L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The four daughters of Nicholas II and the Empress Alexandra

Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia; their lives and tragic deaths are too well known for it to be necessary to go into all of it here.  These photographs were taken late in 1913 or very early the next year; Tatiana had fallen ill with typhoid during the Romanov Tercentenary year of 1913 and her hair had been cut short, hence her growing-out bob.  (Bobbed hair wouldn't otherwise be permissible for several more years.)  As well as I know these faces, the posed, expressionless profiles are striking, and I'm surprised at just how dissimilar those four profiles are.

I'd never seen these images before and wondered what they'd been made for.  I presumed they were taken to use as models for some sort of medal or bas-relief, but then I remembered the "surprise" contained in one of Fabergé's famous jeweled Easter eggs.  Indeed, these photographs are quite obviously the basis for the enamel portrait of the Imperial couple's children that is contained within the "Mosaic Egg" that was presented to the Empress Alexandra in 1914.

Fabergé's "Mosaic Egg" was purchased by George V and Queen Mary in 1933, and remains in the British Royal Collection.


  1. Lovely. And nice detective work. Do you think they positioned them this way to hide the short hair at all? Since it wasn't fashionable?

    1. Probably just a graceful coincidence. A "stacked" series of profiles was a fairly typical way to design a group portrait, and as long as she wasn't the youngest or oldest - which she wasn't - and therefore the portrait most likely to be placed in the uppermost, most foregrounded position, the majority of her hair would necessarily be covered. Et voilà!