Understatement was not part of the Romanov vocabulary. The Russian rulers’ ornate Baroque palaces were symphonies of gold, amber, malachite, and lapis lazuli. Their furnishings reflected the Empire style popularized by Napoléon and Joséphine.
Following his ascension to the throne in 1894, Tsar Nicholas II, his wife, Alexandra Feodorovna, and their daughter, Grand Duchess Olga, moved from Tsarkoye Selo to the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg (now home to the Hermitage Museum). When the empress redecorated her private apartments, she commissioned this suite of neoclassical furniture for her White Sitting Room. Fittingly, the silk-upholstered chairs and marble-topped round tables are painted white and embellished with intricate giltwood carvings of laurel garlands, medallions, and ram’s heads.
The provenance of the suite is indisputable. Inventory numbers 170 and 171 are inscribed in red under the white marble tabletops. Photographs taken in the 1920s show the two gueridons and eight chairs still in place in the White Sitting Room, set against the matching wood-paneled walls. This is an imperial suite of furniture, in every sense of the word.
The ensemble was purchased by Finnish collector Antti Wihuri in the 1930s. Parisian antiques dealer Ariane Dandois, who showed the set at the Paris Biennale in September, is asking 800,000 euros ($773,000).
Ariane Dandois, +220.127.116.11.39.39, www.arianedandois.com