Settee, March–June 1803
Andrei N. Voronikhin (designer) (Russian, 1759–1814); Carl Scheibe (court cabinetmaker); Iwan Naschon (master carver); Carl Focht (court guilder); Sergej Schaschin (upholsterer)
Beech and pine wood, partly gilt with burnished and matte surfaces, later light blue silk show cover; 39 x 72 1/4 x 32 1/4 in. (99.1 x 183.5 x 81.9 cm)
Purchase, Walter and Leonore Annenberg and The Annenberg Foundation Fund, 2007 (2007.368)
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.