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, September 13, 2015

From house to home

Or more accurately, from apartment to house to home. After living in the same apartment for the whole ten years of our cohabitation, Gigi and and I just bought a house. Built in 1908, it is a solid, remarkably intact structure, but it is in need of a LOT of cleaning, renovation, and restoration. All of which is fully underway. But in the meantime, I'm finding it difficult to give sufficient attention to this blog. I'll be back, more than intermittently, when the - literal - dust settles, and the old house has become our home. xo

Oh, and it needs a bit of gardening, too....

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Two girls in wartime - Grand Duchesses Maria and Anastasia Nikolaevna, 1915

In 1914, at the commencement of what would come to be called "The Great War" - World War I - the ladies of the Imperial family and of the Russian aristocracy quickly moved to organize and supply hospitals for the wounded, to work as administrators of hospitals under their patronage; many trained as nurses and actually assisted in surgery and in the care of the wounded. The Empress set up several hospitals and took a great interest in the overall running of hospitals during the war. She made visits to those at the front, especially, but her main focus was the hospitals she'd set up near her home at Tsarskoe Selo. She and her two elder daughters had trained as nurses and spent much of the war serving in that capacity, both in the operating room and in the wards; most days they would don their Red Cross nurse's uniforms and walk or drive to the nearby hospitals and report for work.

The Empress's two younger daughters - Maria was sixteen in the Spring of 1915, Anastasia, fourteen - were considered too young for nursing duties. But they had a hospital at Tsarskoe Selo under their patronage, where they would go to visit with the wounded soldiers - many not much older than they - and plays cards and checkers and billiards with them. Both girls were very down-to-earth and became good friends with many of "their" soldiers.

I've seen many photographs of ladies of the Imperial family taken during the war, nursing - wearing their characteristic nun-like Red Cross  uniforms - or visiting with the wounded. The two above caught my attention, though. I've spoken before about how the condition of some of the images of the last Imperial family - faded, stained, torn - often cause a shudder of foreshadowing, informed by what we know of their sad fate. The condition of these two make me wonder about something else, though: who did they belong to? How did they end up in this state? I wonder if either or both of these might have been kept by one of the soldiers in the picture. Only two years later, and for seven decades after, having an image of the Imperial family in one's possession could have been very compromising, even dangerous. The second, especially, looks to have been folded up, the folding causing most of the eventual damage. I have no way of knowing, but I like to think that this was kept, folded up and hidden away, by a soldier that the two young girls were friends with. A small, potent memory of his youth. When he had somehow managed to survive the wretched, filthy war. Was safe, in clean sheets, getting better each day. Looking forward to a game of cards with one of the Grand Duchesses. A kind and funny, pretty young girl. A girl like any young girl. His friend.

From my personal collection. By the size and texture of the paper, this looks to be from a journal printed during the war.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Princess Beatrice, portrait by von Angeli, 1875

Princess Beatrice was eighteen the year Baron von Angeli - her mother Queen Victoria's favorite portrait painter at the time - completed this portrait. Victoria and Albert's youngest child, she is seen here in the bloom of youth; it would be a full decade before her mother would very grudgingly allow her to wed and have a family of her own.

There is some alteration to the color of the paint surface and/or varnish with this painting. Most likely some sort of instability in the paint or medium; several of von Angeli's have a similar discoloration. It's interesting to compare the lithograph below, by Carl Feederle (1832-81), with the original. It has a completely convincing rectangular format, including more of the Princess' wrap and a balustrade. But the original was almost certainly always an oval. Queen Victoria commissioned portraits of all her daughters when they were aged from about seventeen to nineteen years old. (The others are by Winterhalter, who had passed away by the time Beatrice's came due.) Each of the paintings has an oval format, and a frame that matches the one seen here.