Exhibition: ‘Victory of the Entente – Victory of Russia 1918-2018’ Opens in Ganina Yama

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On 9th December 2018, the exhibition Victory of the Entente – Victory of Russia 1918-2018, dedicated to the centenary of the end of the First World War, opened in the Museum and Exhibition Center of the Monastery of the Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama.

The exhibition marks the Day of the Heroes of the Fatherland, a Russian holiday which has been celebrated since the 18th century; the date was timed to coincide with the outstanding event of the reign of Empress Catherine II – in 1769 she established the Order of St. George. During the First World War, this order was awarded to soldiers who displayed valor, bravery and courage in battle.

The exhibition begins with the presentation of the book The Role of Russia and the Romanovs in the Great War of 1914–1918, by Alexey Vladimirovich Oleynikov, Associate Professor of Astrakhan State Technical University, Doctor of Historical Sciences. 

A.V. Oleinikov researched the contribution to the victory of Imperial Russia’s supreme commanders: Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich (1856-1929) and Emperor Nikolai II (1868-1918)

The historian writes: “The sovereign emperor Nicholas II who served as Commander in Chief, proved a calm, seasoned, thoughtful leader with perseverance in achieving the goal of winning the war, competently organizing the work of the military machine and coordinating activities its units, capable of selecting qualified officers to perform their duty.”

The book has a section dedicated to military companies, where an analysis is given in figures of the number of weapons. There is a comparative analysis of the contribution of Russia with the other members of the Entente.

The illustrations for the book were photographs exhibited in the monastery from the photo album of the Sovereign. They can be seen in the multimedia hall of the museum, through the pages of a virtual photo album, the original of which is stored in the funds of the Museum of Local History in Zlatoust.

Visitors to the exhibition can acquaint themselves with Russia’s role during the First World War. The exhibit features original items of the First World War from the Cultural Center, which include uniforms, ammunition, equipment, weapons, awards, etc.

Through documents and photographs, visitors will learn the true contribution of Russia and, for example, the United States, which entered at the last stage of the war. The exhibition further explores the contribution of Britain and France with the contribution of Russia, although Russia’s former allies tell a completely different story today.

– This injustice needs to be corrected, it is necessary to restore the historical truth, including the role of the sovereign, who, even while being in exile in Tobolsk, continued to be true to his duty towards England and France, who had betrayed him, – says Vladimir Anatolyevich Kuznetsov, head of the monastery center – The exhibition covers the period from 1914 to 1918. Despite the fact that the Brest Peace Treaty was signed on 3rd March 1918, Russia continued to fight. The expeditionary corps of the Russian army continued to operate in the West. The Russian Legion of Honour reached Berlin, including the future Marshal of the Soviet Union R.Ya. Malinowski. The Bolsheviks gave away vast territories of the former Russian Empire to the mercy of the enemy. But at the same time, our Fatherland actually continued to fulfill its obligations to the countries of the Entente. She held in her occupied territories the huge forces of the Kaiser military bloc, which later were not used by the Central Powers to defend her Western Front. Greed destroyed them. Thus, by 11th November 1918, the war ended with the victory of the Entente, and for Russia in a certain sense, it also ended with a victory over the enemy who declared war on us in the summer of 1914.”

The end of the exhibition will be timed to coincide with the centenary of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles – 28th June 2019.

The exhibition Victory of the Entente – Victory of Russia 1918-2018, runs until 28th June 2019, in the Museum and Exhibition Center of the Monastery of the Royal Martyrs at Ganina Yama. Free admission.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 11 December 2018

Exhibition: ‘Russian Charity Under the Auspices of the Imperial House of Romanov’

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On 7th December 2018, an exhibition featuring a unique collection of paintings, sculptures and other artefacts showing the scale of charitable endeavors of the Romanov dynasty over 300 years opened in the Grand Palace in the Tsaritsyno Museum-Reserve in Moscow.

The exhibition Russian Charity Under the Auspices of the Imperial House of Romanov is organized by the “Elisavetinsko-Sergievsky Educational Society” and the Tsaritsyno Museum-Reserve with the support of the Moscow Government opens in the Grand Palace.

