Prince Willem-Alexander at the Peter the Great exhibit, Amsterdam Hermitage
On March 8, Prince of Orange Willem-Alexander presided over the opening ceremony of the exhibition “Peter the Great, the Inspired Czar” at the Hermitage Amsterdam. The exhibition paints a picture of this unconventional, inspired and inquisitive Russian tsar, who by the time he took power at the age of 17 was determined to transform his country.
Peter is credited with reforming the military and the church, expanding trade and industry, and improving education and public health. He turned Russia into a great European power with a brand-new capital city: St Petersburg, his “window on the West.” With historical artifacts, paintings, gold jewelry from the ancient world, weapons and unique documents, the exhibition will sketch the life of this peerless ruler. From his youth Peter collected art, including a Rembrandt, planting the seed for St Petersburg’s later Hermitage collection.
An enthusiastic traveler, he visited Western Europe, including the Dutch Republic. It was the city of Amsterdam, in particular, that inspired him to found his new capital. Peter befriended many leading figures in Dutch society, such as Nicolaas Witsen (mayor of Amsterdam), Christoffel van Brants (shipper, and grain and arms merchant), Albert Seba (apothecary and collector of natural curiosities) and Frederik Ruysch (physician, anatomist and botanist).
Like a sponge, he absorbed what they taught him about shipbuilding, making instruments, carpentry, etching, dissection, pulling teeth, making paper, gardening, bookmaking, and much more. Find out how this knowledge bore fruit in Russia during your visit to Peter the Great, an Inspired Tsar. You will also find many of Peter’s personal effects, such as his suits and one of his coaches, which show how profoundly he was influenced by Western tastes.
The exhibition will be based on the collection of the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, with additional pieces from the collections of museums and institutions in the Netherlands and elsewhere.
In 2013, the Netherlands, Russia, and the city of Amsterdam are celebrating their special relationship. The two countries have been major trading partners since the Dutch Golden Age, and their ties grew stronger in the centuries that followed. When Napoleon was defeated in 1813, Russian Cossacks advanced as far as the gates of Amsterdam. One Dutch prince even married the sister of a tsar. The year 2009 saw a crowning moment in Dutch-Russian relations: the opening of the Hermitage Amsterdam, the only European satellite of the famous St Petersburg museum.
© Russkiy Mir. 11 March, 2013