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Tuesday, 8 December 2015
Exhibition: Catherine the Great and Stanislaw August: Two Enlightened Monarchs
Topic: Catherine II


On 7 December, Russian Orthodox St Catherine’s Day, the exhibition Catherine the Great and Stanislaw August: Two Enlightened Monarchs opened in the Nicholas Hall of the Winter Palace, featuring more than 150 works of fine and applied art from the collections of the State Hermitage, the Royal Lazienki Museum, the State Russian Museum, the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, the Research Museum of the Russian Academy of Arts and the State Museum of the History of Religion.

The exhibition aims to inform visitors about the collecting activities of the two monarchs and to compare their collections.

It is possible to find much in common between Catherine II and Stanislaw August Poniatowski: both were brought up on the works of French writers and philosophers, had a love of literature, fine art and architecture and sought to bring enlightenment to their subjects. Stanislaw August patronized scholars, artists and performing artists, including those he invited from Italy (Marcello Bacciarelli, Bernardo Bellotto, Tommaso Righi) and France (Jean-Pierre Norblin, André-Jean Lebrun). The King’s representatives and agents commissioned and purchased works of art in Italy, France and Holland, quite often competing in this with the envoys of Catherine II, who at that same time were acquiring paintings for the Hermitage. For that reason, the similarity between the collections should come as no surprise.

Although Stanislaw August lacked the financial means of Catherine II, he did manage to put together a large collection of works of art. By 1795 the manuscript catalogue of his picture gallery contained almost 2,500 works of various European schools, only slightly fewer in number than the paintings in the Hermitage. Stanislaw August was unable to buy whole collections, such as those that had belonged to Crozat or Walpole, but he sought to make up for that by having a good selection of works.

The Italian school was represented by 275 paintings. While those attributed to Leonardo, Raphael, Correggio and Giorgione were most likely copies or the works of pupils, the names of 17th-century masters mentioned in the catalogue look entirely convincing (Annibale Carracci, Guercino, Sassoferrato, Andrea Sacchi, Carlo Maratta, Giuseppe Maria Crespi and others).

Among the 225 Dutch paintings there are mentions of works by Hendrick Goltzius, Gerard van Honthorst, Jan Steen and Gabriel Metsu. Modern scholars acknowledge Rembrandt’s authorship of three painting that were once in the royal collection, including the celebrated “Polish Rider” (now in the Frick Collection, New York).

132 paintings were allotted to the Flemish school. Here the list included pictures by Jan Breughel, Van Dyck, Jordaens and David Teniers. Twenty-two works were associated one way or another with the name of Rubens, although only four of them were attributed to the master himself.

Among the 113 works by German artists, particular mention should be made of 25 paintings by Christian Wilhelm Ernst Dietrich, who is also strongly represented in the Hermitage collection.
 
Among the collection of French paintings, 18th-century artists predominated, including the King’s contemporaries – Boucher, Greuze, Fragonard. Like Catherine II, the Polish King had a high opinion of the art of his own time. The 1795 catalogue included works by Pompeo Batoni, Giovanni Paolo Panini, Angelica Kauffman and Dietrich, who has already been mentioned. Artists in France who worked on special commissions for Stanislaw August included Louis Lagrenée, Joseph-Marie Vien, Claude Joseph Vernet and Hubert Robert, all of whom were popular with art connoisseurs in St Petersburg as well.

Despite the losses natural over a 250-year history, Catherine II’s picture gallery has in the main survived to this day. Stanislaw August’s collection had a less happy fate, although at present it is possible to identify some 400 paintings from it. The King’s collection was broken up even before his death. He sold or presented over 40 paintings to Russians in St Petersburg. In October 1798, pictures from his collection were sold at a posthumous auction in the Russian capital. In time, some of those works came into the Hermitage by various routes. Stanislaw August’s chief heir was his nephew, Józef Poniatowski. Then the collection passed to Józef’s sister, Maria Teresa Tyszkiewicz, who sold the residence in the Lazienki Park to Tsar Alexander I together with paintings, sculpture and applied art. Additionally, 36 paintings from her collection were acquired by Kazimierz Rzewuski. As recently as 1994, his heirs presented 12 paintings to the royal castle in Warsaw (including two Rembrandts). Finally, the remnants of Stanislaw August’s picture gallery were bought up in 1821 by someone named Antonio Fuzi.

