Author Topic: Alexander Palace Restoration  (Read 241098 times)

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Offline Brassov

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Re: Alexander Palace Restoration
« Reply #345 on: August 16, 2012, 10:54:43 AM »
No Brassov is not diminutive for "brassed off". Thank you. Although thats the way I feel about this subject..
May I say that what has been achieved is miraculous, we all know that. I have been following all of this for years and have read everything there is to read on the subject.
But why does the Palace have to struggle far into the future it would seem to achieve the simplest part of the entire process........getting its contents back ?
If the museum authorities are such experts and so historically sensitive, then why does someone not take a stand, like the museum curators did after the war for the restoration of these buildings, lobby the government, and get the contents back ?       
It seems easier to rebuild an entire palace, than it is to move the contents back.
Anatoly Kuchumov spent years hunting down and trying to save the objects and furniture for this Palace and the others. In fact it probably killed him in the end, he was so determined. Now its all down the road a few kilometres away, and they cant get it back ? He loved the Alexander Palace, and would be very sad, I am sure.   
Makes one wonder if the Soviet curators were perhaps not more determined and committed to saving and restoring their cultural heritage than the current authorities are.
Just a thought..     

Offline Forum Admin

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Re: Alexander Palace Restoration
« Reply #346 on: August 16, 2012, 11:17:58 AM »
Things are never as easy as one hopes the should be.  There are also two sides to every coin, remember.  If YOU were director of Pavlovsk, would you really be thrilled to have 2/3 of your art and furniture stripped out and sent elsewhere? You assume an almost Communist approach to the issue "To Each according to their needs, From each according to what they have", remember how well that worked out for them.  

You may be following things from the outside, but there are people here following from the inside.  You achieve nothing, but ill feelings by these comments.  I can confirm to you that the Museums have been reading our sites and forums for years now.  I urge more patience, understanding and support, and less antagonism and armchair criticism.

I hope I'm being clear.
« Last Edit: August 16, 2012, 12:43:24 PM by Forum Admin »

Offline Tsarfan

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Re: Alexander Palace Restoration
« Reply #347 on: August 16, 2012, 01:09:12 PM »
But why does the Palace have to struggle far into the future it would seem to achieve the simplest part of the entire process........getting its contents back?

Brassov, do you know anything about the decades-long efforts of the White House to recover early furnishings of that building?  And, except for contents lost during the War of 1812, its contents usually went astray through peaceable events such as garage sales, auctions, and decorating updates, not through revolution, theft, military invasion, or foreign sales to raise hard currency.  So what in the blazes makes you think there is anything "simple" about recovering the contents of a palace that were dispersed beginning almost a century ago by innumerable hands with all kinds of agendas and with reliable records not always kept?  Even those items that are known to be held in other Russian state collections are, for better or worse, in the hands of authorities who have their own responsibilities to make their sites attractive to a paying public.  

You swan around this board, making categorical assertions about how pictures were hung in the Alexander Palace or how ceilings were or were not decorated originally, obviously without the slightest real knowledge of the topics on which you so boldly hold forth.  This board can be an excellent resource for people seeking to learn and fill in gaps in their knowledge and also for people who have reliable information to impart.  I would suggest you spend at least some time bunking in the former camp before pitching your tent in the latter.

Offline Brassov

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Re: Alexander Palace Restoration
« Reply #348 on: August 16, 2012, 01:46:59 PM »
Really Tsarfan ? One thing you missed. Jackie Kennedy sorted most of the interior of the White House out in a remarkably short space of time did she not ? After President Truman rebuilt it. Just like Gerald Van Der Kemp did for Versailles. Both of them had to go begging for donations, furniture, objects etc, and work very hard, but it worked. One can only hope the same happens with the AP. But you sound like an expert on Russian architecture and history, so I bow to your superior knowledge.
I dismiss your sarcastic personal remarks with the contemp they so richly deserve.
.
       

Offline Tsarfan

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Re: Alexander Palace Restoration
« Reply #349 on: August 16, 2012, 02:27:26 PM »
You seem to misunderstand what Jackie Kennedy did in that short period of time.  Granted, she succeeded in getting many original items returned, relying on the assistance of several famous collectors of Americana who had firmly established reputations and contacts among the art and antiques collecting world -- an elite group of people who have no real counterparts in today's Russia.

However, much of what Kennedy did was to create period-appropriate decor using modern reproductions, period substitutes that represented the general class of furniture used, or goods salvaged from other houses (such as the Zuber wallpapers) of the same period.  That is not restoration, but recreation -- something which, relatively speaking, is easier, quicker, and cheaper to do.

