Colorful Russia

September 16, 2016

By Tab Byrum


I’ve always been intrigued by Russia and its history, part of that is because some of my mother’s family were Russian immigrants in the 1800’s, and of course I’m fascinated by royalty and the lives they lived and still do. So I was very interested in a recent article on the website Russia Beyond The Headlines, the article is entitled “The Winter Palace As The Tsars Saw It” and it focuses on a series of paintings of interiors of the Winter Palace by artist Eduard Gau. The paintings are all watercolors and were ordered by Tsar Nikolai I, the thing that’s so enthralling is the colors of the rooms and their decorations, we are so used to only seeing old black and white photographs from the late 19th and early 20th century that it’s easy to forget they lived in a world of color just as we do. Of course being the home of the Imperial family of Russia the Winter Palace was full of color and it seems everything was gilded in gold. Interior paintings are one of my favorite forms of art, I love when an artist can capture a beautiful and well-appointed room in all its glory. Here’s a look at life in the Russian court and the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg more than a century ago, Enjoy!!!


Concert Hall

The Winter Palace was built between 1754 and 1762 by the Italian architect Francesco Bartolomeo in Elizabethan Baroque style. This style of design incorporates a lot of Italian Rococo ideas in the design and decoration.  


The Great Nicholas Hall


Fifth Hall of the Military Gallery

Isn’t it amazing how Gau captured not only the details of the individual rooms, but also the artwork hanging in each of the rooms. The details he’s able to capture in his paintings of the artwork is amazing. 


A Ladies Dressing Room


Alexander Hall


Salon in Rococo Style  The detail in this room is amazing with all the gold filigree work, the cupids around the top of the room and artwork.


Empress Maria Alexandrovna’s Boudoir


Another view of the Empress Maria’s Boudoir


First Hall of the Military Gallery


Empress Alexandra Feodorovna’s Bedroom

Empress Alexandra was the last Empress of Russia, she was married to Tsar Nicholas II. Together they had 5 children, 4 daughters and one son. The entire family was assassinated in 1918. 


Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna’s Bedroom 

You can see how popular it was to use lots of fabrics in the private rooms like bedrooms, remember this was before central heat and air and all you would have in one of these massive rooms was a fireplace for heat in the harsh Russian winters.

I hope you enjoyed these photos as much as I did, I love how this gives us a more colorful look at life over 100 years ago at things we usually only see in black and white photos. 

Words are my own
images are courtesy of

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