Author Topic: Question: Exhibits of Russian History or Culture in Washington, DC  (Read 3896 times)

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Offline CourtneyKane

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Hi, I'm new and not sure if this is the correct place to be posting.  I'm wondering if anyone has any info on Russian history or cultural exhibits in or near Washington, DC?  

I've been infatuated with the Romanovs since I was 14 (I'm 25 now).  I visited St. Petersburg and Tsarskoe Selo in 2001 and have read everything I can get my hands on, but would love to actually see things--I think I've been spoiled with a trip to the Romanov exhibit a few years ago in Wilmington, DE.  Oh, and I guess I'll admit how my infatuation began...reading the Danielle Steele book, "Zoya"  (so awful to admit, I know, but I loved it!).

Anyway, I apologize in advance if this is the wrong place to be posting--but if anyone has any info, please let me know!!  Thank you!

P.S.  LOVING this website and message board.  My interest started in pre-Google days and it just occured to me recently to search for info online!
« Last Edit: April 17, 2009, 03:25:36 PM by Alixz »

Offline Janet_W.

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Re: Question: exhibits in Wash, DC
« Reply #1 on: February 03, 2005, 10:37:05 AM »
CourtneyKane, welcome to the AP website! I'm sure you know about Hillwood, but just in case you don't--and certainly for other posters at this site--I've pulled some info re: the museum and some of its collections.  I haven't been there myself, so if you have visited Hillwood, or will be doing so in the future, perhaps you could tell us about it!

Janet


Hillwood Museum & Gardens just off Rock Creek Parkway in Washington, DC was the last residence of the heir to the Post cereal fortune Marjorie Merriweather Post (1887-1973). It showcases a remarkably comprehensive collection of Russian Imperial fine and decorative art – probably the finest collection outside Russia.

It includes Imperial porcelain, portraits, gold, silver, Russian Orthodox icons, vestments, religious objects, and pieces by Fabergé. The house is also filled with important 18th century French furniture, tapestries, and Sèvres porcelain.

The mansion is spacious, and can be found in a 25-acre wooded park-like setting. It was built in the 1920s and was acquired by Mrs. Post in the 1950s. She undertook a two-year renovation, intending from the beginning that Hillwood should become a museum, showcasing her collection for the education and inspiration of the public.

When the United States government abolished the customs duty on art objects in 1911, it established a policy that is largely responsible for many of the magnificent collections on display in America’s museums today. There were numerous collectors in the early 20th century who chose to create their legacy in the form of private museums where objects are displayed in an intimate home-like setting. Marjorie Merriweather Post established one such museum.

French furniture and decorative arts
The collection was begun in the 1920s when Mrs. Post began to purchase outstanding examples of French furniture and decorative arts. “I am particularly attracted by the beauty of an object, its craftsmanship, and history…,” she wrote. It was at this time that she began to formulate her taste as a collector. Among her earliest purchases is a stunning Beauvais tapestry designed by François Boucher and dated 1736.

Highlights of her French furniture collection include not one, but two marquetry commodes by Jean-Henri Riesener (the renowned cabinet maker to Louis XVI), a very important signed Jacob suite of four chairs and two sofas, as well as a gilt wood and leather swivel chair stamped with the cypher of Marie Antoinette. She also collected English enamel boxes and etuis during this period, primarily from the influential dealer Sir Joseph Duveen. These can still be seen on display in vitrines on the second floor landing.

From Russia with love
When in 1937, her husband, Joseph E. Davies, was appointed second US ambassador to the Soviet Union, the couple moved to Moscow, where Marjorie developed a strong interest in Russia’s artistic culture. She began to collect Russian religious objects as well as the fine and decorative arts, and established the core of her Russian collection at this time. She wanted objects to be beautiful, but demanded that they be of superb craftsmanship, and have historical importance as well.

Mrs. Post was a pioneer collector who assembled her Russian Imperial works of art long before they were widely recognized or appreciated in the West.
Icons in her collection are primarily ‘late icons’ from the Romanov era, which were sold by the Soviet government in exchange for much-needed western currency. These icons were considered of little artistic or historical value at the time, and Mrs. Post’s visionary purchase of them offers unparalleled opportunities for scholars today. She continued to pursue fine examples of French and Russian decorative arts throughout her life, building an eclectic collection that exists much as it did in many 18th and 19th century Russian palaces.

The house is dominated by a magnificent stair hall with a collection of Russian Imperial portraits illuminated by a massive rock crystal chandelier. The largest of these portraits is of Empress Catherine II in full state regalia including the diamond collar of the Order of St. Andrew First Called and the orange and black striped sash of the Order of St. George. It was originally painted for Henry Hope, the Crown’s Amsterdam banker and was a gift to Mrs. Post by her husband, Joseph Davies, for Christmas in 1950. Other notable paintings in the collection include a Portrait of Empress Eugénie (1857) by German royal court painter Franz Xavier Winterhalter, Jean-Mark Nattier’s portrait of The Duchess of Parma and her Daughter Isabelle (1750), and Makovskii’s A Boyar Wedding Feast (1883).