This is not, however, what you seem to expect of the curators of the Alexander Palace, who you demand should procure the return the actual original pieces . . . and be quick about it!

I think you also overestimate how much of today's furnishings in other Russian palaces came from the Alexander Palace.  Pavlovsk, for example, was largely recreated using original samples.  Knowing that the Germans were approaching and had a compulsion to set things on fire, the curators of Pavlovsk packed and shipped away one item from all the major suites of furniture and decor in the palace.  For instance, one chandelier was taken from each major room, one chair from each seating suite, one casting of a cornice or molding, so that they could later be accurately reproduced.  Several freight trains were filled with these samples and dispatched to the eastern hinterlands.  Much of what is in Pavlovsk today are the recreations from those rescued samples.  In fact, the Soviet regime established a world-renowned school for training craftsmen in lost decorative arts to facilitate the rebuilding and refurnishing of Pavlovsk and the Catherine Palace.  For many years after mid-century, western countries sent their own recreationists to Russia for training.

And my remarks were not sarcastic.  They were serious advice.
« Last Edit: August 16, 2012, 02:28:58 PM by Tsarfan »

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Re: Alexander Palace Restoration
« Reply #350 on: August 16, 2012, 02:47:12 PM »
Not to forget that virtually everything one sees at the Catherine Palace today is recreated as well.  A rare table from the Catherine Palace, from Catherine the Great's rooms was recently purchased at auction by the Tsarskoye Selo Museum Preserve.  They wrote Bob recently most pleased with that news.

Offline Paul Brewer

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Re: Alexander Palace Restoration
« Reply #351 on: August 16, 2012, 11:00:13 PM »
I wonder if anyone has information on plans for the reconstruction of the large white and gilded pier glass mirror door in the Billiard Room?   I have often admired it from old photographs and when I last visited the Palace in 2010 I could see the impression or outline of the mirror door on the wall. I have no information on what happened to it during World War II and have always assumed it was stolen or destroyed.  I must say that the experience of visiting the 3 beautiful halls for the first time in 2010 was very moving indeed. This is an exciting time and my humble thanks and appreciation to all those concerned. 

Offline ChristineM

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Re: Alexander Palace Restoration
« Reply #352 on: August 17, 2012, 02:20:58 AM »
What Tsarfan writes about the excellence of the restorers is absolutely accurate.   Their skills are admired world wide.   The administration of TSM have, particularly throughout the very lean times of the 90s and up to this day, struggled to continue funding their salaries in order to assure these positions as staff members.   The jewellers who recreated the Amber Room being a case in point.   Ivan Petrovich Sautov struggled to hold that team together.   Glad to say he succeeded, but it was not without having to be as inventive as possibe -  hence the introduction of paid tours of the Amber Room workshops and a dedicated shop selling amber and other semi precious reproductions as well as freshly created designs.   These skills are only too easily lost, never to be recovered.   

Funds have to stretch a long, long way - with a total staff of 700 rising to over 800 during the summer months - all these salaries have to be covered and that's before paying general maintenance which is continual and ongoing on old buildings and through extreme weather conditions.   Many of the additional summer staff have much to do maintaining as well as restoring the gardens and parks.

These are aspects of the daily life of the palaces which are easily overlooked, but which are absolutely fundamental.

I have to say Paul Brewer's post was refreshing and a joy to read.   I have no idea what became of the mirrored door in the Marble Hall.   It was probably removed by naval personnel when these halls were made to appear as utilitarian as was possible.   As Tsarfan indicated, in so far as so many objects contained within those buildings were concerned, it could have been looted.   There were times - and not so very long ago - when desperate circumstances called for desperate actions...many people were on the verge of starvation.   

The fact that we are where we are today, is nothing short of a miracle... and on so many different level.s

Christine M

Offline Brassov

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Re: Alexander Palace Restoration
« Reply #353 on: August 20, 2012, 02:37:24 PM »
Most of you have probably read Suzanne Massie's book on Pavlovsk and its restoration. If you have not, then I think you should, it is probably the best book on the subject of this discussion. It is a source reference to many subjects discussed here, and a brilliantly researched one. It explains many things and will give you an insight as to what lenghts the Soviets went to in those post war years to restore their heritage, and how deeply they cared about the palaces and their contents. After the huge expense of WWII, and with very few resources, Stalin agreed and the Soviet government found the money for the restoration work to begin at Pavlovsk, Peterhof and the Catherine Palace. As the rooms were restored, so they were opened with their original contents carefully placed back exactly where they were before the evacuation. Exact copies were made in many cases and the wood found to relay the intricate floors etc.  If it were not for the dedication of the Museum Directors at that time, everything would have been bulldozed. It makes one wonder why it took them almost 68 years to do anything to the Alexander Palace and its contents ! More was done for the palace during Soviet times, the subsequent government and its museum officials have been conspicuous by their absence.  Many people blame the Naval tennants for the problems of the AP ,but in actual fact there were plenty of other places for the Naval authorities to squat, surely ? Also they did not occupy the whole building. So they cannot be blamed for the delay, I think. If they were tennants in the Konstantine Palace, one can only wonder how long it would have taken Putin to get rid of them !!
 
