Skip to main content

Restoraition goes on

18.09.2020

The Moorish Room is one of the most unusual interiors in the Alexander Palace where restoration begins to take a final shape.

The Moorish Room, a.k.a. Tsar's Bathroom or Swimming Pool Room, was designed in 1896-97 by Count Nikolai de Rochefort. A few years earlier this architect built the Bialowieza Palace for the Romanovs, where he designed a novelty bathroom with a pool which served as inspiration for the Bathroom in the Alexander Palace.

According to Tsarskoe Selo research worker Anna Tarhanova, this room harmoniously combined: bright oriental-style tiles adorning the fireplace and walls around the pool, Metlakh tiles on the floor in front of the pool, the coffered ceiling, an openwork maplewood partition, and Japanese traditional straw mats on the walls. The floor was covered with a colourful carpet. The Melzer Trading House produced the furniture: a leather-upholstered sofa with pillows and bolsters, oriental-styled stools of two designs, a table with a trellis, a washbasin with an underframe, a horizontal bar for gymnastic exercises, and stands for walking sticks and hunting rifles.

The room's main feature was a 86,000 litre pool lined with white tiles. It served for medical water treatments and hydro massage prescribed to Nicholas II. The pool had a complex water engineering system underneath, with a boiler and three water tanks in a special room on the ground floor under the Tsar's Bathroom.

A door in the corridor-adjacent wall led do the Tsar's Toilet, which can be seen in the video footage of the palace's first public tour in 1918.

Completely lost during the Second World War, the interior was reworked and served as an exhibition room in the late 1990s–2010s. Its reconstruction was started from scratch. In 2017 the restorers found the pool under the floor with a good amount of surviving tile fragments from the Moorish and other rooms of the palace. Mostly based on black and white photographs of the 1930s, the reconstruction of the Moorish Room became possible in all its polychrome variety thanks to the find. Some of the surviving fragments are reinstalled on the walls, while the pool steps still partly retain originals tiles.

The restorers also found fragments of the original frieze under the later paint layers.

The interior decoration elements re-created in 2018–19 include the wooden wall and ceiling panels, wall tiles, the "Moorish" fireplace with decorative niches (those contained the Faberge lamps handed over to the Russian Museum in 1956), and the carved partition. The Toilet's decoration was remade, as well as the curtains and large floor carpet.

Similar straw mats for the walls will soon be purchased thanks to the help from the Consulate General of Japan in St Petersburg.

The lost furniture pieces, water taps and some other elements are currently being re-created from existing photographs and the Museum's inventories of 1938-40.