Porcelain and glass
An enormous wealth of French porcelain is showcased in the mansion. Treasures include the priceless bleu celeste Sèvres Cardinal Prince Louis de Rohan service, which adorns the table in the oak-paneled dining room accompanied by a full complement of Val St. Lambert crystal. Just outside is the French porcelain room, whose collection attests to the passion Mrs. Post entertained for the famed Sèvres porcelain factory. Beyond is the pantry, which is typical of modern American design of the 1950s. This expansive room contains dozens of services of china ranging from Derby to China Trade to Meissen, as well as glass essential to the entertaining that was done in the house.

At the far end of the mansion leading into the spacious French drawing room is the core of the important Russian porcelain and glass collection. The Russian porcelain room is lined with built-in lighted display cases filled with examples from four dessert services commissioned by Catherine the Great in the late 18th century. They are distinguished by stars, badges, and ribbons representing Russia’s most elite orders for military service. The St. Andrew service bears the gold and enamel chain or collar that only members of this elite order wore. The St. Aleksandr Nevskii service is distinguished by a solid red moire ribbon and a silver star. The St. George service is painted with an orange and black striped ribbon and a gold star, while the St. Vladimir service is decorated with a red ribbon bordered in black and with a gold and a silver star. Glassware to match abounds, much of it purchased at the renowned Popov sale in Paris 1970. The double-headed Imperial eagle inlaid in the center of the floor sets a tone for this gallery.

Fabulous Fabergé
Mrs. Post set aside a special room for priceless Objects de Vertu that were her passion. The Icon Room is a type of treasury with over 400 objects that include 80 creations by Carl Fabergé, jeweler to Russia’s Imperial families. Here can be found bejeweled military decorations, chalices, carved gemstones, and two Imperial Easter eggs. Both eggs were gifts from Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II, to his mother, Maria Fedorovna. The stunning diamond-studded midnight blue Twelve Monograms Easter Egg is decorated with the Cyrillic initials AIII, for Alexander III, and MF, for his wife Maria Fedorovna.

The second egg is the Catherine the Great Easter Egg produced in 1914. This egg’s pink and white cameo-like medallions bear scenes of the arts and sciences. This egg was named for Catherine the Great because of the marvelous ‘surprise’ it once held inside – a miniature figure of the empress, a great patron of the arts and sciences, seated in a wind-up sedan chair carried by two servants. The surprise, revealed by opening the top of the egg, was unfortunately lost long ago.



« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Janet_W. »

Offline felix

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Re: Question: exhibits in Wash, DC
« Reply #2 on: February 03, 2005, 05:16:37 PM »
Moonlight if you live in Washington, you must go. When ever Im there,  I return. And will keep doing so. I love the  place. And what about the Smithsonian ?  Check out your city. You may like it ! I do.

Offline Scott

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Re: Question: exhibits in Wash, DC
« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2005, 08:56:43 PM »
There is the Grand Duke Georgii Mikhailovich collection of Russian Coins and Medals at the Museum of American History:

http://www.americanhistory.si.edu/csr/nnc/russianc/russ.htm

There is also the Gatchina Palace Faberge Egg at the Walters Gallery in Baltimore:

http://www.thewalters.org/html/collec_object_detail.asp?ID=39&offset=1
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by Scott »

Offline CourtneyKane

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Re: Question: exhibits in Wash, DC
« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2005, 08:31:58 AM »
How great is this?  Thank you SO MUCH for your replies.  My family is in town this weekend (I got them hooked too) so we made reservations for Hillwood.

When my family went to the Wilmington exhibit a few years ago, my sister was 6 years old and when the guide asked if anyone could name all the chlidren, she was the first person (in a group of a few children and about 30 adults) to speak up.  I think everyone was shocked--myself incldued!  So I'm really excited that when she'll be here this weekend, we'll be able to visit Hillwood together!

Offline DeAnochka

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Re: Question: exhibits in Wash, DC
« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2005, 08:36:47 PM »
CourtneyKane,

I actually just asked this question in another thread! I go to Washington D.C. every March with my father to visit the Smithsonian. Just last year we visited the Holocaust Museum for the first time. Truly an enlightening experience.

Thanks to all the other posters for their answers!

Offline CourtneyKane

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Re: Question: exhibits in Wash, DC
« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2005, 01:33:34 PM »
Janet,
Thanks so much for the recommendation for Hillwood.  I went last weekend and was amazed that I've been living here for 7 years and hadn't been before!  

The most exciting item I saw was the wedding crown of Alexandra.  I was in complete awe.  I also loved all the photographs of the family just scattered around the house.  There's also many portraits on the walls, especially in the front entryway, that were fun to pick out and recognize.  There were also a lot of things like journals, walking stick handles, snuffers, etc., just daily items that the family may have used.

There was also a special exhibition of earrings that belonged to Marie Antoinette that wound up in the hands of the Yusopov family (Felix gave them to his mother as a gift, but the details didn't say anything about his connection to Rasputin), and they would up in the hands of Mrs. Post.  

The Faberge egg and pink enamal box are also such a treat!  I would highly recommend a visit to Hillwood for anyone living in the D.C. area (or any visitors)!

Offline Chelsea

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Re: Question: exhibits in Wash, DC
« Reply #7 on: May 07, 2006, 07:46:37 PM »
I'm visiting DC this August (I'm driving from northern Michigan) and I was wondering if anybody knew of any new exhibits in DC (or between there and Michigan)....

Thank you!
~Chelsea~