Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Museum of Russian Art documents tragic Czarist past

Expand Messages
  • Bill Samsonoff
    http://www.startribune.com/entertainment/232877511.html Museum of Russian Art documents tragic Czarist past Article by: MARY ABBE , Star Tribune Updated:
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 23, 2013

      Museum of Russian Art documents tragic Czarist past

      Article by: MARY ABBE , Star Tribune
      Updated: November 22, 2013

      Clothing, dishes and other ephemera speak to Russia’s tragic Czarist
      past in in "The Romanovs," a lush new show
      at the Museum of Russian Art ( http://tmora.org/ )

      Amid all the dazzling memorabilia — maps, letters, coronation menus,
      photos, paintings, china and even bejeweled Fabergé buttons — in “The
      Romanovs: Legacy of an Empire Lost,” it’s a humble petticoat that most
      haunts the mind after leaving the Museum of Russian Art in south

      Made of white batiste linen so fine it’s almost translucent, Anastasia’s
      half-slip and someone else’s pretty blouse now adorn a tall mannequin in
      a little side room. Her floor-length petticoat is simple, unembellished
      aside from embroidery at the hem and two initials stitched in red at the
      back of the narrow waistband: A.N. for Anastasia Nicolaev­na, daughter
      of Nicholas II, the last czar of Russia.

      Anastasia wasn’t wearing that slip when she died sometime after midnight
      July 17, 1918, in a basement in Ekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains. She
      and 10 others were murdered there — her parents, three sisters, a
      brother, their doctor, maid, valet and cook.

      Afterward reports were sent to Moscow, things were packed and shipped.
      The civil war dragged on between the “Red” Bolshevik revolutionaries and
      the “White” Russians loyal to the czar. The Romanov dynasty, which ruled
      Russia for three centuries, faded into history and legend. But Romanov
      things survived and found their way into the outside world, cherished by
      monarchists, sold by the Soviet government, sought by collectors,
      preserved by museums.

      “Legacy” gathers more than 200 Romanov artifacts and historic documents
      from 25 institutions and private collections, including souvenirs from
      the 1896 coronation of Nicholas II brought home by a pair of pretty
      Minnesota girls who were among the 15 American “Strangers of
      Distinction” invited to the Kremlin festivities.

      Beautifully designed and installed, as always at TMORA, the show offers
      a transporting experience of Russia’s tragic past.

      ‘They became close to me’

      It’s important to remember that “everything in this exhibition is
      authentic; it’s the real stuff,” said curator Masha Zavialova, who
      tracked down the material with help from a team of consultants.

      A substantial portion is on loan from the Foundation of Russian History
      at Holy Trinity Seminary, a Russian Orthodox repository in Jordanville, N.Y.

      Anastasia’s skirt came indirectly from the czar’s sister, who was in
      London when the family was killed. Fifty boxes of their goods were
      shipped to her via Siberia, of which about half arrived, Zavialova said.
      She in turn entrusted much of the material to the Orthodox church, a
      traditional supporter of the czar.

      “Working on this was really hard because I had to touch these things and
      it was heart-wrenching,” said Zavialova, who grew up in St. Petersburg
      in the Soviet era before moving in 2001 to Minnesota, where she earned a
      doctorate at the University of Minnesota. “No leaders are perfect, as we
      know, but Nicholas was a good person and they became close to me, people
      I really feel I know.”

      Romanov saga

      For all their tragic fame, Anastasia and her family are bit players in
      the Romanov saga.

      The marquee actors include Peter I the Great, who built St. Petersburg
      as a gateway to the West during his reign from 1682 to 1725; Catherine
      II the Great (1762-96), a willful German princess who disposed of her
      Romanov husband and established her own imperial court as a center of
      European art and culture, and Alexander II (1855-81), a modernizer who
      emancipated the serfs in 1861, introduced jury trials and began to
      reorganize the country as a constitutional monarchy before being

      The wealth of Russian royals in their heyday is almost unimaginable now.
      Paintings by Rembrandt, Raphael, Leonardo and luminaries of that ilk
      lined their palaces; intellectuals including Voltaire enlivened the
      court; bling abounded.

      “Under Catherine the Great, you were served on silver and gold if you
      were not important,” said Zavialova. “Only the imperial family was
      served on porcelain because it was so expensive.”

      But once the Romanovs established their own porcelain factory, they
      turned the stuff out in bulk — exquisite hand-painted, gold-rimmed,
      47,000-piece table settings. The show’s coronation memorabilia ranges
      from a deep blue 1825 bowl rimmed with golden military insignia to a
      banner-length menu for Nicholas II’s 1896 fete at which guests munched
      an all-Russian menu of borscht, pickle soup, fish, pastry and ice cream.

      Come the revolution, the luxe life ended as aristocrats fled the country
      fearing for their lives. Strapped for cash, the Soviet government sold
      paintings from the Hermitage palace in St. Petersburg to, among others,
      American financier Andrew Mellon, who made them the core of what is now
      the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Porcelain, jewelry,
      icons and other artifacts were sold through New York’s Hammer Galleries,
      where royal dinner plates fetched $55 each.

      Newspaper articles, bank notes, stamps and other documents show the
      change from Czarist to Soviet power.

      “We’ve studiously tried not to proselytize for or against the
      aristocracy,” said TMORA director Brad Shinkle. “We’re just trying to
      provide a context for the history of Russia over 400 years.”

      Mary Abbe • 612-673-4431

      See also: http://tmora.org/exhibition/the-romanovs-legacy-empire-lost/
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.