The exhibition, timed to the 100th anniversary of the death of the Imperial family in Ekaterinburg in July 1918, presents more than 1,000 items – displayed in eleven halls in the palace museum – from state museums in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod and private collections. 

The centuries-old traditions of personal charity were laid by the first monarchs from the Romanov dynasty. Tsars Mikhail Fedorovich and Alexey Mikhailovich provided assistance to the starving, exiled, prisoners from personal funds. Empress Catherine the Great made all charities state institutions in the 18th century. Under the law, they were granted government funding, aside from receiving private donations.

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Sisters of Mercy in the infirmary of Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna. 1915 Novgorod

At the end of the 18th century, Empress Maria Feodorovna, the wife of Paul I, took under her personal guidance and reorganized charitable and educational institutions founded by Catherine II. She created a whole complex of educational and medical charitable institutions. Thus was founded the Office of Institutions of the Empress Maria – a huge structure that existed for 120 years, until 1917. Personal participation in matters of mercy by the representatives of the Imperial House saw the creation of charitable institutions inside the Imperial residences: in Lefortovo and Tsarskoye Selo, Gatchina, Pavlovsk, Oranienbaum, Peterhof, Livadia, Ilyinskoye, Ramon and Ostashevo.

The Romanovs founded several notable charity organizations, such as the Russian Red Cross and the Imperial Philanthropic Society, the largest charity in the Russian Empire. 

By the end of the 19th – early 20th centuries, charitable activities developed rapidly, which involved tens of thousands of people. The members of the Imperial House worked tirelessly in the field of mercy. The tsesarevich, and the grand dukes from early childhood assimilated their duties towards their subjects and, in particular, to those who needed care.

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Unknown artist. Portrait of Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna.
1870 – early 1880s Oil on canvas (Novgorod Museum-Reserve)

Personal financial investments in charities of the last Russian emperor Nicholas II at the beginning of the 20th century were unprecedented. He personally donated sizable funds to charity, and during WWI he turned the Imperial residences into hospitals for sick and wounded soldiers. His consort Alexandra Feodorovna and their daughters Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana, as well as Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, Mother Superior of the Marfo-Mariinsky Convent of Mercy in Moscow, worked tirelessly in serving and caring for his subjects.

The members of the imperial family provided patronage and themselves established numerous charitable societies and institutions that were part of the Office of Institutions of the Empress Maria. These included educational institutions, homes for the disabled, orphanages, almshouses, and other social institutions that were in charge of several million empire nationals. One of the largest was the Committee of Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna to provide charitable assistance to families called to war.For the period from 1914 to 1916, the Committee provided assistance to 895 thousand people. 

The activities of the Imperial family were oriented to ensure that charity, while continuing to be a religious duty, also became a social and civic duty as well. Due to the wide dynastic ties, the most progressive Western European traditions were actively introduced into Russia, which contributed to the emergence of new forms and areas of charitable activity. 

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The exhibition Russian Charity Under the Auspices of the Imperial House of Romanov runs until 24th March 2019, in the Grand Palace, Tsaritsyno, Moscow

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 8 December 2018

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

Exhibition: ‘Nicholas II. Family and Throne’

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The State Historical Museum is currently the venue for an exhibition on the reign and family life of Nicholas Alexandrovich Romanov – the history of the Imperial family in photographs, paintings, diaries, personal items and other rare artifacts. 

A significant part of the 750 photographs in the exhibit are from the funds of various archives and museums in Russia – including the State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF), which contains a vast and unique collection of photo albums of members of the Imperial family.

Timed to the 150th anniversary of the birth and the 100th anniversary of the death of the last Russian emperor Nicholas II, the exhibition allows all visitors interested in history to create their own impression of one of Russia’s most controversial and misunderstood historical figures, which includes a look at the life of the Russian monarch and his family.

Photography, which is the basis of the exhibition, is of great historical importance, often fragile, requiring careful handling and protection. The photos submitted for the exhibit are 100 – 150 years old, and a considerable part of the photos were restored by professionals for presentation to the public in this exhibition.

