An exhibition called "People and Palaces of St. Petersburg in Photographs at the Turn of the 20th Century" opens in London today. The display in the famous Somerset House is devoted to the 300th anniversary of the former Russian capital. It includes about 200 photographs from the collection of the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg, the largest museum of fine arts in Russia.
The exhibition consists of five sections in which photographs of the interiors of the palaces of Russian tsars and mansions of the nobility built in the city at the turn of the past century. They show what Russia looked like before the 1917 communist revolution and how ordinary residents of imperial St. Petersburg lived at that time.
Of special interest are the photographs of Russian Emperors Alexander II, Alexander III and Nicolas II made not on official occasions but at home. The exhibition organizers believe that the visitors will be attracted also by the pictures showing the grandiose ball, the last one held before the revolution in the imperial palace. It was a fancy dress ball in February, 1903, when the 200th anniversary of St. Petersburg was celebrated. The costumes had been made for a few months by the best Russian tailors and embroideresses. Some of the costumes are displayed in a separate showcase.
The London exhibition is but a small portion of about 40,000 photographs made in tsarist Russia and kept in Hermitage. They were taken from the archives of the emperors' families and the St. Petersburg nobility.