Dehn, Lili; The Real Tsaritsa; part 2, Ch. 4) and is referred to as such throughout this work. The room was identified by the Tsarskoye Selo Office of the Imperial Household as “The Private Study of Her Imperial Majesty the Empress.”
Nicholas II himself referred to this room as the “Chippendale” sitting-room. Clearly, neither the Emperor nor the Empress were experts in decorative arts. However, the Emperor’s use of the term “Chippendale,” and Meltzer’s original designs in a modified late Sheraton taste, clearly indicate that the feeling of all three rooms was meant to be thoroughly “English”. Both the Empress and her sister the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna placed a high emphasis on the “cozy” and comfortable nature of the English Victorian interior. (cf letter from GD EF to NII 22 May, 1894, regarding the furnishing of the private apartments at the Winter Palace, see appendix 1)
Gourgourrand; a monochromatic striped silk weave in face à contre-face with the contre-face woven in the faille technique.
 Lampas; A monochromatic or polychromatic silk jacquard-weave fabric known for its reflective effects.
Nicholas referred to the carpet as an “Axminster”, but there is no evidence that the carpet was made at Axminster or in the Axminster style. Photographs show what is likely a Wilton carpet, standard in luxurious interiors in Europe, Great Britain, and the United States throughout the 19th century.
Kuchumov, Anatoly Mikhailovitch (1912-1993), Former Chief Curator of the Alexander & Catherine Palaces, art historian, honored culture worker of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (1975), honorary citizen of the town of Pavlovsk (1992).
Kuchumov’s identification of the interior as Louis XV is largely based on the shape of the cabriole legs of the furniture in the Mauve Boudoir, and the style of the ceiling painting. As in the Palisander Room, Meltzer created original designs based on English models of the mid-eighteenth century (in this case, Chippendale ribbon-back chairs), but changed their scale and proportions to that of French-furniture of the same period. Meltzer attached graceful French legs where the original English models would undoubtably have had straight legs. This was in an effort to “feminize” the style for the Empress. Nevertheless, like the Palisander Room, the style and character of the room was perceived by the Imperial Family as “English” rather than “French.”
Massie is effusive, and his statement is arguable at best, but the room remains important for what it symbolized over the course of the reign of Nicholas II. The room was initially perceived as “charming and modern,” and a sign of the new Empress’ emphasis on the importance of family life. 20 years later in 1914, the room was regarded by society as “dowdy, modish, and outdated.” Later, rumors of political intrigue on the part of the Empress were tied to this room, and orders perceived to have been issued “from the Mauve Boudoir” were widely criticized. In the Soviet period, this room was presented to visitors as “decadent and utterly foreign.”
“Arsh.” Stands for “Arshin” (Аршин) a Russian measurement standardized by Peter the Great to equal 28 English inches. So, 30 arshin = 840 inches = 70 feet = 23.333 yards.
“Fustian” is a heavyweight cotton. Given the evidence here, it was used as an intermediary layer to cover the batting on the upholstered walls. Today in the US we use muslin.
These “Tassels with laces” are presumably the double loop bow tassels seen on the corners of the Turkish pillows in the images.
This “sliding curtain” appears to have been some kind of a backed silk roller shade, rather than a scrim curtain of silk. Roller blinds were very popular in the mid-late 19thcentury for allowing light but ensuring privacy.
Likely a poor transcription by the researcher. This is the Gourgourrand silk.
It may have been on this trip that Nicholas II placed initial orders with Maples & Co. for furniture for the Winter Palace.
Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, Marchioness of Lorne, 18 March 1848 - 3 December 1939
Princess Helena, HRH Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, 25 May 1846 – 9 June 1923
22 May 1894 Moscow (To N II)
I send you some religious books you might bring her [Alexandra]. Perhaps after all it would be good, if her becoming Orthodox were an official act at Petersburg, people are so odd you know and might think if it is private that one hides something from them, and the first impressions are those which cling all through life and can either directly make her popular or leave a slight shade.
Do give me a little news from England à propos of the rooms. 1 talked with Masha but in England you will get delightful ideas and there are big warehouses where one can see ready rooms. Victoria must know all those places and where to find pretty chintz and then china for washing stands.
Here are some Empire ideas - send to a shop for French books with Empire furniture, the English books are best for dressing, bedroom, cosy boudoir- the idea of Jacob in your dining-room might be lovely all your lovely silver things the real old English dining rooms have that furniture - get the pretty engraving (1 think you can find it at Bygrofs or Gelton) called 'Darby and Joan' painted by Sadler engraved by Bauchir it is so simple and yet lovely. In England, you will find heaps of such rooms. Try and see some fine private houses in London, ask Aunt Louise Lorne's advice she is a real artist, Alix can tell you and so pleased to help - Windsor is not pretty, I love the place but the style of rooms I do not like. Cumberland lodge where Aunt Helenalives is oh so cosy.
Now I must end with Sergei and my best love,
your tenderly affectionate sister,