Puppets that once belonged to crown prince Alexei, IOPS honorary member, returned to Tsarskoe Selo museum

S. Obraztsov Puppet Theater of Moscow returned a unique puppet set for permanent display at Tsarskoe Selo State Museum-Preserve, reported Vecherny Peterburg (The Evening Petersburg) newspaper.

The toy theater was formerly kept in the Alexander Palace where Emperor Nicholas II used to stay for a long time with his family. This fact was revealed a few years ago, and that was also when it was found that the theater had belonged to Crown Prince Alexei – the son of Nicholas II, the last tsar of Russia, and the heir to the Russian throne.

The theater set consists of a booth and seven characters from the French Guignol puppet show, made with a great craftsmanship: Harlequin, Caporal, Fiancée, Polichinelle, Madelon, Gendarme and Housemaid. A label on the booth’s front panel reveals that the set originated from a toy store named Au paradis des enfants on Rue de Louvre and Rue de Rivoli in downtown Paris. There is another label on the side panel with the inscription in ink: “Alexander Palace Heir’s Half Playroom No 333”. 

This museum marking demonstrates that the theater set was kept in the Alexander Palace of Tsarskoe Selo, in the Crown Prince’s room at the Children’s Rooms of the Palace. The set is also depicted on a watercolor drawing dated 1931, which is a part of Tsarskoe Selo Museum’s collection. 

On the 1st of August 1917 the last Russian Emperor and his family had to abandon the Alexander Palace forever and traveled to Tobolsk in exile, which ended with their execution by shooting in the Ipatiev House's cellar. Soon after the departure of the imperial family an inventory of their property was made in the Alexander Palace by the art and history commission of the Interim Government, chaired by Georgiy Lukomsky. In year 1918 it were the Bolsheviks who renewed the inventory taking and opened the Alexander Palace to the public.

The exposition of the Children’s Rooms existed until 1931. Following the closure of the Children’s Rooms, in 1932 the booth and seven puppets were moved to the State Museum of Toys in Zagorsk. 

In 1937 Crown Prince Alexei’s toy theater was transferred to the newly established museum of theater puppets at the Academic Central Theater of Puppets (currently S. Obraztsov State Academic Central Theater of Puppets).