Dear Tsarfan, what you say in your post is very well known to me, and most other people on this discussion panel.  I have read everything you have written dozens of times.

Jackie Kennedy did not take 60 years to restore the White House. She also had the disadvantage of not having most of the architectural "bits" and furniture "squirreled" away down the road.
The difference is that Jackie Kennedy was a determined woman and a brilliant organiser. She made things happen, and she inspired many people who cared just as much as she did about her restoration, and they also wanted to make things happen. And they did. She was a "can do" kind of person.

Russia has become one of the richest oil producing countries in the world, with no shortage of money. They found the money to restore the Konstantine Palace for President Putin at huge cost, in a very short space of time. No problem. Am I wrong ?  Not the most tasteful renovation however, I must admit, but wow, they got it together ! 
 
I dont want to sound rude, but what is your point ?
 
I hope I have not offended any of the Tsarskoe Selo Museum directors who may be reading reading this post. If so, my humblest apologies.

   

Offline Tsarfan

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Re: Alexander Palace Restoration
« Reply #354 on: August 20, 2012, 04:13:51 PM »
Exact copies were made in many cases and the wood found to relay the intricate floors etc.  

The wood floors of Pavlovsk were not returned to their condition before the war.  A fire in 1803 had destroyed most of the interior of the palace, including its exquisite parquet floors.  Due both to the expense of re-creating them and the evolution toward simpler interior decor since the palace's initial construction, much simpler wood floors were installed after that fire.  When the restorers were confronted with the task of bringing the palace back from the German depredations, the question arose of whether to return the palace to its state immediately prior to its destruction in 1944 or whether to return it to its original state, including restoring the original pre-1803 floors.  In a sense, the question was whether the palace should be preserved as a relic of the last Romanovs to occupy it, or whether it should be preserved as an architectural masterpiece in keeping with its creators' original visions.  The same question presents itself today with parts of the Alexander Palace.  For example, should the original concert hall conceived and executed by Quarenghi be recreated, or should Nicholas' and Alexandra's modifications be restored?  In the case of Pavlovsk, it was treated as an object of architectural art, not as a memorial to the Romanovs, and returned to the original condition, facilitated by the survival of most of the original plans and sketches.


It makes one wonder why it took them almost 68 years to do anything to the Alexander Palace and its contents!  More was done for the palace during Soviet times, the subsequent government and its museum officials have been conspicuous by their absence.  

I see you choose to ignore completely the information that has been provided on this thread by Christine Martin, one of the best-informed and most-involved people in the English-speaking world on the last two decades of restoration activity at Tsarskoye Selo.  It's not clear why, other than you seem to have trouble with information that runs counter to your partially-informed or knee-jerk opinions.


Dear Tsarfan, what you say in your post is very well known to me, and most other people on this discussion panel.  I have read everything you have written dozens of times.

I see, then, that poor retention may be a factor here.  Where in your "dozens" of readings did you find the information that the Alexander Palace parade rooms "never" had groupings of small paintings hung in them?  Or that it was unlikely that a tented ceiling would have been original to the palace?  It's not always a matter of how much you read.  Sometimes what you read is important . . . as, of course, is retaining it.


Jackie Kennedy did not take 60 years to restore the White House. She also had the disadvantage of not having most of the architectural "bits" and furniture "squirreled" away down the road.

Ah, I see you still fail to grasp the difference between a restoration, a re-creation, and a period-appropriate redecoration.  Jackie Kennedy no more "restored" the White House than did I.  As for the "architectural bits", many of them were found still intact under dropped ceilings and other later modifications during the dismantling and cataloging of the structure preparatory to the Truman reconstruction of the building.  


They found the money to restore the Konstantine Palace for President Putin at huge cost, in a very short space of time. No problem. Am I wrong ?  

Yes, you are wrong.  What they did to the Konstantine Palace was even less a "restoration" than what Jackie Kennedy did to the White House.  It was converted into a conference center and a presidential residence.  Eighteen guest houses were constructed on the grounds.  It has been ridiculed by some as a parody of the original building and symptomatic of the most venal impulses of the emergent ruling class in Russia.