As is known, the emperor and his family members took a great interest in photography: they all had cameras and enthusiastically photographed each other and and those close to them. Nicholas II was usually accompanied by a professional photographers who recorded his 23-year reign almost daily (the main merit belonged to the court photographer AK K. Yagelsky to the owner of the KE von Gan and Kº studio). Many photos come from Tsarskoye Selo and Peterhof palaces, and reflect the day to day lives in their private apartments of the Alexander Palace and the Lower Dacha.

 

The exhibition is divided into sections: family, official and memorial. The first sections testify to the two “functions” of Nicholas II: the head of the family and the ruler of a vast empire. It shows about 300 photographs taken in the 1870s – mid 1910s by leading Russian and foreign photo masters (K. K. Bulla, S. L. Levitsky, A. I. Saveliev, F. P. Orlov, M. I. Gribov, A. A. Otsup, K. A. Fisher, Atelier “Boissonna and Eggler”, “K. E. von Gan and Co.”, “J. Russell & Sons”, “W. & D. Downey “). Autographs and letters of Nicholas II are also on display, documents include a manifesto on the birth of Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich, a lunch menu on the occasion of the coming of age of Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich, and an announcement of the coronation of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna.

The family section of the exhibition is divided into the following topics: “Grand Duke. Tsesarevich. Emperor”, “Niki and Alix”, “Tsar’s Children. OTMA”, “Tsar’s Children. Alexei”, “In the Family Circle. Tsarskoye Selo. Livadia. Finland. Poland “. Particular emphasis is placed on the figure of Tsearevich Alexei Nikolaevich, the only son of Nicholas II, and heir to the throne, whose tragic fate left an imprint on the life of the entire imperial family.

The official section of the exhibition shows photographs of Nicholas II during meetings with the heads of foreign countries (British King Edward VII, German Emperor Wilhelm II, Siamese King Rama V, French Presidents Armand Falier and Felix Faure) during the celebrations marking the 200th anniversary St. Petersburg and the 100th anniversary of the Patriotic War of 1812, during the opening of grand monuments and the consecration of churches, the holding of regimental holidays and parades, as well as during the First World War. 

Two of the most important dynastic events in which Nicholas II was most directly involved – the coronation (1896) and the 300th anniversary of the Romanovs’ house (1913), are also featured.

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Ceremonial portrait of Nicholas II, by Léon Bakst, 1895

A large ceremonial portrait of Nicholas II, by the famous artist Léon Bakst (1895) in Paris is on display for the first time. The painting has never before been exhibited, and was specially restored for the exhibition. The exhibition also features pictorial portraits of Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna by G.M. Manizer and A.V. Makovsky, and a series of watercolors by N.N. Karazin, N.S. Matveeva and A.I. Charlemagne.

In addition to photos, the exhibition is filled with numerous items, both personal and memorial, associated with Nicholas II and his family – portraits, diaries, letters and more. For example, the uniforms of Nicholas II and Tsesarevich Alexei, the Imperial Constellation Easter Egg, made by Faberge for Alexandra Feodorovna Easter 1917, but not presented to the Empress, are shown a bronze frame with a watercolor portrait of Tsesarevich Alexei, a drawing, a watercolor portrait of Tsesarevich Alexei, and a drawing of Alexandra Feodorovna with their children.

One of the most unique artifacts on display is a curl of hair belonging to Tsesarevich Alexei, embedded in a watercolor portrait (see below), which was transferred during the post-war period to the Belgrade Museum in Serbia. In order to confirm its’ authenticity, the staff of the Historical Museum turned to the scientists of the N.I. Vavilova Institute of General Genetics, who confirmed a direct connection to the female line of Queen Victoria. 

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Curl of hair belonging to Tsesarevich Alexei, embedded in a watercolor portrait

The exhibition is located in the renovated premises of the State Historical Museum, where there is also a small memorial hall with photographic portraits of members of the Romanov family and their personal belongings.

The end of the exhibition is a small hall, resembling a basement, where seven portraits are displayed of members of the Imperial family who were murdered in the basement of the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg on the night of July 16-17. 

