Settee

Designer: Andrei Nikiforovich Voronikhin (Russian)

Maker: Workshop of the Russian Imperial Court

Maker: Carl Scheibe

Maker: Carved by Iwan Naschon

Maker: Guilded by Carl Focht (Russian)

Maker: Upholstered by Sergej Schaschin

Patron: Commissioned by Tsar Paul I (Russian, 1754–1801)

Date: made between early March and end of April 1803

Culture: Russian (Saint Petersburg)

Medium: Light colored hardwood, carved, gilded and painted; light blue silk show cover (later)

Dimensions: Overall (Confirmed): 39 x 72 1/4 x 32 1/4 in. (99.1 x 183.5 x 81.9 cm)

Classification: Woodwork-Furniture

Credit Line: Walter and Leonore Annenberg Acquisitions Endowment Fund, 2007

Accession Number: 2007.368

Description

This settee is one of the most significant pieces of documented Imperial Russian furniture to appear in recent decades. A court order of 1799 stipulated that all objects in an Imperial dowry had to be ""worthy"" of a Russian grand duchess and reflect ""the indigenous local splendor as an emblem of courtly life and stately prestige."" In March 1803, Russia's foremost designer and architect, Andrei Voronikhin, set a time frame of three months for the court artisans to create a genuinely Russian bedroom suite for the sister of Czar Alexander I, Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, who was to marry hereditary prince Carl Friedrich of Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach in 1804. To meet the challenge, innovative techniques such as prefabricated carvings were applied, yet typically Russian features like the dual-tone matte finish and polished gilding were not sacrificed. The carved armrests on the settee represent the double-headed eagle of the Romanov arms. After her wedding, the highly sophisticated Maria Pavlovna moved to Weimar, where she cultivated a weekly salon that included the poets Goethe and Schiller. Her ostentatious suite—two settees (the other is still in Weimar), a richly carved canopy bed, a fire screen, eight armchairs, two tabourets, and other pieces—was installed in the Weimar Palace. Documents and illustrations from December 1804 reveal that a sky-blue silk velvet was used for the upholstery.

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