In 1895, Andrei Somov, the Hermitage’s senior curator of paintings, engravings and drawings, who compiled a catalogue of the paintings in the Lazienki Palace, rated the collection highly and commented that at least 22 paintings could take their place “in any of the museums of first rank in Europe”. The result was a decision to transfer to the Hermitage five “particularly remarkable works”, including Fragonard’s Stolen Kiss. At the same time paintings from the Hermitage were sent to the Lazienki Palace. In 1915 the pictures from the Lazienki collection were removed to Russia due to the military situation and the capture of Warsaw by German troops. Under the 1922 Treaty of Riga, they were either returned to Warsaw or else the Polish side was offered a substitute of equal value.
As a result, the Hermitage and the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow now possess over 20 paintings that were once in Stanislaw August’s collection. Seven paintings kindly provided by the Royal Lazienki Museum in Warsaw enhance the impression of the royal collection. For comparison works from the Hermitage are also on display. These were selected with the aim of showing the similar tastes in art of Catherine II and Stanislaw August.

A few words should also be said about the sculpture collections of the Empress and the King. Catherine’s collection included works by Jean-Antoine Houdon and Marie-Anne Collot. In the last years of her life, the Empress developed an interest in ancient sculpture, as evidenced by her purchase of the large collection that John Lyde Browne has assembled in Wimbledon. Catherine II also strove to place commissions with Russian sculptors, Academy graduates such as Fedot Shubin and Mikhail Kozlovsky.

Stanislaw August assembled in the Lazienki Palace a large collection of casts from famous sculptures of Antiquity and the Modern Era. These included, for example, a plaster statue of Voltaire seated (similar to the marble one in the Hermitage). Today this collection has been restored and is again open for viewing. Individual works in marble were commissioned from Houdon, including a bust of Alexander the Great now kept in the royal castle. The King also invited sculptors from Italy, notably Tommaso Righi and Giacomo Monaldi. It was in Rome, too, that André Lebrun was taken into his service as “first sculptor”. A number of craftsmen worked on commissions from Stanislaw August in Italy: Carlo Albacini, Giuseppe Angelini and Antonio d’Este.

Stanislaw August brought and presented to Paul I two monumental sculptural groups by Pietro Ceccardo Staggi on subjects from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. These are still in the Hermitage, although not included in the exhibition due to their great weight: Prometheus and the First Man is in the Jordan Gallery and Pygmalion and Galatea in the Gallery of the History of Ancient Painting.

For the exhibition the State Hermitage Publishing House has produced an illustrated scholarly catalogue. The exhibition curator is Sergei Olegovich Androsov, Doctor of Art Studies, head of the State Hermitage’s Department of Western European Fine Art.

The exhibition Catherine the Great and Stanislaw August: Two Enlightened Monarchs runs until 21 May 2016 in the Nicholas Hall of the Winter Palace (State Hermitage Museum) in St. Petersburg. 
 
© State Hermitage Museum. 08 December, 2015
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 10:18 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 8 December 2015 10:28 AM EST
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Saturday, 29 August 2015
Crimea to Unveil Statue of Empress Catherine the Great
Topic: Catherine II


Catherine II played a great role in Crimea’s development, the peninsula became part of Russia during her rule

A new monument to Empress Catherine the Great who made Crimea part of Russia in 1783 will be unveiled in Simferopol, the peninsula’s capital, next year, the head of the Russian Unity public organization told TASS on Friday.

"The first monument was unveiled in Simferopol in 1890," Yelena Aksenova said. "However, it was completely destroyed in 1919, after the [Bolshevik] revolution."

The new statue may cost between 60 million and 120 million rubles (some $895,000 and $1.8 million), she said, adding that 40 million rubles ($597,000) had already been collected.

Aksenova presented the statue’s project to Dimitri Romanovich Romanov, the oldest relative of the last Russian Emperor Nicholas II.

The 89-year old Romanov descendant who visited Crimea with his wife Dorrit supported the idea.

"Catherine II played a great role in Crimea’s development. The peninsula became part of Russia during her rule," he said.

Catherine the Great ruled in 1762-1796 and her reign is considered Russia's golden age.