The exhibition Nicholas II. Family and Throne runs from 10 November 2018 to 15 April 2019 in the State Historical Museum in Moscow.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 6 December 2018

Exhibition: ‘Fabergé Style. Excellence Beyond Time’

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On December 15, the New Jerusalem Museum and Exhibition Complex* hosts the opening of a large-scale exhibition Fabergé Style. Excellence Beyond Time

The exhibition will feature more than 400 artworks, many of which have never been shown to the general public before. The project will gather the works of the House of Faberge’ from the collections of Russian and foreign museums: the Faberge Museum in Baden-Baden (Germany), the State Hermitage Museum (Russia, St. Petersburg) and others.

The Faberge** exhibition in Russia will present the full range of activities of the world-famous company:

“This is the first such large-scale project that presents not just individual items but tells the story of the development of the House of Faberge’. The extensive exhibition demonstrates visitors not only precious products, but also unique documents that mark the key milestones in the history of the famous brand”, — says Alexander Ivanov, the curator of the exhibition, professor, founder of the first private Museum in Russia (Russian National Museum) and the Faberge’ Museum in Baden-Baden (Germany).

In addition to jewelry and accessories, the Museum “New Jerusalem” presents crystal ware, gift and interior goods and also medals, lapidary works and works of Faberge’ created during the First World War. Also, at the exhibition it will be possible to evaluate and compare the work style of masters from the different departments of the House – St. Petersburg and Moscow. A special place of the exhibition is the Royal Hall, where unique copies of royal gifts, the famous Imperial Easter Eggs, items from the Cabinet of His Imperial Majesty, decorations of the Imperial Family will be displayed.

Among the key exhibits there are Easter Imperial Egg from Karelian birch (1917), the last Easter Egg, made and presented to the Imperial Family by Faberge’; Easter Imperial Egg “Imperial Blue Tsarevich Constellation Egg” (1917), intended as a gift to Empress Alexandra Feodorovna for Easter 1917; brooch “Butterfly” (1896), presented by Emperor Nicholas II to actress M. N. Yermolova.

One of the halls is recreated as the interior of the office of the chief executive of the Faberge’ firm, where you can see the original writing materials produced by the House of Faberge’ and a phone from the master’s office on Bolshaya Morskaya street in St. Petersburg. A separate room is dedicated to Faberge’s workshops. Its central installation is a huge table, a stylized version of the jeweler’s workspace with unique tools used at the turn of the century, the original sketches of artists which masters based their work on. Interactive touch panels tell all the information and photos about the features of jewelry techniques that glorified this unsurpassed brand. There is also a separate room for workshops and a projector screen showing a film about the history of the Faberge House. In addition to the works of Faberge’ jewelry house, the exhibition presents works of his contemporaries who imitated or tried to compete with the great master — items by Bolin, Sazikov, Ovchinnikov and Khlebnikov.

PHOTOS © New Jerusalem Museum and Exhibition Complex

* “New Jerusalem” is one of the largest museums in Russia. It is located in the town of Istra, 60 km from Moscow. Today the Museum’s collection consists of more than 180 000 items. “New Jerusalem” has often been the venue for major inter-museum projects. The newest one is the exhibition of Carl Faberge’, where many of exhibits will be presented to the public for the first time.

** Artist and entrepreneur, Carl Faberge (1846-1920) managed to create the largest
jewelry company in Russia that determined the development of the industry of the late XIX – early XX centuries. Baltic Germany by birth with French roots from his father, Carl Faberge studied at the German school of St. Anna in St. Petersburg, and then graduated from the Dresden Trading School and the Commercial College in Paris, learning at the same time jewelry art from the Frankfurt goldsmith Joseph Friedman.

The House of Faberge’ became famous worldwide in 1900 after the world exhibition in Paris, where Carl Faberge’ was a member of the jury. In 1903, a shop of the House was opened in London that also became a center of trade with France, America and Asia. The Faberge House clientele consisted of members of royal families of GB, Germany, Italy, Sweden and many other countries. A distinctive feature of the Faberge enterprise was the combination of two different specializations. The company created jewelry with precious stones, enamels and also so-called haberdashery: snuff boxes, bonbonnieres, cigar cases. Meanwhile, the House manufactured silverware — cutlery, vases, bowls, prize cups.