They found the money to restore the Konstantine Palace . . . . Not the most tasteful renovation . . . .

Even in the space of a short paragraph discussing one building, you manage to confuse a restoration with a renovation.  They are two very different things.  I'm beginning to see why your strained comparisons between the situations of the White House and the Alexander Palace leave you so hopelessly muddled.


I dont want to sound rude, but what is your point ?

Be as rude as you like.  I'm a big boy.  I would think, however, sounding confused should be more of a concern to you.


I hope I have not offended any of the Tsarskoe Selo Museum directors who may be reading reading this post.

Perhaps you did at first . . . something that both the Forum Administrator and Christine Martin were trying futilely to signal to you.  But, at this point, I doubt if anyone feels your opinions would be taken seriously enough to be of any concern to anyone.  So have at it.
« Last Edit: August 20, 2012, 04:15:54 PM by Tsarfan »

Offline ChristineM

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Re: Alexander Palace Restoration
« Reply #355 on: August 20, 2012, 04:45:39 PM »
Ok Ok... lets try to get a degree of rationale into this diatribe/debate.

Firstly, Tsarfan - thank you so much for your vote of confidence.   As you know, not only have I had direct exchanges with the Directorate of Tsarskoe Selo Museums for almost quarter of a century, but have been in the fortunate position to act as a conduit on a number of occasions - an 'interface' between 'east and west'.   I feel enormously privileged to consider TSM staff not just colleagues but very dear friends.

If senior members of the staff of TSM read any of the posts by Brassov, he need not fear causing them distress or disturbance.   Over the years they have confronted people with various and varying opinions, as well as extremely disruptive individuals.   They hold wise counsel.   They know a job has to be done and are totally singleminded.   Outsiders tossing in their tuppence worth will not have the slightest impact.

What will have an impact...indeed what already has had a HUGE impact, is the selfless generosity of Tsarfan.   Bob and I have tried to do our 'bit' over the years in many and varied forms, but never before have we known of one individual who has not only shared his knowledge of the history of Russia and his interest and involvement with the Alexander Palace and TSM, but who has actually reached very deeply into his pocket to ensure the restoration of the Alexander Palace is developed as closely as possible to the original concept.   NOBODY else in the world has made such a sacrifice.   However, even this does not make Brassov stop for a second to consider his rather pathetic rear guard attempt at displaying some kind of superior understanding and knowledge of the siktuation at TSM - more than the Minister of Culture, than the Directorate of Tsarskoe Selo Museums and more than any of us who have been directly involved and party to plans for the future.

Brassov - not only have we read Suzanne Massie's 'Pavlovsk...', we know Suzanne.   We have visited TSM with Suzanne.   We have visited Pavlovsk with Suzanne.   We have worshipped at the Feodorovsky Sobor with Suzanne.   This is a case of 'grannies and eggs'.

The work at the Konstantinovichi Palace is, in a word, 'horrendous'.   If this is the best example Brassov can produce as an sample of what the wealth of Russia can achieve in a short period of time, it is a spurious one.

Finally to address the inside details of the White House... a response to this really is up to the Forum Adminstrator or to Moderators of this thread.   As a mere poster, I have to ask, is this the appropriate place to continue this discussion?

Christine M
« Last Edit: August 20, 2012, 04:57:10 PM by ChristineM »

Offline Forum Admin

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Re: Alexander Palace Restoration
« Reply #356 on: August 20, 2012, 05:23:22 PM »
The White House was merely an analogy and should not be continued as a part of discussion.  The focus of this thread is the Alexander Palace Restoration.

I have tried, with no success, to keep the focus on the RESTORATION and not the armchair criticism of Brasssov.  Christine hit the nail on the head, with a point I wanted to make, while she was posting.

As we say here in the US "Talk is Cheap".  Actions and deeds speak louder than words.  Brassov, it is EASY to sit back and write your gripes here about the Restoration of the AP. What you YOU actually done? I suspect, nothing.

Bob has known Suzanne very well for decades, he considers her as a second "mother."  I myself have had long phone conversations with her. Bob was single handedly responsible for bringing the very first large donation to secure the safety and preservation of the Alexander Palace, when he went to the World Monuments Foundation and got the Alexander Palace put on the list of most endangered historic monuments in the world. With that, he went to his friends at American Express and secured their donation of $450,000 to replace the roof on the Alexander Palace and stop the continued damage from the leaking roof.

