The »Olga Album«

How does the queen live?

20.06. – 25.10.2009

Over the course of her life, Queen Olga of Württemberg collected eighty-six watercolours and gouaches with interior views of her private residential and state rooms, which she kept together in a maroon cassette known as the »Olga Album«. The daughter of the Russian tsar Nicholas I, Olga married the successor to the throne and later King Karl I of Württemberg in Saint Petersburg in 1846. The »Olga Album« spans her biography from the »Hotel Room in Florence« – in which Olga resided in 1846 on the return journey from Palermo following her engagement to Karl – to the Death Room of King Karl, 6 October 1891, and grants the viewer insights into the private and state rooms of the royal couple of Württemberg in the Old and New Palaces.

The drawings offer insights into the private and state rooms of the royal couple in the Old and New Palace, the Crown Prince’s Palace, the Villa Berg and Friedrichshafen Castle as well as Solitude Castle and Ludwigsburg Palace. The interiors of their adopted daughter Grand Duchess Vera and the latter’s children Elsa and Olga in the academy and the small Villa Berg, as well as of Duchess Henriette at Kirchheim Castle are also depicted. The earliest drawing dates from 1846, the year Karl and Olga were married; the last to be executed within Olga’s lifetime is dated 1891.

The richly detailed depictions constitute an impressive record of how the royal Württemberg family lived in the nineteenth century and the objects, furniture and artworks with which they were surrounded.

In addition to their documentary value and the remarkable precision of the draughtsmanship, the works convey a striking atmosphere: even if people appear only very rarely, the scenes are rendered so as to suggest that the tenants have just left the room, temporarily interrupted in their conversations, work or amusements, and will return in a moment’s time. The »portrait« of the room does not appear posed, and nothing seems to have been tidied up especially for the sitting. Tables are laid, a cloak has been draped carelessly over a chair, a book left open where the reader left off reading. The draughtsman who clearly enjoyed Olga’s highest favour was Franz Heinrich (1802–1890), who had studied at the academy of Vienna. The album also contains works by Pieter Francis Peters (1818–1903), Johann Caspar Obach (1807–1865) and Adolf Charlemagne (1826–1901).

The quality of the artistry varies, the drawings’ authors ranging from trained painters to amateurs as well as – in two cases – members of the royal family: on 11 September 1891, the twins Elsa and Olga, daughters of Grand Duchess Vera and Duke Wilhelm Eugen IV, each drew their Play and School Room in the Stuttgart Academy, captioned by Queen Olga as »the children’s slide room«.

This is the first exhibition of the complete »Olga Album« ever to be presented, and we would like to take it as an occasion for a request: in connection with our further research, we and the Landesmuseum Württemberg would be grateful for any clues (which will naturally be treated with discretion) as to extant interior furnishings from the royal household now in private and public ownership.

The complete album can be viewed in the digital catalogue on the Staatsgalerie website. A publication accompanying the exhibition is available in the museum shop for € 9.80.

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