The exhibition Fabergé Style. Excellence Beyond Time runs from 15th December 2018 to 24th March 2019, at the New Jerusalem Museum and Exhibition complex

© New Jerusalem Museum and Exhibition Complex / Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 3 December 2018

Exhibition: ‘From the Imperial Wardrobe’

 

Military uniforms from the collection of the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve are currently on display at a new exhibition From the Іmperial Wardrobe, in the Mir Castle Complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, situated 100 km from Minsk, Belarus.

The exhibition, which opened on 29th November is dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. It is a joint international project of the Mir Castle Complex Museum, the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve, the State Archives of the Russian Federation, the Grodno State Historical and Archaeological Museum, the Local Charitable Foundation “Brest Fortification” and the Lukskaya Secondary School. 

The First World War changed the face of the Russian Empire, the way of life of people and families, including the imperial one. For a long time that war was in the shadow of the October Revolution, the Civil War and later the Great Patriotic War. The main purpose of the exhibition is to restore the historical memory of the war, drawing attention to the personality of Emperor Nicholas II and to military events related to Mir township and the surrounding villages.

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The exhibition features a total of 39 military uniforms, including those belonging to Emperor Nicholas II and his son, Tsesarevich Alexei. After the tsar’s abdication, his uniforms survived the 1917 Revolution, and were preserved in the Alexander Palace. During the Great Patriotic War (1941-45), the uniforms were evacuated to Novosibirsk.

An interactive excursion has been prepared for the visitors, during which they will be able to learn about the features of uniforms and learn about the history of individual Life Guard regiments.

A separate unit presents weapons and military equipment from the First World War from the funds of  Grodno State Historical and Archeological Museum, which are complemented by the items from the State Institution “Lukskaya secondary school” located on the territory of Korelichi district and on the basis of which the military-patriotic club “Vityaz” since 2001 has been operating.

An illustrative series of the exhibition is represented by photographs from the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum-Preserve, the collection of Major General Svity EI.V. Vladimir Fedorovich Dzhunkovsky State Archives of the Russian Federation, as well as photographs from the archive of local historian Leonid Kudin.

The thematic section on medical services during the First World War will be of particular interest. A military field hospital tent and medical instruments are on display at the exhibition thanks to the Local Charitable Foundation “Brest Fortification”.

The exhibition will be open until February 28, 2019. 

© Mir Castle / Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve. 30 November 2018

Nicholas II Conference will include Romanov Exhibit

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Photo Courtesy Grand Duchess Elizabeth Romanov Society UK

The upcoming Nicholas II Conference on Saturday, 27th October, in Colchester, England will now include a Romanov Exhibit, courtesy to the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Romanov Society UK.

The exhibit will include photo material from the society’s exhibition Romanovs During the First World War: Charity and Heroism presented in 10 banners. It will feature  rear photos, post cards and documents from the Russian archives and private collections. The exhibition was produced by GDER society, St Tichon’s Theological University, Moscow, and The Society of Card Collectors.  All the information is in English. 

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© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 6 October 2018

 

Four Museums Centenary Project Opens in St. Petersburg

As Tsarskoye Selo, Peterhof, Pavlovsk and Gatchina celebrate their 100th anniversary as museums in 2018, their Four Museums’ Centenary Project culminates in their joint exhibition running at St Petersburg’s Manege Central Exhibition Hall from 19th September to 8th October 2018.

A museum and theatre project titled To Keep Forever, is conceptually curated by stage director Anderey Moguchy and essentially recites the biographies of the four former imperial residences by the language of modern theatre.

The display starts in a “theatre hall” with a huge golden traveler curtain which does not move but lets the viewer into a “labyrinth of time”. The exhibition’s narrative is based on a diary of a fictional character named “Olga” (voiced by the Russian movie and theatre star Alice Freindlich). Her voice on the audio guide set accompanies the visitor through the whole “travel in time”. Born in Tsarskoye Selo, Olga worked as a guide at Peterhof, then as a curator she evacuated art objects from the Pavlovsk Palace and later restored the Gatchina Palace. Her “diary” is full of real people, such as museum employees and other witnesses of historical events.

