EXHIBITION
Great Banquet Tables of Catherine the Great

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During the reign of Empress Catherine II, Catherine the Great (1729-1796), dramatizing the majesty and sublimity of the sovereign was a major theme at the Russian court. The empress herself defined what became known as the Hermitage Etiquette, after the Hermitage, the St. Petersburg palace of the Russian tzars. Her strict rules governing dress, dining, and interiors significantly molded court etiquette. Her formal banquets, which were an opportunity to demonstrate her cultural sophistication to the outside world as well as within Russia, became an art form in themselves. The cuisine, the table settings, the interior decor, the clothing of the guests: all were required to meet the most exalted standards of the day. For special guests, the empress commissioned dinner services from the established royal porcelain factories of Western Europe and from the newest porcelain factories as well, chosen to grace her table with their sumptuous splendor.

Her banquets, with their lavish use of gleaming white porcelain, then rare and precious, were thus magnificent opportunities to display imperial wealth and power.

This exhibition presents the life of Empress Catherine II and the splendor of the eighteenth-century Russian court through a selection of four table services from the collection of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. These ceramic masterpieces, now being shown in Japan for the first time, include a service made at the Royal Porcelain Factory in Berlin and a service commissioned to honor Prince Grigory Alexandrovich Potemkin.

DATE: 16 APRIL - 5 JULY, 2009
Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum