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Catherine II the Great (born Sophie Friederike Auguste of Anhalt-Zerbst) came to power following the overthrow of her husband Peter III on 28 June 1762. 

On 13 September 1762, she entered Moscow solemnly under the sounds of bells and canons.  The streets of the first capital city were decorated with garlands, carpets and tapestry, the thick green spruce and numerous flowers. 

The coronation of Catherine II took place in the Assumption Cathedral on 22 September 1762. The coronation regalia and headdresses of the new Russian Empress Catherine II were exposed for 18 days in ‘the former Senat chambers by the Chernigovsky Cathedral’. A new crown was created by goldsmith G.F. Ekart,court jeweller J. Pauzié, jewel-setter Orote, goldsmiths I. Estifeev and I. Lipman, apprentice I. Nikiforov and attracted the visitors most of all. At that time, the price of all precious stones of the crown amounted to 2 million rubles. A new orb also by G.F. Ekart was created in the shortest possible time. Obviously, there was a fear that the master would not manage the orb in time while the works on it had begun only on 7 September and on 14 September three orbs were brought from the Armoury Chamber to the apartment of Her Imperial Majesty. One of it was returned the same day, the second one of ‘Greek workmanship’ (belonged to Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich) – the next day after the coronation with a gilded handle fitted to it; and the third one – on 11 May 1763. Three mantles, one made of brocade and two of laces, which the Empress wore on the first and second days of audiences after the coronation, were exposed together with the coronation dress of Catherine II made of silver brocade and decorated with the coats of arms of the Russian Empire. 

All dames must have come to the coronation wearing ‘the robe ronde of the patterned fabric’, while the cavaliers of Orders of St. Andrew the First-Called and St. Alexander Nevsky must have worn the order’s garments. With such a background the attire of the Empress looked especially impressive, it created a triumphal image of the imperial power.  The representatives of the brightestroyal families of Europe gathered at the court to celebrate this historical event. 

On 22 September at about 10 a.m. a solemn procession moved to the Assumption Cathedral followed by the sounds of trumpets and kettle-drums. The monarchess was at that time in her inner apartments of the palace and prepared for the sacred mystery: the anointing and the Eucharist. She came out to the audience-kammer, where the prepared regalia were waiting. After the holy water was sprinkled on the royal way, the procession started from the Red Porch to the Assumption Cathedral.  The Empress went under the canopy, wearing a brocade dress with golden lace and embroidered two-headed eagle. 

More than twenty prelates, forty archimandrites and other clergy led by Archbishop Demetrius of Novgorod met Catherine by the Cathedral’s doors. Heading the clergy, Catherine moved towards theRoyal doors, where she kissed the holy icons and then ascended a throne and sat on the prepared imperial chair. First, she put on the purple mantle and the Order of Andrew the First-called, then she took the crown and put it on herself. At the same time canons on Red Square shoot. Then, there followed the congratulations and Archbishop Demetrius of Novgorod addressed Her Imperial Majesty with a congratulatory speech after which he led a ceremony of anointing Catherine with chrism. Later Catherine went through the Royal Doors to the Lord’s table and therepartook of the Eucharist.

When the Empress left the Assumption Cathedral, ‘all the army and all the numerous people exclaimed “Hurrah”’. The shouting had been continuing for an hour till the Empress gave a sign to start the procession. In the Archangel and Annunciation Cathedrals upon the ancient tradition, Catherine bowed before the ashes of the ancestors and kissed the most venerated icons and relics; then she returned to the palace. During her procession in Kremlin the regiments laid down the banners and saluted with music and drumbeat; people cried ‘hurrah’ and the noise and cheerful exclamations ‘seemed to move the air’, besides, silver and gold coins were thrown to the people all the way the Empress went. In the audience-hall, the Empress declared her favours mainly to those, who showed devotion when she ascended the throne, and to those, whose courage marked them during the recent Prussian war.   Then the gala dinner in honour of the Holy coronation of Empress Catherine II took place in the Faceted Chamber.

In the evening the Kremlin was illuminated and the Muscovites gathered to see this ‘fire spectacle’. At midnight Catherine came down to Red Square in disguise to enjoy the illumination, but peoplepegged her and saluted with loud ‘hurrah’ until she went back to her apartments. This time the feast was arranged not only on the Cathedral Square but on Red Square as well. Coronation celebrations ran on for seven days.


Портрет Екатерины II

PORTRAIT OF CATHERINE II

Unknown artist.the 19th c.

Oil on canvas.

