French Interiors in Russian History

Tsaritsyno is hosting an exhibition dedicated to French interiors in Russian history

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An exhibition of French arts and crafts is being held in the imperial palace ensemble of Tsaritsino until the 18th of July.

The exhibits are mostly works in the Empire style which emerged during Napoleonís epoch and rapidly spread all over Europe, Russia included. Porcelain plates, with a picture of the Russian Emperor Alexander I who defeated Napoleon and with pictures of participants in the Patriotic War of 1812, were made at the Russian factories belonging to Popov and Gardner to commemorate the victory over Napoleon. Those factories patterned their production on Sevres porcelain which was the fashion of the time.

The Sevres porcelain factory started to make huge vases in the Empire style and dinner sets with pictures of Napoleonís victories specially for Napoleon in the late 18th Ė early 19th centuries.As a sample of genuine Sevres porcelain, the exhibition boasts a tea set brought from France. Its gold-coated pieces show portraits of Napoleonís family: Josephine and her daughter by the first marriage Marie-Louise, and Napoleonís little son with golden locks.

Admiring the beauty of the set, the exhibition curator Olga Dokuchayeva says: ďThe cups are cylindrical, the saucers are rather deep. In the ornaments running along the edge of this dish, for example, we can see some Baroque elements. The colour range is a combination of deep cobalt with gold. The subject of Napoleon and the war of 1812 did not lose its popularity in art during the whole of the 19th century. It remains interesting to artists and collectors nowadays as wellĒ.

As if to prove her point, Olga Dokuchayeva turns to the central exhibition stand holding a large assortment of palace interior vases recently bought by a Russian collector in France. Battle scenes with Napoleonís participation are painted on the egg-shaped vases.

ďThese vases with the original pedestals were manufactured in a workshop and hand-painted by artist Andres Despret in the second half of the 19th century," the curator says. "The pictures are copies of popular paintings and drawings. In Despretís vases the pictures are scenes of Napoleonís battles of Austerlitz and Friedland in which Napoleon is shown as a hero."

For many people in Europe he was a real hero until his ignominious Russian campaign. Next to the French vases, the exhibition demonstrates a Russian reply to these gorgeous works of art. It is a jug with a caricature of Napoleon. Olga Dokuchayeva believes that in this parody, made by Russian artisans, one can trace a connection with French traditions:

"Political caricatures were very common in the post-revolutionary France, they often became models for painting porcelain pieces. The Russian jug is a good example. In the picture on the jug ,we can see a Russian peasant and a Cossack punishing Napoleon. As is proper for caricatures, Napoleon is shown as a weakling about to be kicked out of Russia with disgrace."

One can say that the Russian Empire style has developed into the Russian branch of the French Empire style.

Source: Voice of Russia
13 July, 2010