Following the narration, the exhibition space is divided into several areas representing different time periods. From the former royal residences the viewer proceeds to a Soviet park of culture and recreation and then, as the war begins, takes part in a large-scale evacuation of the museum collections and follows them along to the victory. The culmination is the palaces’ triumphal revival from the ashes and further paths into the present.

The most important part of the display consists of over 200 artefacts and archival photographs from the four museums’ collections, including 37 art objects, 12 surviving sculpture and décor fragments and photographic materials from Tsarskoye Selo. 

© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Reserve. 26 September 2018

Exhibition: ‘Family Album’ Opens in Kaluga

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On September 15 a solo exhibition entitled Family Album opened at the Kaluga Museum of Fine Arts, presenting the works of the Honorary Academician of the Academy of Arts Evgeny Sheffer, known to the general public under the pseudonym ‘Zhenya Shef’.

The exhibition is dedicated to the centenary of the tragic death of Emperor Nicholas II and his family and the centennial anniversary of the Kaluga Museum of Fine Arts. The artist who now lives in Germany marked the terrible events that occurred in July 1918 in the basement of Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg by a series of paintings.

His work presented in Kaluga – portraits of the Imperial family – were previously  shown at the Venice Biennale in 2013, the year marking the 400th anniversary of the House of Romanov. The exhibition is organized by the Russian Noble Assembly with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Kaluga Region.

The chairman of the Kaluga branch of the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society (IOPS) Vitaly Gorokhovatsky, opened the exhibition with a welcoming speech. He then awarded  Honorary Deeds to the artist Evgeny Sheffer and the director of the Kaluga Museum of Fine Arts Natalia Marchenko for their excellent organization of the exhibition.

The opening ceremony was attended by the head of the Russian Nobility Assembly  Oleg Shcherbachev, the head of the Department of Culture of the Kaluga diocese, priest Nikolai Zherzdev, the human rights commissioner for the Kaluga region Yuri Zelnikov , the president of the Russian Union of Philocratists Arsen Meltonyan among others.

In honour of the exhibition, the Russian postal service issued a special set of postcards featuring paintings presented at the exhibition. The artist took part to autograph them for guests at the exhibition.

The opening ceremony was followed by a concert, at which the Russian composer, pianist and violoncellist Victor Agranovich performed. His performance, a musical work was performed on the verses of Nina Kartasheva from the cantata Voices from the Skies, dedicated to the centenary of the tragic death of the Tsar’s family.

The Family Album Exhibition runs until November 4, at the Kaluga Museum of Fine Arts, and then in Novosibirsk, Tver and other Russian cities. 

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 25 September 2018

State Hermitage Museum showcases furniture from the Tsarist era

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Photo © The State Hermitage Museum

The State Hermitage Museum is currently holding the exhibition Furniture for a Body’s Every Whim… The Age of Historicism in Russia devoted to the development of the furniture-maker’s art between the 1820s and 1890s, when in Russia, following Europe’s lead, the single all-embracing style that was Classicism gave way to an enthusiasm for the art of different countries and peoples from the past – the age of Historicism.

In Russia, the era spanned the reigns of three emperors: Nicholas I, Alexander II and Alexander III. Among them, it was undoubtedly Nicholas I who had the strongest influence on the formation of a romantic perception of history.

Drawing inspiration exclusively from Greco-Roman Antiquity, which had for more than 60 years supplied artists’ creative palette, began to seem dry and boring. New crazes took Russian cultural life by storm: in art a host of different styles appeared that people at the time gave convenient labels: “Neo-Grecian”, “Renaissance”, “Second Rococo”, “Gothic Revival”, “Moresque”, “Neo-Pompeian” and so on.

