The Russian Imperial Family and members of the Russian Nobility attended a spectacular Ball at the Assembly Hall of the Nobility in St Petersburg on this day in 1913, to mark the tercentenary of the Romanov Dynasty, which ended being last grand Imperial Ball of Tsarist Russia.
The Ball at the Assembly Hall of the Nobility in St Petersburg (now the Grand Hall of the St Petersburg Philharmonic) followed a Gala Performance of Glinka’s A Life for the Tsar, and was attended by the entire Imperial Family led by Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna (wearing her Diamond Tiara), along with the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna (in her Diamond Fringe Tiara), Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna, Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna, Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, the Grand Duchess Vladimir (wearing the Vladimir Tiara), the Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna, Dowager Duchess of Saxe-Coburg und Gotha (in Diamond Fringe Tiara), Grand Duchess Victoria Feodorovna (wearing her Sapphire Tiara), and Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich among others.
Due to the delicate political situation, the last imperial ball did not in fact take place in the Winter Palace but in the Assembly Hall of the Nobility (now the Grand Hall of the St Petersburg Philharmonic) on 23 February 1913, and was indeed organised to mark the tercentenary of the Romanov Dynasty. It followed a performance of Glinka’s A Life for the Tsar, which included the famous mazurka. However, the empress did not attend that event.
A presentation of the picture, called Ball at the Assembly Hall of the Nobility in St Petersburg on 23 February 1913 by Dmitriy Nikolaevich Kardovsky and 47 portrait sketches to it took place into the Rotunda of the Winter Palace.
The program of the jubilee events of 1913 was very vast, the celebration continued since February till autumn. It was an all-state event, meaning the triumph of the state, power and national spirit. The ceremonial day of the solemn celebration of the 300-year anniversary of the Romanovs reign, approved at the highest level, was 21 of February 1913. At that day at 11 o’clock 21 salvos of the Petropavlovskaya fortress announced the beginning of the celebrations to the habitats of the capital. Sacred processions were coming from the main churches to the Kazan cathedral, and at the exactly determined time a train with the members of the tsarist family came. At the same day folk festivals took place into the capital and neighbourhoods, historical jubilee performances took place into the theatres. On the 22 of February there was a solemn ceremony in the Winter Palace, during which the Emperor and Empress accepted wishes.
On the 23 of February 1913 Saint Petersburg nobility gave a great ball at its meeting at Mikhailovskaya street, more than 3200 guests visited this meeting. It was the last large-scale celebration of the tsarist Russia. The ball was begun at half past nine, when the Tsar, tsarina and members of the tsarist family came to the imperial box. The ball was opened with the polonaise from the opera Life For the Tsar by M.I.Glinka, which was performed by the ball orchestra of the lifeguard Preobrazhensky troop. Nikolas II was dancing with V.A.Somova, the wife of Saint-Petersburg district marshal of nobility, empress Aleksandra Feodorovna – with S.M.Somov, Saint-Petersburg district marshal of nobility. After the polonaise other dances took place, including waltz, quadrille, cotillon, mazourka with a large number of natural flowers and bright ribbons. Nikolas with his daughter Olga left the ball after eleven.
Watercolor work, depicting the scene of the jubilee ball, became one of the few large-format works of Dmitriy Nikolaevich Kardovsky, an outstanding Russian artist. D.N.Kardovsky, a student of P.P.Chistyakov and I.E.Repin in Saint Petersburg Art Academy, and of professor A.Azbe, was a famous Russian illustrator, genre painter, theater painter. The Hermitage work Ball into the Hall of the Nobility 1913, not being a historical painting, was performed according to the examples of academic multifigure composition, each character of which is portrayed with photographic accuracy and psychological authenticity.
At the center of the composition 17-year old princess Olga Nikolaevna, the first daughter of the Tsar, is waltzing with his highness I.N.Saltykov, this is the first grownup event for her. At the imperial box you can see members of the tsarist family – Nikolas II, Aleksandra Feodorovna, grand princess Maria Feodorovna, grand princess Victoria Pavlovna, grand prince Nikolas Nikolaevich (junior), grand prince Peter Nikolaevich and grand prince Boris Vladimirovich. Among dancing people you can see grand princess Olga Aleksandrovna, a sister of the emperor, dancing with the cousin grand prince Dmitry Pavlovich; as well as P.M.Raevsky, master of the ceremonies of the court, N.S.Voevodsky, one of the first Russian military pilots. In the crowd of people you can easily recognize famous politicians and statesmen, among them – A.G.Bulygin state secretary, who was the head of the Committee on preparation for the celebration of the Romanov’s house 300-year anniversary, duke A.A.Bobrinskiy, Duke D.I.Tolstoy, director of the Hermitage; chief master of the court A.S.Taneyev, a composer.
47 portrait sketched, made by the artist to the picture, are provided for the exhibition by the grandson of Dmitriy Nikolaevich Kardovsky – Nikolay Petrovich Vesyolkin, corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, director of I.M.Sechenov Institute of Evolutionary Physiology and Biochemistry.
Supervisors of the exhibitions are Galina Aleksandrovna Printseva, leading researcher of Russian Culture History Department of the State Hermitage Museum, Aleksandr Vladimirovich Soloviyov, senior researcher of Russian Culture History Department of the State Hermitage Museum.