© ITAR-TASS / Edited by Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 29 August, 2015
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 1:43 PM EDT
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Thursday, 9 July 2015
On This Day: Empress Catherine II Ascends the Throne
Topic: Catherine II


Portrait of Empress Catherine II. Artist Alexei Antropov, ca. 1765
 
On July 9 (O.S. June 28), 1762 Catherine II supported by Guard regiments seized political power and became autocratic Empress of Russia.

Catherine II, born Sophie Auguste Friederike von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg, Russian Empress (1762-1796) came from a minor North-German prince family. In 1774 she came to Russia accompanied by her mother on the invitation of Empress Elisabeth Petrovna. Having adopted orthodoxy and received the name of Grand Duchess Catherine Alexeevna, she married Grand Duke Peter Feodorovich, future Peter III in 1745.

In December of 1761, after the death of Elizabeth Petrovna, Peter III ascended the throne. Within six months of his rule Peter had made a series of policies which provoked a negative reaction among the officers’ corps: Once on the throne, Peter III reversed his aunt's foreign policy, withdrew Russia from the Seven Years War and struck an alliance with Prussia, Russia's enemy. He set out to wage war against Denmark and gain back his native land of Holstein. The move was seen as a betrayal of Russian war sacrifices and alienated him politically among the military and powerful court cliques. He declared a sequestration of the Russian church property, abolishment of monastery land ownership, etc. Being a worshiper of the Prussian drill, he tried to find support among the Holstein Guard.

Confused and badly thought-out actions of Peter III in the domestic political arena deprived him of the support among the Russian society; his foreign policy was regarded by many as betrayal of the national interests.

Catherine Alexeevna, on the contrary, was very popular among the Russian people; she was a clever and ambitious woman, studied Russian, read a lot, including the works on political history of Western Europe, works of Voltaire, Diderot, and d’Alembert. The Guards wished her to ascend the throne; dignitaries wanted to replace Peter with his son Paul Petrovich (future Emperor Paul I) under Catherine’s regency. Catherine found supporters in the persons of chancellor Alexey Bestuzhev-Ryumin, Field Marshal S. F. Apraksin, Polish diplomat Stanis�‚aw Poniatowski and other. When the Guards’ discontent of the Emperor worsened even more, Catherine decided to take part in a palace coup d'état.

Her allies, led by the Orlov brothers, Potemkin and Khitrovo, started to agitate guards’ formations and finally won them over. The beginning of the revolution was urged by rumours about arrest of one of its participants – Lieutenant Passek.

On the night of June 28 (July 9) Catherine II accompanied with Gregory and Alexei Orlov, arrived from Peterhof to St. Petersburg, to Izmailovsky regiment’s quarters where she was immediately named autocratic empress. From Izmailovsky regiment she went to the quarters of Semenovsky regiment where the same scene was repeated and where soon arrived the servicemen of Preobrazhensky regiment and cavalry guards. Messengers were sent to three regiments which had already taken field against Denmark, to Kronstadt as well as Livonia and Pomerania where were situated large military formations to the help of which Peter III could resort. In Kazan Cathedral the clergy proclaimed Catherine autocratic empress, then in Winter Palace civil and military officials started to swore their allegiance. Realizing the inanity of resistance, the next day Peter III abdicated the throne, was arrested and soon died under obscure conditions.

On July 17 (O.S. July 6), 1762 in Senate was announced the Manifesto signed by Catherine II on her ascension to the throne. On October 3 (O.S. September 22), 1762 Empress was ceremonially crowned in Moscow. 
 
© Presidential Library. Revised and Edited by Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 09 July, 2015
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 7:39 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 9 July 2015 7:45 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 1 April 2015
Monument to Catherine II to Remain in Odessa
Topic: Catherine II


Monument to Empress Catherine II in Odessa, Ukraine
 
Odessa’s monument to Empress Catherine II, who founded the city some 220 years ago, will remain in place for now, the internet portal Dumskaya reports. 

A local court ruled against an initiative of several NGOs which demanded the monument be removed from Catherine Square. The legal proceedings took three years.

The monument, which was first erected in 1900, dismantled in 1920 and then restored in 2007, has caused ire among Ukrainian nationalists. They complain that the Russian ruler disbanded the Zaporozhian Sich and was a “butcher of the Ukrainian people”.

The opening ceremony for the restored statue in 2007 was accompanied by street violence organized by activist of the Svoboda movement. After facing stiff public resistance, the radicals decided to try their luck in court.