The fascination with the past that found striking expression in high society life in “historical” masquerades, was perhaps reflected strongest of all in works of decorative and applied art. Here furniture, as the chief element within people’s material environment, played an important role. In the words of one of the characters in Dostoyevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov, “There were many sofas and couches, settees, tables, large and small. There were pictures on the walls, vases and lamps on the tables, masses of flowers…”

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Photo © The State Hermitage Museum

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Photo © The State Hermitage Museum

Tastes in the age of Historicism tended towards variety in shapes and decorative motifs. This also applied to the materials chosen for the finishing of furniture: besides the customary mahogany and “natural look” poplar, they might use stained “black poplar”, amaranth (purpleheart), walnut, lemonwood or curly grey maple, supplemented here and there with silvered and gilded elements. Capturing the distinctive features of the legacy of the past, while at the same time seeking to surpass their predecessors, the craftsmen invented new technologies and materials.

The vast range of designs and decorative techniques that the age of Historicism produced defies straightforward description. The names of some pieces of furniture have long since become obsolete or are today used for entirely different objects. And when we are reading our favourite works from that period, we often fail to realize that by mentioning, say, a “bergère” or “Gambs armchairs” an author immediately indicated his characters’ standard of living, their tastes and financial circumstances.

Much of daily life in the 19th century is today hidden from us by the veil of the intervening years. Raising that veil and, most importantly, showing the sort of settings in which the dramatic events described by Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Goncharov and Turgenev would have taken place is one of the main tasks of the exhibition. Its title “Furniture for a Body’s Every Whim” is a quotation from an 1839 short story by Nikolai Pavlov, who was a very well-known writer in his day. The epithets “whimsical”, “fanciful” and “ornate” were fashionable expressions used particularly often in the age of Historicism, relating to all sorts of things, but always implying especial refinement.

Of exceptional significance are the examples of items that have survived from the authentic furnishings of the Winter Palace – mute witnesses to the life of the imperial family over a period of several decades.

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Photo © The State Hermitage Museum

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Photo © The State Hermitage Museum

Pieces of furniture from the rooms of the Winter Palace, many of which were recorded in watercolour paintings of the interiors, form a leitmotif that runs through each section of the display devoted to a particular stylistic tendency of the 1820s–90s. Judging by the painted records, besides the traditional sofas, chairs and armchairs, in the Winter Palace there was a great demand for various secretaires, bureaus and writing desks, especially of the sort one would use standing up. They could be found not only in the emperor’s study, but also in practically all the school rooms, the libraries and even the bedrooms. The decoration of the main imperial residence, devised by leading architects was seen by the people of the time as an indicator of fashion, a demonstration of the latest trends in artistic and decorative craftsmanship. Drawings and sketches by gifted architects and designers working on the palace interiors were used for the production of furniture in the workshops of leading St Petersburg manufacturers – the Gambs brothers, Vasily Babkov, Konrad Gut, Adolf Emsen and others, who then included them with minor changes in their own ranges, delighting their customers with items from the furnishing of the palatial halls of “His Majesty the Emperor”. Having furniture similar to the monarch’s was always prestigious, although exact copies were generally avoided.

There are 300 items in the exhibition, the majority of which are being shown for the first time – drawn designs for furniture; engraved depictions of furniture from the showrooms of St Petersburg shops and workshops; watercolours depicting palace interiors and works of decorative and applied art – reflect the most distinctive phenomena of the time from an artistic point of view and with regard to the patterns of daily life.

The exhibition curator is Natalia Yuryevna Guseva, Candidate of Art Studies, deputy head of the State Hermitage’s Department of the History of Russian Culture.

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The exhibition catalogue – in Russian only

A scholarly illustrated catalogue in Russian “Furniture for a Body’s Every Whim…” The Age of Historicism in Russia (St Petersburg: State Hermitage Publishing House, 2018 – 318 pp., ill.) has been prepared for the exhibition with a foreword by Mikhail Piotrovsky, General Director of the State Hermitage. The catalogue text is by Natalia Guseva. 

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Photo © The State Hermitage Museum

The exhibition Furniture for a Body’s Every Whim… The Age of Historicism in Russia runs until 11th November 2018, in the the Manege of the Small Hermitage, in the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

© State Hermitage Museum. 21 September 2018