Fine set of two antique snap shot style photographs of Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia, known as "Miechen" or "Maria Pavlovna the Elder"; (1854-1920) and Princess Maria Ouvaroff at Villa Rove-Marie in Cannes in 1895.
She was the daughter of Grand Duke Frederick Francis II of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Princess Augusta of Reuss-Köstritz. A prominent hostess in St Petersburg following her marriage to the Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich of Russia, she was known as the grandest of the grand duchesses and had an open rivalry with her sister-in-law the Empress Maria Feodorovna.
She married the third son of Alexander II of Russia, Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, her second cousin, in 1874, being one of the very few princesses with Slavic patriline to ever marry a male dynast of the Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov. She had been engaged to someone else, but broke it off as soon as she met Vladimir. It took three more years before they were permitted to marry as she had been raised a Lutheran and refused to convert to the Russian Orthodox Church.
Tsar Alexander II finally agreed to let Vladimir marry her without insisting on her conversion to Orthodoxy. Upon her marriage she took the Russian name of Maria Pavlovna of Russia - the name she is best known by. Maria remained Lutheran throughout most of her marriage, but converted to Orthodoxy later in her marriage, some said to give her son Kirill a better chance at the throne. As a result of marrying a son of an Emperor of Russia, she took on a new style Her Imperial Highness; the couple had four sons and one daughter.
In Russia, she lived at the Vladimir Palace situated on the Palace Embankment on the Neva River. Socially ambitious, it was there that she established her reputation as being one of the best hostesses in the capital. An addiction to gambling, which saw her defy a prohibition by Nicholas II on the playing on roulette and baccarat in private homes, resulted in her temporarily being banned from Court.
In 1909, her husband died and she succeeded him as president of the Academy of Fine Arts.
Her Grand Ducal court, was in the later years of the reign of her nephew, Nicholas II the most cosmopolitan and popular in the capital. The Grand Duchess was personally at odds with the Tsar and Tsarina.
The Grand Duchess held the distinction to be the last of the Romanovs to escape Revolutionary Russia, as well as the first to die in exile. She remained in the war-torn Caucasus with her two younger sons throughout 1917 and 1918, still hoping to make her eldest son Kirill Vladimirovich the Tsar. As the Bolsheviks approached, the group finally escaped aboard a fishing boat to Anapa in 1918. Maria spent fourteen months in Anapa, refusing to join her son Boris in leaving Russia. When opportunities for escape via Constantinople presented themselves she refused to leave for fear she would be subjected to the indignity of delousing. She finally agreed to leave when the general of the White Army warned her that his side was losing the civil war. Maria, her son Andrei, Andrei's mistress Mathilde Kschessinska, and Andrei and Mathilde's son Vladimir, boarded an Italian ship headed to Venice on 13 February 1920.
Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia encountered Maria at the port of Novorossiysk in early 1920: "Disregarding peril and hardship, she stubbornly kept to all the trimmings of bygone splendour and glory. And somehow she carried it off... When even generals found themselves lucky to find a horse cart and an old nag to bring them to safety, Aunt Miechen made a long journey in her own train. It was battered all right--but it was hers. For the first time in my life I found it a pleasure to kiss her..."
She made her way from Venice to Switzerland and then to France, where her health failed. Staying at her villa (now the Hotel La Souveraine), she died on 6 September 1920, aged 66, surrounded by her family at Contrexéville.
Largest Size: 8 x 10 cm approx