The exhibition running June 8 to September 30, 2013, at the Upper Bathhouse of the Catherine Park in cooperation with the ROSPHOTO State Museum & Exhibition Centre, tells how photography came to Tsarskoye Selo, how the tsar’s court influenced a fashion for photographing, and how the Romanov family helped boost the quality of daguerreotypes and photographs in Russia.
After the first pewter-plate photograph was taken by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in 1826 and then his partner Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre invented a photographic process using silver on a copper plate in 1839, the daguerreotype came to Russia under Tsar Nicholas I and was called “writing with light”.
Photographing became a favourite hobby of the Tsar’s family which, like any other, loved its life chronicled in pictures. The photographs of the “most august family” used for the press and postcards were taken by professionals, who could be entitled a “court supplier and photographer” after 8–10 years of flawless service.
During Alexander III’s reign, photography bloomed and competed with portrait painting. Tsar Nicholas II, his wife Alexandra, their children, Dowager Empress Maria Fiodorovna and Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich took photography lessons from professional “light-writers”. Particularly noteworthy on the current display are a touching photograph of little Tsarevich Alexei standing together with a guard near a snow-covered Alexander Palace and an album of photographs by Anna Vyrubova, Tsarina Alexandra’s lady-in-waiting and close friend.
In 1860 the architect Ippolito Monighetti built an addition to the Llama Pavilion in the Alexander Park, which was used by the Romanovs as a photographic studio and laboratory. After the Tsar’s special permission of 1866, photographic ateliers opened in the town of Tsarskoye Selo: Mikhail Kozlovski’s on Konyushennaya St, the workshop of Wilhelm Lapré on Moskovskaya St, and the photographic studio “K.E. von Gann and Co” of Alexander Yagelsky on Shirokaya St.
Besides showing part of the museum’s photographic collection and pre-1917 uniforms, dresses, furniture and cameras, the display gives you a chance to feel as if at a Tsarskoye Selo photographic studio of the past. A costumed photograph (see below) in the pavilion or by a beautiful pond in the park will guarantee you an unforgettable visiting experience!
Exhibition will be open from May 8 through September 30, 2013 (hours TBA)