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We get acquainted with the drawings of Princess Elizabeth Feodorovna and look at the famous ball in the Russian style.

Today, in the History of Things section, there is a sketch for Alexandra Feodorovna’s fancy dress, made by her sister Elizabeth in 1903. The costume, created according to this drawing, was to be worn by the empress at the ball, timed to coincide with the 290th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty, the same one whose participants became prototypes for the Russian style card deck.

Sketch for a fancy dress

The main condition for the participants of the ball was that the costume should be in the style of the pre-Petrine era. Elizaveta Fedorovna made for her sister a pencil sketch of the ceremonial dress of Tsarina Maria Ilyinichna – the wife of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich. Tsar’s long swinging clothes of that time were called for a fee. The suit widened downwards and had short sleeves. The bottom of the dress and sleeves was trimmed with a decorative strip.

The sketch also shows a wide collar of a barma and a headdress – a cone-shaped crown with a fur band. Under a fee, a women’s lower shirt was usually worn: her decorated arm sleeves (embroidered arm ruffles) can be seen in the figure. On the back of the sketch is a cryptic, illegible inscription in English left by one of the sisters.

Closer to the ball, the sketch had to be redone – the empress was pregnant, and the fitted dress was replaced with a straight one.

This drawing ended up in the A.A. Bakhrushin around 1937. It was passed on shortly before his death by Vladimir Gadon, a former adjutant of Elizabeth’s husband, Prince Sergei Alexandrovich. He was a close friend of the princely family. After one unpleasant story, because of which Gadon had to resign, Elizaveta Fyodorovna even wrote a letter to Nicholas II, asking to be returned to the service.

After the revolution, Gadon worked as a research assistant at the State Historical Museum. He was arrested several times, exiled to Vologda for three years, and in 1937 he was accused of counter-revolutionary agitation and sentenced to death.

Ball à la russe

The main, costumed part of the ball took place on February 26 (according to the old style – February 13), 1903 in the Hermitage gallery.

The idea to dress in national Russian costumes came to the Empress at breakfast with the artist Pavel Zhukovsky. In the conversation, he dropped that Peter I “destroyed everything Russian,” and Alexandra Fyodorovna announced that she wanted to see everyone in the costumes of the era of Tsar Alexei Fyodorovich at the ball.

The sketches for the costumes of the imperial couple were developed by the director of the Hermitage, Ivan Vsevolozhsky, and the artist of the imperial theaters, Yevgeny Ponomarev. The rest of the sketches were drawn by the artist Sergei Solomko. The emperor and the empress were in the costumes of Tsar Alexei and Queen Mary, the ladies put on the costumes of boyars and peasants, and the cavaliers – archers and hunters.

The costume of Alexandra Feodorovna was copied from the icon “The Cross of Kiev with the Forthcoming” in 1671, which depicts Tsarina Maria Ilyinichna. Her outfit was made by the costume designer of the Moscow Imperial Theaters, Alexandra Ivaschenko. Now this costume is kept in the State Hermitage.

The first beauty of the ball was her sister Elizaveta Fedorovna. Her costume of a Russian princess of the 17th century was an example of harmony and taste: a light summer dress (old women’s summer clothes), embroidered with gold, its sleeves were decorated with vats – triangular pieces of velvet and satin, trimmed with gold and pearls, a fur necklace and an elaborately decorated kokoshnik.

The dances at the ball were also pre-Petrine: the guests performed Russian and dance dances, as well as a round dance. And then until the night they danced fashionable foreign waltzes, mazurka and square dance.

After the ball, at the request of the Empress, everyone was captured by the best photographers of St. Petersburg in group and single portraits. The next year they released “Album of the Costume Ball in the Winter Palace” with these photographs.

And in 1911, they developed sketches for playing cards “Russian Style” at the German factory “Dondorf”, which were printed in St. Petersburg. They depict figures in costumes of the participants of the ball. The release of playing cards was timed to coincide with the 300th anniversary of the celebration of the House of Romanov. They were later printed in Soviet Russia, and today they can also be bought.

Elizaveta Fyodorovna

The Empress’s sister, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, was an amateur artist. She began drawing while still in Germany, and in Russia she took lessons from the academician of historical painting Mikhail Botkin. Elizaveta Fyodorovna loved the then fashionable Art Nouveau style – she used its characteristic curved lines and plant motifs in her drawings. Her self-portrait in profile against a background of orchids is known – it is obvious that the empress imitated the well-known representative of this style, Alphonse Mucha, who was popular at that time.

In her estate in the village of Ilyinskoye, Elizaveta Fyodorovna often painted in oil and burned wood. She donated or sold her works at charity bazaars, which she set up to collect donations for the poor. I drew postcards and decorated envelopes to friends for the holidays.

Elizaveta Fyodorovna was quite critical of her work.

“I am busy painting the doors of my small drawing room with flowers,” she wrote to Empress Maria Feodorovna on August 27, 1885. – One panel of pink tiger lilies is already finished. I often think about the frame that I gave you – it is not very good, because I painted it in Red and in a hurry, so judge my sketches not by bad writing, but by the idea of ​​the drawing. “

Soon after the death of her husband in 1909, Elizaveta Fyodorovna founded the Martha and Mary Convent of Mercy, where she began to live. Since then, the princess in her work has delved into religious themes. She painted and embroidered icons. In 1914 she illustrated a collection of stories about the lives of the saints “Under the Blessed Sky”. It was dedicated to Tsarevich Alexei, all profits from the sale of the collection went to help the children of the soldiers of the First World War.

In 1918, Elizabeth Feodorovna was killed by the Bolsheviks, and in 1992 the Russian Orthodox Church canonized her.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and or sentence structure not be perfect.

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