It is a knee-high portrait of Catherine II with a slight turn of her head towards the viewer. The minor brilliant imperial crown and a laurel wreath are on her head. Powdered hair lay down on her left shoulder as two curls. Catherine wears a dress, decorated with diamond agraffe, with a white atlas skirt, blueribbons running down from the waist, and white laces on the chest and neck. An ermine mantle made of golden fabric with embroidered two-headed eagles rests on the shoulders. On the neck, she wears a brilliant chain with a cross of the Order of St Andrew the First-Called. A ribbon of the Order of St. George with a cross is thrown over the right shoulder. On the chest, there is a star of that Order slightly covered with the mantle.  The Empress holds the gold sceptre in her right hand. The orb and the Great Imperial Crown, bestudded with brilliants and topped by a pink spinel, lie on the red velvet cushion to the left of the Empress. The bronze bust of Peter I in the laurel wreath stands on the grey pedestal. Above the bust, an inscription in golden letters says: “Commits what has started”.


Шествие Екатерины II из Кремлевского дворца в Успенский собор на церемонию коронации.

PROCESSION OF CATHERINE II FROM THE KREMLIN PALACE TO THE ASSUMPTION CATHEDRAL FOR THE CORONATION 

S. Putimtsev.Russia, 1827 (from a copper plate of the late 18th c.). 

Paper; copper plate engraving.

The engraving shows the Faceted Chamber with an abutting Red Porchin close-up. Catherine II stands on the Red Porch before the entrance to the Holy Ciborium under the canopy accompanied by the military officials.  Marshals of ceremonies with maces, the high state and military officials are before her on the steps of the porch. They carry the state regalia on the cushions: the mantle, the Sword of State, and the Seal of State. Beneath them there are three courtiers led by oberjägermeister S.K. Naryshkin, who carries the Banner of State, two kings of arms, and two marshals of ceremonies with maces, and other participants of the ceremony – court and military officials, who proceed towards the Assumption Cathedral through the two ranks of cavalry guards.

A part of the southern façade of the Assumption Cathedral is visible deep on the right. The engraving was not completed; one can see this by the unfinished figure of the Empress. Under the engraving to the right, there is a signature: G. Sem: Putimtsov. The engraving is one of the illustrations to the book with a detailed description of the solemn ceremonies which accompanied all the steps of the coronation of Empress Catherine II.


Коронация императрицы Екатерины II

CORONATION OF EMPRESS CATHERINE II

Russia(?), last third of the 18th c. (not earlier than 1777.). 

Oil on canvas.

This painting is a replica of the art piece by Italian artist Stefano Torelli. He depicted the coronation of Empress Catherine II, which was held in the Assumption Cathedral of the Kremlin on 22 September 1762. The scene takes place inthe interior of the Assumption Cathedral the walls and vaults of which are decorated with frescoes. Empress Catherine II stands in full coronation vestments, the state officials and the hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church are on the top of the stair-step plinth.The painting shows the culmination of the coronation ceremony – Catherine successively accepts the imperial regalia. The figurative contents of the art piece are to disclose the sacral meaning of the coronation - an idea of the monarchy ordained by God. In the minds of the Russian people, this idea was concentrated and expressed in the material form – the honourable thrones, located in the Assumption Cathedral. One of them is the carved wooden Monomakh throne, created in 1551 and assigned to the Russian tsars and emperors. It is depicted on the right and close to it is the white-stone place of the heads of the Russian Church, created in the late 15th century. On the right, there is a praying place of the Russian tsarinas and princesses, which appeared in the cathedral in the 17th century. Sumptuous church chandeliers with burning candles add to the solemn decoration of the Assumption Cathedral.


Ковер

CARPET

Russia, 1762. 

Brocade, gilded galloon; weaving, braiding.

For the coronation, the floor of the Assumption Cathedral was traditionally covered with the red carpet.  During the ceremony when the regalia were put and the anointing was being prepared, the red velvet was spread out from the throne place till the Holy Doors, and straight at the Doors, where the sacrament was administered, a golden brocade carpet with gilded galloon along the edges was laid. When Catherine I was crowned in 1724, a brocade carpet covered ‘the church floor from the altar till the throne’, and in 1730 during the coronation of Anna Ioanovna ‘two colonels spread out velvet and brocade by the Holy Doors’. If the Eucharist took place in the altar, one more brocade carpet would be laid there for the Emperor. After the coronation, these carpets were transferred to the Armoury Chamber and afterwards reused many times more. This carpet was sewn of golden brocade‘in three breadths’ with silver and silk bunches of roses, forget-me-nots and other flowers thrown over it’ and ‘golden gauze’. After the coronation of Catherine II, it was passed to the treasury. According to the documents, the carpet was placed in the Assumption Cathedral from the ambo till the Holy Doors, which means that it was used for the anointing sacrament.


Платье коронационное

CORONATION DRESS

Russia, 1762. 

Brocade, silk, silk thread; needlework, applique work, embroidery.

The coronation dress of Empress Catherine II was sewn in Russia in 1762. It was designed in rococo style and consists of a bodice, a skirt with a circle more than 5 meters in diameter and a train three and a half meters in length. The dress is made of silver brocade. A low neck and sleeves are decorated with a thin linen ‘Brabancon’ lace. This is the only coronation dress, the main decoration of which became the coat of arms of the Russian Empire.

