The Last Spectacular Ball in the History of the Empire

In 1903, Emperor Nicholas II of Russia held a luxurious costume ball in honor of the 290th anniversary of the House of the Romanovs. It was held in the Winter Palace, Saint Petersburg, in two stages. For the first gathering on February 11, guests were invited to the Hermitage Romanov Gallery for a spectacular evening of world class entertainment. The main performances were excerpts from the opera “Boris Godunov” by M. P. Mussorgsky and the ballets “Bayadere” by L. Minkus and “Swan Lake” by P. I. Tchaikovsky. Such primas and grandees of that time as the opera singer Fyodor Shalyapin and the ballerina Anna Pavlova played the main roles in those scenes.

The entire Imperial family posed in their rich 17th-century costumes, Tsar Nicholas as Alexis, the Tsaritsa Alexandra as Maria Miloslavskaya, in the Hermitage Theatre, many wearing priceless original items brought specially from the Kremlin, for what was to be their final photograph together.
Sergey Solomko (1867-1928)

For the second gathering on February 13, Emperor Nicholas II invited his 390 guests to the palace for a historic costume masquerade. They arrived bejeweled in authentic 17th-century style costumes, made from designs by the artist Sergey Solomko, in collaboration with historical experts. Guests at the ball paid a fortune for them, as many were made with real jewelry.

In her memoirs Grand Duchess Olga, sister of Tsar Nicholas II, describes the attire of the Imperial couple for the 1903 ball:

All of us appeared in seventeenth-century court dress. Nicky wore the dress of Alexis, the second Romanov Tsar, all raspberry, gold and silver, and some of the things were brought specially from the Kremlin. Alicky was just stunning. She was Maria Miloslavskaya, Alexis’s first wife. She wore a sarafan of gold brocade trimmed with emeralds and silver thread, and her earrings were so heavy that she could not bend her head. (Vorres, Ian, The Last Grand Duchess, 1964, p. 94)

*Noteworthy: Empress Alexandra wore a Fabergé necklace and the emerald pendant probably mounted by Fabergé.

Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovitch recalled the occasion as “the last spectacular ball in the history of the empire … [but] a new and hostile Russia glared through the large windows of the palace … while we danced, the workers were striking and the clouds in the Far East were hanging dangerously low.”

Flip through a commemorative colorized book of the ball


The Romanovs’ Last Spectacular Ball Brought to Life in Color Photographs (1903)

Kostyumirovannyi Bal V Zimnem Dvortse (Costume Ball at the Winter Palace)
by Katin-Yartsev and Shumkov 

600+ (total)pages

Published: 2003

Genre: Photo-album

Publisher: Russky Antiquariat

Languages: Dual – Russian and English

ISBN Hardcover: 5981290021

Print Status: in print

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