#20 Princess Natalia Pavlovna Paley (1905-1981) with Lilies
Oliver Messel (London 1904 – St James, Barbados 1978
This blog continues in the “Europe & the U.S. in 99 Objects” series. Dr. Gabriella de la Rosa at the National Trust has started this project for the National Trust, originally published here, by delving into the Trust’s collections – nearly 1 million objects held at over 200 historic properties across the United Kingdom – to find objects with interesting, unusual and unexpected connections to Europe. These objects and their stories are being published in the form of a digital diary on the National Trust Collections website.
Category: Art / Oil paintings
Date: 1924 – 1978
Materials: Oil on canvas
Measurements: 745 x 615 mm
Collection: Nymans Estate, West Sussex (Accredited Museum)
Natalia Pavlona Paley is somberly depicted in a stormy landscape, enveloped in a floating garland of funereal white lilies.Tragedy surrounded this Romanov princess from an early age and a sense of melancholy certainly lurks in this portrait. She was born Countess Natalia Pavlovna von Hohenfelsen in a Parisian suburb in 1905. Her father, the Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich of Russia, had been exiled by his nephew, Tsar Nicholas II, for having committed the royal sin of marrying a commoner.
In 1912, the Tsar acquiesced and Natalia and her family returned to Russia where they lived luxuriantly in St Petersburg in a palatial estate filled with the fine porcelain and Old Master paintings her parents had collected while living in France. This privileged existence was not to last, however. The Bolshevik uprising of 1917 led to the execution of Natalia’s father, brother and, most famously, her first cousin, Tsar Nicholas II.
After a harrowing escape through Finland and Sweden, Natalia settled in exile in Paris. She eventually married the couturier Lucien Lelong and became a well-known socialite, linked to the artist Jean Cocteau and dancer Serge Lifar. Beautiful and glamorous, she was a favorite model of the great fashion photographers of the day, including Edward Steichen, Cecil Beaton and Horst P. Horst. It’s not clear how the renowned costume and set designer Oliver Messel came to paint this portrait. Messel’s earliest stage commission was in 1925 for a London performance of Zéphyre et Flore by the Diaghilev Ballet. It was perhaps through this prestigious production that the paths of the up-and-coming designer and exiled Romanov princess first crossed.
Summary: Oil painting on canvas, Princess Natalia Pavlovna Paley (1905-1981) with Lilies by Oliver Messel (London 1904 – St James, Barbados 1978). A three-quarter-length portrait, facing, blonde shoulder-length hair, dressed in black and surrounded by lillies. Landscape background with stormy sky. She was a member of the Romanov family and daughter of Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich of Russia as well as a first cousin of the last Russian emperor, Nicholas II. After the Russian revolution she emigrated first to France and later to the United States. She became a fashion icon, socialite and briefly pursued a career as a film actress.
#21 Picket Post
Date: 1854 – 1855
Materials: Wood and metal
Measurements: 690 mm (L)
Collection: Powis Castle and Garden, Powys
This worn wooden tethering post may look unpromising but it tells the story of the special bond between man and horse during the bloody battles of war. It’s part of a small selection of mementoes at Powis Castle in Wales from the Crimean campaign (1853-56) when Percy Herbert, second son of the 2nd Earl of Powis, fought and was wounded at the Battle of the Alma and the siege of Sevastapol. Against the odds he survived; perhaps more remarkably, so did his horse, Inkerman. The equine toll at Crimea was appalling with horses perishing in terrible conditions due to cold, disease and starvation as well as to injuries sustained on the battlefield. Inkerman’s survival, then, is something of a miracle. The faithful horse even accompanied Percy on the long journey back to Wales. Inkerman’s final resting place is marked by a gravestone in the park at Powis.
Summary: Picket post bearing the inscription ‘Colonel Hon’ble Percy Herbert’s picket post, Crimea 1854-5. Wooden post with iron ferrule at top and ring attached to side.