Tsarskoe Selo

Tsarskoe Selo, Catherine Palace: old woman with a child in a baby carriage

Bernard DeCou’s photo series of Moscow from 1931, presented some days ago, however impressive, is not complete. After checking the complete hitherto digitized material of the University of California’s Library, we have found twice as much photos on DeCou’s Russian travel. Most of them represent Leningrad and its neighborhood, but there are some unpublished photos from Moscow as well. We will present them in the following posts.

Tsarskoe Selo, Catherine Palace, entrance gate (destroyed in WWII) and its modern reconstruction (below)


The thirty photos made of the former imperial residence in Tsarskoe Selo are particularly valuable, because exactly ten years after DeCou’s visit, on 17 September 1941 the German army invaded the palace, whose equipment they partly destroyed and partly took away. On DeCou’s pictures, however, we can see the pre-occupation conditions. It was on the basis of such photos that the reconstruction of the palaces started, right after the recapture, and as we will see, the result is really close to DeCou’s recordings.

Map of the Tsarskoe Selo palace complex. The details photographed by DeCou are:
1. Catherine Palace, 3. Cameron Gallery, 6. Grotto, 17. Alexander Palace.
Below: The map of the palace complex from 1780 by T. Miller.


The residence area was donated by Peter I on 13 June 1710 to his wife, the later Empress Catherine I, of which, as the date of foundation, they celebrated the third centenary last year, in 2010. However, the sumptuous Late Baroque Catherine Palace was built only between 1752-56 by the court architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli in commission of Empress Elizabeth. The palace complex also included an extensive park with a large lake and a music pavilion on its island, several garden buildings, baths and a Chinese theater, but DeCou – at least as it is shown by the hitherto digitized material – took photos almost only in the palace. As the pictures attest, he took part in a guided visit.

Catherine Palace, interior with tour group (destroyed in WWII)

Catherine Palace, interior (destroyed in WWII)

DeCou almost certainly developed and colored his glass slides only after return home. Nevertheless he must have also made some kind of color sketch on the spot, because the colors of the slides are very similar, even in shades, to the real situation, whose photos we borrowed from here for comparison.

Catherine Palace, The Grand Hall or Ballroom (destroyed in WWII)

The Grand Hall, modern reconstruction

Catherine Palace, The Amber Room (destroyed in WWII)


The Amber Room, modern reconstruction

Catherine Palace, interior with portrait of Catherine the Great by Johann Baptist Lampi
the Elder (destroyed in WWII)

Catherine Palace, interior with portrait of Alexander I (destroyed in WWII)

Catherine Palace, courtyard (destroyed in WWII)

The courtyard, modern reconstruction

Catherine Palace, courtyard (destroyed in WWII)

The courtyard, modern reconstruction

Catherine Palace, the so-called Cameron Gallery, built in 1783-87 by the Scottish Neoclassical architect Charles Cameron in commission of Catherine II

The only photo of the garden buildings of the Catherine Palace: children swimming
in front of the grotto pavilion

Girls watching a silent film on a steampunk notebook in the park of the Catherine Palace

DeCou also made a series on the Alexander Palace. This palace was built by Catherine II, follower of Neoclassicism with Giacomo Quarengh in 1792 for his grandson, the future Czar Alexander I. In the 19th century this became the true residence for the czars instead of the Catherine Palace, including Nicholas II who lived here with his family from 1904 until their arrest in 1917. DeCou still saw intact the interiors designed in 1902 by the architect Roman Meltser, which were also destroyed in the Second World War.

Alexander Palace, exterior views and entrance




Alexander Palace, interior: the New Study

Alexander Palace, interior: working study

Alexander Palace, interior: Alexandra’s dressing room

Alexander Palace, interior: dining room

Alexander Palace, interior: imperial bedroom

Alexander Palace, interior: the Maple Room

On DeCou’s visit Tsarskoe Selo – the Czar’s Village – already bore the name Detskoe Selo, that is Children’s Village (and was named after Pushkin, as it is called today, only in 1939, at the Pushkin centenary). The name is due to the fact that a great part of the building emptied of the imperial household hosted various children’s institutions, whose inhabitants were also documented by DeCou.




The photos of Leningrad will follow in the next post.

3 comentarios:

simon dijo...

The first photograph is Mariinsky Palace in St. Petersburg, it's not Tsarskoe Selo. Check here: http://bit.ly/k4QQdn

Studiolum dijo...

Thank you for the correction. It was in fact a bit suspicious, but I thought that DeCou, who gave the captions, must have known it better. So I take it down for now and will reproduce it among the photos of Leningrad in 1931.

Effe dijo...

we havn't enough eyes to watch at all that beauty