Following the change in power in Kiev last year, attacks on monuments connected with Russia have grown more frequent and destructive. Numerous statues of Vladimir Lenin have been toppled and WWII memorial vandalized. Earlier this week Russia’s Investigative Committee has opened a criminal case over desecration of the burial sites of victims of fascism and over rehabilitation of Nazism in Ukraine. 
 
© Russkiy Mir. 01 April, 2015
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 2:30 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 1 April 2015 1:38 PM EDT
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Friday, 6 March 2015
Books of Catherine the Great Return to Alexander Palace
Topic: Catherine II


Photo © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve
 
Tsarskoye Selo has received a donation of antique books by Jean-Pierre Claris de Florian, a French eighteenth-century poet and romantic writer.

Mediated by the company Knauf Petroboard and Honorary Consul of the Russian Federation in Nuremberg Mr. Nikolaus Knauf, the donation was made by Mr. Hans Thurn, a German pastor whose granduncle had these books in his collection.

Two of the books were published in 1786 and 1791. Their end leaves have marks proving their origin from Empress Catherine II’s library at the Winter Palace. Although published after Catherine’s death in 1801 and 1803, the other two were bound similarly, probably on the orders of Emperor Alexander I. In 1826, Emperor Nicholas I of Russia moved much of his ancestors’ library from the Winter Palace to the Alexander Palace of Tsarskoye Selo. The library counted nearly 24,000 items and occupied four halls of the palace. Its inventory numbers can be seen on the books by Jean-Pierre Claris de Florian too. 
 

Photo © Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve
 
According to Tsarksoye Selo Rare Books Curator Ms. Irina Zaitseva, the library of the Alexander Palace was taken to Germany during World War Two, then partially found in Austria in 1946 and returned to Russia. Only about 7,000 items were reclaimed, one third of the original collection. The donation is precious to the museum, because the books owned personally by Catherine the Great are very scarce.

Donations of items looted during the war began in the 1960s and have increased lately. That is how Tsarskoye Selo has regained over a hundred items. Some of them will comprise our Witnesses Of War exhibition, which will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War and run at the Upper Bathhouse pavilion of the Catherine Park from May 9th, 2015. 
 
© Tsarskoye Selo State Museum Preserve. 06 March, 2015
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:36 AM EST
Updated: Friday, 6 March 2015 6:48 AM EST
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Monday, 17 March 2014
Exhibition - Catherine II: Path to the Throne Opens at Nizhny Novgorod
Now Playing: Duration: 2 minutes, 8 seconds. Language: Russian
Topic: Catherine II


The exhibition - Catherine II: Path to the Throne runs until May 18th, 2014, at the State Art Museum in Nizhny Novgorod.
 
A new exhibition Catherine II: Path to the Throne opened on March 6th at the State Art Museum in Nizhny Novgorod. Catherine ascended the throne following a coup d'état and the assassination of her husband, Peter III. She is the most renowned and the longest-ruling female leader of Russia, reigning from 9 July [O.S. 28 June] 1762 until her death in 1796 at the age of sixty-seven. Her reign was called Russia's golden age.

Born in 1729, at Stettin, Pomerania, Prussia as Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg,  she was chosen by Empress Elizabeth as a suitable bride to her nephew, the heir to the Russian throne, Grand Duke Peter Fedorovich - son of her older sister Anna and Duke Karl Friedrich of Holstein. She came to Russia in 1744, converted to the Russian Orthodox faith and took the name Catherine. By her own admission, the next 18 years were the worst years of her life. But that's when Catherine emerged as a person and politician. By the mid 1750s, Catherine, at first played an extremely modest role at the Russian court. She possessed intelligence, firmness and determination, and became an important figure, all of which would benefit her political game. After Elizabeth’s death, Emperor Peter III’s reign was short - only 186 days - during which he managed to antagonize dignitaries, the guard, the army, and the church hierarchy.
 
The current exhibition tells about the main events in the life of the Grand Duchess Catherine: her origins, upbringing, her arrival in Russia, her acceptance of Orthodoxy, her marriage to the heir to the throne, the birth of a son, as well as a palace coup on June 28 and her coronation at Moscow on September 22, 1762. These years helped shape Catherine’s destiny.

