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Palace works of art from Imperial Russia

September 30th, 2009 | posted by Jim Cottrell

True Russian palace furniture is so rare and so incredibly beautiful; we’re always thrilled when we have the chance to offer it to our clients. We just received an amazing pair of Russian palace slipper chairs that really capture the opulence of mid 19th century Russia. Hailing from the girls’ room at Peter’s Court, the chairs are chairsexceptional in both beauty and provenance.

Without question, these fine walnut chairs were carved by a furniture making genius… just look at the delicacy of the draped flowers that overlay the flowing seat back. Note how the curving legs allow the seat to literally hover in space. The art work alone would indicate that these are palace pieces but the original inventory labels on both chairs confirm it.

The chairs belonged to Duchess Vera of Wurttemberg, Grand Duchess of Russia and later to her daughters Elsa of Wurttemberg and Olga Nikolaevna. The labels read “H.V.v.W. private property no. 1853″ and “P.E. Villa” on one and “ON” on the other.

Duchess Vera’s story is at once intriguing and a little sad. At an early age she proved to be a difficult child, prone to tantrums and fits of rage and suffering from what was called a nervous condition. Her parents, hoping to avoid embarrassment before the Russian Court, and Vera’s uncle Tsar Alexander II, entrusted Vera to King Karl of Wurttemberg and Queen Olga who themselves were childless. They came to love Vera despite her illness and eventually adopted the girl.

Duchess Vera, who was rather plain in appearance, eventually outgrew her disruptive nature and married by arrangement Duke Eugen of Wurttemberg who would die in a duel just three years later. Vera had a son who died just 7 months after birth and twin daughters, Olga and Elsa. Though she never married again, Duchess Vera became a well-known and respected figure in German society, lending her name and financial assistance to more than 30 charitable and religious causes. She was not without controversy and was occasionally at odds with her Russian side of the family. She died when she was just 58 years old.

It is really quite extraordinary to find a matched pair of chairs of such a lovely appearance and with such a rich provenance, considering that many artifacts associated with the Russian court were destroyed. They are really special.

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