Portrait of Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna. Artist: Vladimir Makovsky (1912)
The 'Faces of Russia' permanent exhibition has opened in the Mikhailovsky (Engineers) Castle, a division of the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg. The new exhibit has one of the richest collections of Russian paintings in the world. This is another realization of the idea of the National Portrait Gallery around which the discussions have long been in progress.
As it appears, the collections of Russia’s three leading museums, including the State Tretyakov Gallery and the State Historical Museum in Moscow, and the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg can serve as a basis for such a gallery. Each of them has extensive collections of portraits, which are real masterpieces. This became clear during the first exhibition presentation that was arranged by the Historical Museum. Next in turn is the Russian Museum.
The residents of St. Petersburg say that the idea to create a national portrait gallery was expressed by their compatriot - the prominent Russian artist and art critic – Alexander Benois who considered the Mikhailovsky Palace in St. Petersburg to be an ideal place for paintings reflecting Russia’s history. The new exposition of the State Russian Museum, “Faces of Russia”, has been staged exactly in the Mikhailovsky Palace, the exhibition’s curator Yevgeniya Petrova said in an interview with the Voice of Russia.
"The exposition is divided into two parts. One is dedicated to the emperor’s portraits and the second – to people belonging to other sections of the population (18th century until modern times). It consists of 220 works, including the paintings of well-known artists – such as Repin, Serov, and Kramskoy, and also the works of less known artists. Among their characters are people well known by historical textbooks but only a few people have their visual images. And visitors to the Mikhailovsky Palace will be able not only to learn more about them but also see their portraits."
The Mikhailovsky or Engineers Castle, St. Petersburg
Of course, the audience is attracted by the possibility to see the portraits of the Russian rulers, including Tsar Ivan the Terrible who ruled in the 16th century, those who ruled after him and the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II. There are portraits of the members of the royal family there too. This chapter of the exhibition in the Mikhailovsky Palace resembles the Romanov gallery that existed in the emperor’s palace until the 1917 revolution. By the way, the official portraits of the Russian tsars and tsarinas are arranged close to their allegorical portraits represented as antique gods and heroes. The portraits of the Russian commanders – mainly, the heroes of the Patriotic War of 1812, are also put on display there. Of course, visitors to the Mikhailovsky Palace can see the portraits of politicians, priests, representatives of the of the world of arts, and rich merchants. The portraits of ordinary people, including town-dwellers and countrymen are also displayed in the Mikhailovsky Palace. The works of old masters have something in common with the works of the 20th - century artists: in the Soviet era times preference was given to the images of workers and peasants – in other words, to the front-rank workers and of course, to the portraits of their leaders. Of interest here is the fact that the photo portraits of visitors to the exhibition – the people of the 21st century are the last in this “historical circle”.
It is not clear yet how the idea of a national portrait gallery will be realized. However, there is a modern and well-tested way of uniting the collections of all museums –the multi-media Internet-portal. Representatives of the museum community favour this proposal.
© The Voice of Russia. 05 December, 2012