Among the more than 170 exhibits on display, many are exhibited for the first time. They include rare portraits of Catherine II, Peter III and Paul I, her favourites, political allies and opponents; views of cities and architectural drawings, weapons, personal items of daily use, furniture, unique maps and other documents, including letters and diaries.
 
 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 17 March, 2014
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 2:44 PM EDT
Updated: Monday, 17 March 2014 2:54 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 27 August 2013
Monument to Catherine the Great Restored in Irbit
Topic: Catherine II


Melted down by the Bolsheviks 96 years ago, the monument to Catherine the Great has been restored in the Ural town of Irbit
 
A monument to the Empress Catherine II has been restored in Irbit, a town situated about 203 km from Ekaterinburg in the Sverdlovsk Oblast region of Russia. Founded in 1631 as Irbeyevskaya Sloboda, its name was changed to Irbit in 1662. It was granted official town status by Catherine the Great in 1775 for the town's loyalty to the Empress during the Pugachev Uprising of 1773-74. The following year, she awarded the town its official crest.
 
The bronze monument was originally installed in Market Square in 1883. It was created by Mikhail Mikeshin,  the outstanding Russian artist and sculptor who also created the Millenium of Russia monument in Veliky Novgorod, as well as the monument to Catherine II which stands in front of the Alexandrinsky Theatre on the Nevsky Prospekt in St. Petersburg.
 
On May 1st, 1917 a crowd of rioters pulled down the monument. Shortly after, the Bolsheviks erected a statue of Vladimir Lenin. The bronze statue of the Russian empress was hauled off to the local smelter and melted down.
 
In 2002, a local historical team conducted archival research, where they found the plans, drawings and photographs of the original monument. The new monument is an exact replica of the original.
 
It is interesting to note, that the statue of Lenin still stands some 30 metres from the newly restored monument to the Russian empress, "For the time being, the statue of Lenin will remain," said Deputy Mayor Sergei Kulikov.
 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 27 August, 2013 
 

 

Posted by Paul Gilbert at 11:45 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 27 August 2013 12:31 PM EDT
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Thursday, 16 May 2013
Catherine the Great's Hunting Rifle on Exhibit
Topic: Catherine II

Photo Credit: Cody Firearms Museum

The Cody Firearms Museum in Cody, Wyoming unveiled its display of 64 unique pieces this week, on loan from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

The unusual firearms include a .50-caliber hunting rifle by a Russian gun maker named Permajakov dating from the 1700s for Empress Catherine the Great. The rifle is inlaid with her name and Russian symbols and also incorporating a green velvet cheek piece on the rifle’s stock ensuring her comfort while shooting. Additionally, a gold inlaid image of Catherine herself is on the barrel near the breech.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 16 May, 2013



Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:30 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 16 May 2013 12:42 PM EDT
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Sunday, 25 March 2012
Catherine the Great: An Enlightened Empress
Topic: Catherine II

 

Portrait of Catherine II on her horse Brilliant, by Vigilius Eriksen, after 1762.

© The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg.

Catherine the Great: An Enlightened Empress will highlight the truly spectacular collections of one of Russia's most successful rulers. Co-developed by the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg and National Museums, Scotland, this major exhibition will only be shown in Scotland.

Catherine the Great (1729-96) was one of the greatest art collectors of all time. Her collecting reflected both the personal and political ambitions of a woman who put Russia on the cultural map of Europe. She accumulated, mainly through purchases and commissions abroad, more than 4,000 paintings, 10,000 drawings and 32,000 engraved gems, as well as medals, jewels and antique sculptures.

Explore Catherine’s reign through her collections, which vividly reflect her own interests and achievements and provide a fascinating glimpse of the dazzling wealth and magnificence of the Imperial Russian court.

Come and experience more than 300 magnificent works collected and commissioned by the Empress from some of the most illustrious European and Russian artists of the 18th century.

See outstanding portraits, spectacular costumes and uniforms, snuffboxes inlaid with precious gems, gold and silver, Ancient Greek and Roman carved cameos depicting figures from biblical stories, mythology and history and many of the finest examples of porcelain, glass, metal and polished stone items ever made in Russia.

Catherine the Great: An Enlightened Empress
Open: 13 July - 21 October 2012
Venue: Exhibition Gallery 1, Level 3, National Museum of Scotland

© National Museum of Scotland. 25 March, 2012



Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 26 March 2012 7:19 AM EDT
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