8 июня 2016
Portraits of the Participants of the 1903 Costume Ball in the Winter Palace, various photographers, thirty-seven works, one stamped with the photographer's stamp.
Each albumen print, laid on cardboard, the largest measuring 25 by 44 cm and the smallest 14 by 9.5 cm.
Photographed and printed in 1903.
Provenance: Private collection, Europe.
The 1903 Costume Ball is regarded as the most memorable festive event Saint Petersburg ever witnessed during the reign of Tsar Nicholas II. Dedicated to the 290th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty, the celebration took place over two days: a soirée was held on 11 February 1903, and the Costume Ball itself on 13 February. The great masquerade had the Winter Palace as its venue and was attended by most of the nobility of the Russian Empire, robed in resplendent attire in the style of the pre-Petrine era, specially designed by artists A. Golovin, I. Vsevolozhsky and S. Solomko and tailored by the leading costumiers N. Lamanova, I. Kaffi, A. Ivashchenko and Y. Ivanova. The garments gloriously married sumptuousness with elegance; at the time, the ball had been described as not just “a magnificent spectacle, but a perfect work of art”.
Nicholas II, for example, was dressed in “the ceremonial costume of Tsar Alexei”, comprising a kaftan and cloth-of-gold robe, tsar’s cap and staff – now kept in the Kremlin Armoury – while Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna was attired in a costume befitting Tsarina Maria Ilyinichna Miloslavskaya. All the ladies-in-waiting wore sarafans gowns and kokoshnik headdresses, while their male escorts were garbed in the uniforms of 17th-century streltsy soldiers or falconers. Among the 390 guests were 65 “dancing officers”, appointed by the empress, who were also dressed as in the time of Tsar Alexei.
“A fairytale impression has been made,” a witness to the event recorded, “by the mass of national costumes from bygone days, richly decorated with rare furs, splendid diamonds and pearls, precious and semi-precious stones, mostly in old settings. On that day, the crown jewels appeared in a profusion that exceeded all expectations.”
At the empress’s wish, once the ball had ended, the best photographers in Saint Petersburg were commissioned to take pictures of all those attending the spectacle. The studios Boissonnas & Eggler, Reissert & Fliche, Levitsky & Son and C.E. de Hahn & Co., as well as private photographers D. Asikritov, A. Yasvoin, L. Gorodetsky, D. Zdobnov, I. Voino-Oransky, A. Rentz and F. Schrader, produced individual and group portraits of those present. These photographs formed the basis for the publication of a collotype album featuring some two hundred images. The albums were distributed (at a rather high price) in aid of charity, primarily among those who had attended the ball.
On offer here for auction are 37 photographs from this set. Splendidly executed, these pictures enable the minutest details of the costumes to be appreciated and constitute an invaluable primary source, besides being collectors’ items in their own right.
Notes on symbols:
* Indicates 5% Import Duty Charge applies.
Ω Indicates 20% Import Duty Charge applies.
§ Indicates Artist's Resale Right applies.
† Indicates Standard VAT scheme applies, and the rate of 20% VAT will be charged on both hammer price and premium.