Christine has spoken for herself.  Mike Pyles reached into this pocket and gave the TSM a gift of $55,000 to secure the immediate repatriation of the single most important artifact to ensure the Alexander Palace is restored to its exact appearance when the last Imperial Family lived there, which is the current goal.  What have YOU done Brassov? aside from complain and blame others? have you given money? Time? returned artifacts? Written the Russian Government even one letter urging their support for the AP?

The importance of deeds not words is what has driven Bob and Christine to the newest project "The Friends of Tsarskoye Selo Society".  For the last 20 years, many have gone to the TSM with words of hope and promises made.  All of which, came to naught.  Nobody lived up to their promises of money and restorations.  Now, there will be a means and vehicle for any single person to step up and HELP in whatever way they can. $5, $50, or $50,000. Towards restoration, repatriation of furniture, books and artifacts, whatever they deem best. 

TSM staff have heard many words before and as Christine said, words are worthless to them.  They have  a job to do, to which they are totally dedicated, and have learned to know who will "stand and deliver" and who is "full of hot air".

Are we clear now?

Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: Alexander Palace Restoration
« Reply #357 on: August 20, 2012, 09:34:47 PM »
Well, I have. Not as gennorous,  but still as much as I could. I even adopted two kittens at the AP  so the babushkas could  afford to feed them. I will join the TSM when I have the details. Russia is not an easy country to send money to. As someone who started out on wishing this place had been bulldozed after the war, I have become  rather fond of the place.
 On resoration, renovation, I was recently reading about an attempt to  do  much the same on a  royal castle in Oman.  Do not bother looking it up- it is in Arabic. Now, Oman has all the money it needs, they just do not have the talent to do the job. No one now lives in the place and it has fallen into disrepair. The AP seems to have the opposite problem,  talent an no money.
 Sure, I will give, just let me know when the details are clear. I am not a money pit, and I have been dissapointed  before so am ready to see some results of where my money goes. I trust you guys so  will be happy to join. in. It is clear this project has aims,  that is good.  But, I know Russia fairly well and am leery about some projects.
 BTW, I have some original Russian fabrics.  I bought them  in St.P but do not know the provenace. They are of the MA summer style [Versailles] I do not know if they are worth anything but if AP can use them, they are welcome to them.
 And, after the war evacuations,  most of the original furnishings were scattered, so as we all should know, it will be difficlut in reuniting them to the AP. I went through this with Versailles 5 thosand down the drain for a chair. Personally, I would not care for a recreation  of N&A's rooms, They had no taste, but back to the  Alex Ist Empire style. That was what is intented  to be.
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Offline Brassov

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Re: Alexander Palace Restoration
« Reply #358 on: August 22, 2012, 10:54:34 AM »
Christine, I agree with you on the restoration of the Kontantine Palace......I said it was not tasteful, which is putting it mildly. I think it lends a whole new dimension to the word horrendous.
You are lucky to know Suzanne Massie personally. I am a big fan of hers, and have great admiration for her devotion to the preservation of the Palaces and the way in which she has made many people in the West appreciate Russian culture.
   
It seems I have got some hackles up. Specially yours Tsarfan. Relax, this is a discussion forum, we are all entitled to our opinions, and this is all supposed to be fun.

Whether you like it or not, I still feel the same about the contents of the Alexander Palace.

Regards

ps. Tsarfan,  I know the floors of Pavlovsk were renovated on two ocassions. Once after the original fire, and again after WWII.
 

Offline ChristineM

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Re: Alexander Palace Restoration
« Reply #359 on: August 22, 2012, 01:54:37 PM »
EXCELLENT:  Brassov

Now we know we are all... 'singing from the same hymn sheet', just sometimes slightly off-key.   Fundamentally our concern is the restoration of this unique palace.   Inevitably there will be differences of opinion as to how this is achieved.   Its the achievement which matters... more than the getting there.   However, getting there is integral to our reasons for being here.   Surely the fact we can agree to differ is a sign of maturity...nobody is going into a huff.   Goodness, when we pause to think of the life story of this great palace, an occasional storm in a tea-cup isn't worth a hiccup.

Nobody enjoys a good head-to-head debate more than 'Tsarfan' - as I have discovered over the years and believe me, you don't just have to be on your toes but also to waken with the lark to keep up with him.   A spell of mental jousting does nobody harm - indeed quite the reverse.   The bottom line is respect and I think we now realise this is a shared courtesy.

So...thank you Brassov - all of us will value your posting.   And yes, Suzanne Massie's contribution is incalculable along with that of Bob Atchison.  We must never forget these two remarkable, totally different but each as vital in his own way - Kuchumov and Kedrinsky without whom there would be nothing here to discuss.

Christine