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October, 05 - December, 03, 2012

Irkutsk, the Irkutsk Regional Art Museum

Organised by:
the Moscow Kremlin Museums, the Irkutsk Regional Art Museum 

01# Tapestry portrait (arras) of Peter IThe exhibition project, carried out by the Irkutsk Regional Art Museum and the Moscow Kremlin museums, covers the XVIIIth century - the period from the reign of Peter the Great to the time of Paul I. The presented items are regarded as commemorative of the golden age of Russian Empire - the epoch of outstanding achievements in science, political and cultural life of the country. The items, revealing the most profound changes in the country, relate to the figure of Peter I, who initiated the reorganization and strengthening of the Russian army, the development of arms and armor manufacture and the Russian award system, the growth of industries, the foundation and construction of a new capital, changes in the style and design of the secular and ceremonial clothing and many other reforms.

The exhibition incorporates several sections, those of the first one includes pieces of arms and military equipment – the production of the Russian weapons factories, which were founded in the XVIIIth century in Tula, Olonets, Saint-Petersburg and Sestroretsk. A group of orders' insignia in the other section is intended to illustrate the process of the development of the Russian award system. The ceremonial coat of Peter II, sewn in the French style fashionable in Europe at the beginning of the XVIIIth century, is regarded as one of the results of Peter the Great's "Westernization" of Russia, when fashionable European clothing was expected to replace traditional Russian dress. Remarkable examples of the Russian and West European hunting equipment and weapons: the richly decorated saddle pistols from Tula, golden snuffbox with the monogram of Elizabeth Petrovna, rifle of Catherine II, reveal the luxury of the royal hunting - one of the most popular amusements of the Russian rulers, which became a special ceremonial with its own etiquette and fashion in the XVIIIth century.

Cultural relations and interactions with European countries led to the appearance of new types of tableware, clothes and utensils. The court life of the Russian Empire, building of new palaces, organization of official ceremonials and state receptions were intended to be supplied with special furnishing and interior decoration conforming to a required standard. The XVIIIth century saw the alteration of the tradition of making arrangements for various festive celebrations or state ceremonies. Having enlisted the services of the finest jewellers of the period, i.e. Jeremie Pauzie, Benedict Gravero etc., Empress Elizabeth, Peter the Great's daughter, established a unique "foreign workshop" for revival and improvement of the Moscow jewellery-making. The Moscow workshops, having experienced the influence of European rococo, produced new types of tableware and interior utensils, i.e. coffee- and teapots, milk-jugs, samovars and reduced production of traditional Russian vessels and plates, from now on used as gifts and rewards for services.

In the late XVIIth-early XVIIIth century the successfully established diplomatic and cultural relations with eastern countries were extended. The oriental weapons, watches, jewellery from Iran and Turkey as well as delicate items made from porcelain, nephrite, objects crafted in gold and silver, inlaid with gemstones, reveal the curiosity about the world and interest in foreign cultures, peculiar to the XVIIIth-century society.

A special place within the display is occupied by a group of memorial silver items, commemorative of the exploration and development of the Siberian region in the XVIIIth century. The collection includes a silver tankard, supposed to be crafted by a foreign silversmith in Moscow. It was granted by Peter I to voivode L. Sinyavin of Irkutsk in 1708.

This outstanding project, supported by the Moscow Kremlin Museums, presents a remarkable page in the history of Russia in the Irkutsk Regional Art Museum.