National Museums Scotland Readies for
Exhibition in Honor of Catherine the Great

Catherine II by Vigilius Eriksen.
Images © The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg.

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Ring featuring a cameo of Catherine the Great. Gold, diamond and rock crystal snuff box by Johann Gottlieb Scharff. Pin with image of Catherine the Great.
Images © The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg.

Catherine the Great: An Enlightened Empress will continue National Museums Scotland’s highly successful partnership with the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg. The exhibition coincides with the 250th anniversary of Catherine’s accession to the throne in 1762. Catherine reigned for 34 years and transformed Russia. She increased the size of the country, brought in many reforms, built palaces, major buildings and towns, and amassed one of the world’s great art collections, which today forms the basis of the State Hermitage Museum.

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.

“We continue our partnership with the world-renowned State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg with an outstanding exhibition on the life of Catherine the Great which will display many of the great treasures she amassed from around Europe,” said Dr. Gordon Rintoul, Director of National Museums Scotland. “This will be the only showing for a truly spectacular exhibition featuring objects from Russia’s Golden Age.”

Catherine’s reign will be explored through her spectacular collection, which vividly reflects her interests and achievements. The exhibition will include superb French silver and ceramics, important paintings acquired from France and England, imperial court costumes and uniforms, and many of the finest examples of porcelain, metal and polished stone ever made in Russia.

Some of the objects have never been on display before outside Russia and include a newly restored full-length portrait of the Empress in her coronation robes by the court painter Virgilius Eriksen. Magnificent jeweled snuffboxes will give visitors a fascinating glimpse of the dazzling wealth and magnificence of the Russian court.

The Hermitage Museum is also set to display the famed collection of UK’s first Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole in Britain as a part of its 250th jubilee program, the head of Hermitage Mikhail Piotrovsky said, speaking in London on Friday.

Britain’s first prime minister from 1721 to 1742, Sir Robert Walpole died in 1745, Russia Today reports. His descendants inherited the collection of 204 paintings, including works by Rembrandt, Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony Van Dyck, Frans Snyders, Guido Reni, Carlo Maratti along with enormous debts. These apparently forced Walpole’s grandson to sell the art.

The hermitage currently owns 126 works of Walpole’s collection. The head of Hermitage did not specify how many paintings will be shown in the UK.

As reported earlier, another painting owned by the Hermitage, Titian’s Flight into Egypt, will go on display at the National Gallery in London on April 4. This work, painted in the early 1500s, came into the Hermitage between 1763 and 1774. In the second half of the 19th century it was moved to the Gatchina palace, from where it returned to the Hermitage in 1924. A 12-year restoration of the panting was recently wrapped up. On the suggestion of the Restoration Commission for Easel Painting, Titian’s canvas was meticulously restored in the State Hermitage's Laboratory for the Scientific Restoration of Easel Painting.

The complex restoration work was entrusted to Alexander Kuznetsov and valery Shatsky, two restoration artists of the highest caliber. The paint layer was reattached to the primer across the whole surface. The painting was removed from the stretcher and the backing canvas removed.

After the removal of the old restorers' glue from the back of the original canvas, the paint layer was again reattached to the primer across the whole surface, after which the deformations were removed. On the reverse the area of the seams was treated with a wax-resin mastic and strengthened with bands of mica paper after which the painting was relined with dense linen canvas and placed on a new stretcher.

Source & Copyright: Russkiy Mir Foundation Information Service
26 March, 2012