Almost 35 years of Catherine II’s rule – her ‘golden age’ - are considered to be one of the brightest periods of Russian history. Smart, energetic, and well-educated in Europe she contributed to the development of all the sides of life in Russia, including its culture.


Медаль на вступление на престол императрицы Екатерины II

MEDAL TO MARK THE ENTHRONEMENT OF EMPRESS CATHERINE II

Saint-Petersburg mint, 1762. Medallists Т. I. Ivanov (the obverse side); I. GWaechter (the reverse side). 

Silver; chasing.

On the obverse, the Empress is depicted wearing the crown, the dress and the ribbon of the Order over her right shoulder. An allegorical composition is placed on the reverse side: two figures (allegories of Faith and Russia) hold above the altar the monogram of Catherine, which is crowned by a radiant maiden personifying the Divine Providence. The very first medal connected to the rule of Catherine II –  the coronation one – provided the Empress grounds to think over the important role of themedallists’ art in the official ideology of herauthority. It is not an accident that two medals were created during her rule. For obvious reasons, the first of them was produced in hurry in 1762 and did not entirely meet all the demands and conceptions of the Empress. Thus, in 1767 I.G.Waechter created the second coronation medal with Catherine II in the image of Minerva.


Медаль в память коронации императрицы  Екатерины II

MEDAL COMMEMORATING THE CORONATION OF EMPRESS CATHERINE II

Saint-Petersburg mint, 1767. Medallist I. GWaechter. 

Silver; chasing.

On the obverse, the Empress is depictedin the suit of arms and helmet, which is crowned with an owl - an attribute of the goddess of wisdom. On the reverse side, Catherine II is represented sitting in the coronation dress by the columns. A woman, standing on her knees by the Empress and supported by St. George, is an allegorical image of Russia.  She passes Catherine a crown and a sceptre on the cushion. An angel in the background directs his right hand to the sky, where the Providence in the image of a woman with a sceptre in her right hand points at the Empress with her left hand. Catherine II's enthronement in 1762 was marked by sumptuous coronation festivities in Moscow, which were followed by a grandiose mascarade ‘TriumphantMinerva’. It proclaimed the beginning of Minerva’s century – a century of justice, the flowering of science, art and wisdom. The same idea lay in the grounds of this medal, commemorating the enthronement of Catherine II. There is no doubt that Catherine II participated in the creation of this medal. Using the language of allegory and symbol, the incoming era of enlightened absolutism was announced, and, what is more important, the idea of Russia’s salvationafter the palace coup of 1762, whichhad led Catherine to power, was affirmed. The coronation medal demonstrates the skill of its creators to embody and express the principle ideas of that time through the inscriptions and system of allegorical images. Besides, the medal could bereproduced many times, which allowed its distribution widely in Russian and abroad. It was not by chance that gold and silver samples of this medal had been incrusted into the lids of the snuff boxes, which were presented to the participants of the 1762 coup. Apart from that, Catherine often used this medal as a diplomatic gift.


Жетон в память коронации императрицы Екатерины II.

COUNTER COMMEMORATING THE CORONATION OF EMPRESS CATHERINE II

Saint-Petersburg mint, 1762. 

Silver; chasing.

The imperial crown is depicted on the obverse in the rays coming from the Eye of Omniscience. There is an inscription above:FOR LOVE TO THE FATHERLAND; and the date under the milled edge: SEPT. 22d DAY.  On the reverse side, there is an inscription under the imperial crown in seven rows: CATHERINE II/ EMPRESS/AND SOVEREIGN/ OF ALL RUSSIA/ CROWNED/ IN MOSCOW/ IN 1762. This counter came from the Archives in 1883.


Сосуд для вина в виде небесного глобуса

WINE VESSEL IN A FORM OF THE CELESTIAL GLOBE

Vilnius, the 1620sMaster Rudolf Lehman

Silver; chasing, casting, engraving, gilding.

A precious vessel in a form of a telamon on his knee holding the celestial globe reflects the aspiration for everything unusual and splendid, typical for the baroque style. The figure of Atlas – one of the four titans, who, according to antique mythology, support the vaultofheaven – joints the overworld with the earth, represented as an oval basement of the vessel. This representational art piece was brought to Moscow by the embassy led by Stanislaw Witowski in April 1651 and given to Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich as a gift from Polish King Jan II Casimir. On the heel of the telamon, there is an engraving of the 17th century with the indication of its weight and number in the treasury. The original vessel for wine had many times prettified the sideboard in the Faceted Chamber during the coronations. It can be easily identified among the items on the upper tier of the sideboard in the engravings, depicting the solemn dinner in the Faceted Chamber which marked the enthronement of Catherine II, or in the photograph, made during the coronation of Nicholas II.


 

 
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