17 stunning colorized photographs of the Romanov royal costume ball of 1903 – INSIDER

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The Romanov dynasty, and most notably the reign of Tsar Nicholas II, is most well-known for its opulent parties and the mystery surrounding Grand Duchess Anastasia, who many believed survived the family’s politically fueled execution in 1918.
A book titled “The Romanov Royal Martyrs” is bringing new life to the famed royal family, featuring newly colorized images from the costume ball of 1903.
Though it can be a lengthy process to research the colors of the clothing worn during this time period, colorist, professor, and historian of the Romanov dynasty Olga Shirnina explains it’s a passion project of hers.
“I do the ball images just for my own pleasure, and I take time to do it right,” she told Insider. “Colorizing these images is very interesting work and I really enjoy it.”
Here are 17 colorized photographs of the Romanov royal costume ball of 1903.
However, picture colorist and professor Olga Shirnina is bringing the photos back to life through a beautiful colorization method, transforming the century-old black and white photos into glorious works of art that reflect what the costumes would have actually looked like.
Tsar Nicholas II, pictured here wearing the golden brocade of 17th-century Russian Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich, is one of the most well-known figures in Russian history.
He ruled Russia from November 1, 1894, until his forced abdication on March 15, 1917. He along with his five children, his wife Alexandra, and three servants were executed by firing squad on July 17, 1918. 
Though it was true that precious jewels had been sewn into the four duchesses’ clothing, sparing them from the first round of gunfire, it has since been revealed that every member of the tsar’s immediate family died that night.
According to Biography.com, in the 1970s an amateur archaeologist found a shallow grave containing the skeletons of six adults and three children tied to the events of July 17, 1918. A forensic investigation in 1991 then identified the nine bodies as the members of the tsar’s family and others murdered that night, but Anastasia’s body and the body of her younger brother, Alexei, remained missing.
Rumors circulated over the century that Anastasia and Alexei had survived. Some women even claimed to be Anastasia, allowing the mystery to be kept alive.
However, in 2007, a new DNA analysis of another shallow grave found near the first gravesite concluded that Anastasia and Alexei had also died the same night, putting an end to the rumors.
The winter celebration of 1903 spanned multiple days. First, a party was held on February 11 in the Winter Palace.
Two days later a grand fancy dress ball was held, and the empress herself commissioned the best photographers of St. Petersburg to make individual and collective pictures of participants at the ball, according to The State Hermitage Museum.
According to History Daily, Nicholas II invited 390 guests to the party held at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, which was to commemorate the 290th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty.
Princess Olga Orlova, pictured, was one of the party’s royal attendees.
When the clock struck 10, all guests were invited into the Concert Room to dance.
According to The State Hermitage Museum, young officers of the guards regiments, horse-guardsmen, life-guardsmen, and lancers also acted as male partners to female attendees in the choreographed dances.
However, common waltzes also took place at the grand ball.
Dancing offered the perfect opportunity for guests to show off their extraordinary costumes.
The costumes were modeled after traditional 17th-century Russian dress, according to Russia Beyond.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, a boyar was a member of the upper stratum of medieval Russian society.
“While we were dancing,” Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich recalled, according to Russia Beyond, “workers’ strikes were happening in St. Petersburg, and clouds were gathering over the Russian Far East.”
The 1905 Russian Revolution would begin just two years later.
“There is not much information left about those dresses,” Shirnina told Insider. “First I looked for real costumes from the ball – today, some of them are in museums like the Hermitage Museum.”
“I had excellent samples for the costumes of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna. The few still-existing costumes of other ball guests gave me an idea of how they could have looked 1903,” Shirnina said.
“Of course, I had to use my imagination,” Shirnina said. “First, it was hard for me to do pearls and jewels, silk and brocade, now the hardest part is choosing the ‘right colors.’ Sometimes, I just have the feeling that the color is wrong even if it looks right.”
“Often, I drop the image and wait for an ‘insight.’ Regardless, colorizing these images is very interesting work and I really enjoy it,” she said.
Examining the attendees’ opulent costumes not only gives viewers insight into how extravagant these gatherings really were but also offers a peek into 17th-century Russian fashion history.

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