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Sunday, 23 June 2013
Serving Magnificence: Suppliers to the Russian Imperial Court
Topic: Tsarskoye Selo

Serving Magnificence: Suppliers to the Russian Imperial Court, an exhibition project comprising the period from the reigns of Tsars Alexander II, Alexander II and Nicholas II, the time in the history of Russia known as the formation of Russian industry, starts on June 19th, 2013.

Our exhibition dedicated to the Russian and foreign official purveyors to the Imperial Court of Russia in the 1800s - early 1900s runs through September 30, 2013, on the Second Floor of the Zubiv Wing at the Catherine Palace from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, except Mondays.

Our exhibition project comprises the period from the reigns of Tsars Alexander II, Alexander II and Nicholas II, the time in the history of Russia known as the formation of Russian industry.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Russia held several events that were remembered by the people and described in books and memoirs. The chain of celebrations comprised the coronation of Nicholas II in 1896, the founding anniversaries of St. Petersburg and its suburban imperial residences in 1903–1910, the centenary of the Russo-Napoleonic War in 1912, and the Romanov 300th Anniversary in 1913. 

All related formal receptions, balls and dinners were catered by a huge number of businesses involved in food and beverages, flowers and exotic plants, tableware and linens, clothing and footwear, musical instruments, coaches and cars, jewelry, perfumes and hairdressing. Their efforts in providing for the Tsar’s family and retinue contributed substantially to the reputation of the Imperial Court of Russia as one of the most opulent in Europe.

Suppliers to the Imperial Court were regarded as the elite of Russian traders and manufacturers. Their names — from the famous luxury makers Fabergé, Bolin, Ovchinnikov and Khlebnikov to bakers and confectioners like Filippov, Abrikosov, Borman and Einem, whose products were popular among all society levels — were familiar to everyone.

One of the first Court Suppliers, marking his status with the Russian coat of arms on his products and signboards from 1818, was Abraham Friedrich Krohn, a famed brewer. The state heraldry placement rules, established by 1856, gave the right to approved manufacturers, artists, craftsmen and Imperial Court Suppliers to put the coat of arms on their signboards. Suppliers to Grand-Ducal Courts had to apply for the Emperor’s permission to use the coat of arms together with customer monograms.

The official title of Imperial Court Supplier was an honour available to applicants after 10 years of a steady supply of (preferably their own) products, with reasonable prices and no complaints. The non-descendible title was limited to supply period and could be awarded to qualifiers only twice a year, on Christmas and Easter.

Since 1901, the mark of Court Supplier was the Russian minor coat of arms, with a ribbon below showing the supplier’s status (Imperial or Grand-Ducal) and conferment year. After Russia entered the First World War, the assignment rules changed for the last time in 1914–1915 when the subjects of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey were denied eligibility.

The majority of suppliers to the Imperial Court were not luxury makers but those providing food, beverages, clothes, footwear, accessories, cosmetics and medicines. Icon-painters and suppliers of ecclesiastical objects were small in number but very significant, especially under the last Romanovs. Along with technical progress in the early 1900s, there appeared suppliers of motor vehicles and other equipment (elevators, electrics, heating and water systems, etc.), some were later renamed and are continuing to the present.

Today, over a hundred years after the flourishing of their makers, the products supplied to the Imperial and Grand-Ducal Courts are seen in a different light and even can be more informative than many other historical sources on Tsarist Russia.

 

 


© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve. 23 June, 2013



Posted by Paul Gilbert at 11:50 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 5 December 2013 8:19 AM EST
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