Exhibition ‘Balls and Celebrations’ in the Yusupov Palace

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On 5th December 2018 in the Nicholas Hall of the Yusupov Palace, the fourth exhibition of the project “The World of the Russian Nobility” opened its doors to visitors. The exhibition “Balls and Celebrations” presents the striking, colourful side of the life of the Russian nobility through the example of the venerable princely Yusupov family. The display, based on material from the State Hermitage Museum, contains 100 items, the majority of which came from the Yusupovs’ collection.

Welcoming the guests, Nina Vasilyevna Kukuruzova, Director of the Yusupov Palace, said: “Today we are opening the fourth exhibition in a project that has been going on now for seven years – a joint project between the Hermitage and the Hermitage that is devoted to the world of the Russian nobility. Social life occupied a very large place. It was more than just a way of passing the time: attending a ball was a continuation of the life that a nobleman lived – it was service to sovereign and country. This was an opportunity to resolve matters of state in a relaxed atmosphere. For example, it was during a ball at the Yusupovs that Alexander II and the French envoy Le Flo managed to agree to make peace.”

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© The State Hermitage Museum. 2018

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© The State Hermitage Museum. 2018

In his response, Mikhail Borisovich Piotrovsky, General Director of the State Hermitage, said: “The Hermitage Days are taking place now. The Hermitage has friends, partners and relatives. You are a close relative. It is terrific that we are celebrating together. The exhibition is wonderful, just the kind that there should be in a palace. In a palace you need to tell about how people live here, especially in a palace like this, where there is life. The Yusupov Palace is gradually returning to the Hermitage’s orbit. For a time, it seemed that if this is a living palace, then no museum life was possible. It turns out that it is possible. And a big thank you that we and your staff have been able to accomplish that.”

The exhibits on display immerse visitors in the atmosphere of the formal and festive life of Saint Petersburg’s high society, presenting a whole variety of ball costumes and accessories for them, explaining certain rules of behaviour at dances and telling about famous balls in a historical style. Chronologically the exhibition spans the period from the 1820s to the 1910s. Some of the items are on public display for the first time.

An illustrated scholarly catalogue has been prepared for the exhibition (Slavia publishing house, 2018).

The curators of the exhibition are Natalia Nekrasova, Irina Terentyeva, both researchers in the State Hermitage’s Department of the History of Russian Culture, and Valentina Nabok, head of the Head of the Curatorial Department at the Yusupov Palace.

The exhibition Balls and Celebrations runs until 30 March 2019, in the Nicholas Hall, Yusupov Palace, St. Petersburg

© State Hermitage Museum / Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 6 December 2018