Extremely rare vintage matte-finish 3.5 x 5 three-quarter-length photo of Nikolaevna seated and wearing formal attire, signed at the bottom in black ink, “Anastasia 1914.” In fine condition, with a couple insignificant surface stains, trivial edge chipping, and slightly trimmed edges. Reverse bears an interesting series of notes in French, dated 1927 and signed “E Bosset,” offering a brief but definitive opinion of the photograph and signature’s authenticity.
As Russia entered World War I in 1914, the imperial family made their permanent home behind the walls of the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoye Selo, where this photograph was taken. Most frequently attributed to renowned St. Petersburg photographers Boasson and Eggler, this picture captures a regal image of the 13-year-old Grand Duchess; each of the sisters posed for a similar portrait, which they then signed and gave to those who made contributions to their charitable funds or supported the war effort in other ways. Anastasia and Maria—too young to join the Red Cross like their mother and older sisters—spent a great deal of their time visiting wounded soldiers at the private hospital in Tsarskoye Selo, playing checkers and billiards to lift their spirits. Unlike the many impersonal signed photos that the Duchesses offered, this particular piece was given to Anastasia’s nursemaid since birth, Alexandra ‘Shura’ Tegleva (who later married Pierre Gilliard, the children’s tutor). Just four years after this photograph was taken, 17-year-old Anastasia suffered a gruesome fate, murdered by members of the Bolshevik secret police with the rest of her family. With their deaths shrouded in mystery, claims quickly began to surface that the young Duchess was alive; in 1927, Shura and Gilliard became entangled in the investigation into Anna Anderson’s famous claim that she was Anastasia, which may account for the notes on the reverse, identifying with certainty that the image and signature are in fact the Grand Duchess. A beautiful image with excellent personal association, this is an outstandingly rare photograph of the young Romanov—the first we have offered in over 30 years of business.
RESEARCH UPDATE: Additional research has revealed that this photograph was indeed used in the investigation of Anna Anderson. Gilliard was a professor of modern history in the arts department at the University of Lausanne, which was home to the first school of forensic science in the world, the 'Institut de police scientifique,' founded in 1909. When he became aware of Anderson's claims, Gilliard submitted the case to Professor Marc Bischoff, head of the criminal science department. Bischoff did three separate studies, each time reaching the conclusion that Anderson was an impersonator. Contact with the university has confirmed that this was one of the photographs Gilliard gave to Bischoff for these forensic studies, and that the notes on the reverse are those of Eric Bosset, who was a student there in the 1930s. Bosset would have had access to this photograph during the course of his education, as students had case studies based on recent investigations by the institute. Pre-certified John Reznikoff/PSA/DNA and RR Auction COA.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.