Font size:
Major version:

On 13 May 2022, the Moscow Kremlin Museums launched the long-awaited exhibition The Duel: from Trial by Combat to Noble Crime. The major-scale project intends to introduce the Russian public to the European history of duelling through the original historical sources and artefacts of the 16th-17th centuries. Many exhibits have never been previously shown in Moscow or been jointly displayed within a single exhibition space.

“The exhibition, conceived as an international project, was supposed to open in early March 2022, but the opening did not take place as scheduled after the institutions in Europe withdrew their loans of artworks. Nevertheless, we decided to go ahead with the project that had been so much anticipated by our visitors and continued working on it by adapting to the new circumstances. Our curators managed to reconceptualise the exhibition in the shortest time possible. I extend my sincere and most heartfelt gratitude to our partners, the Russian museums, who came to our rescue and loaned unique exhibits pertaining to the theme of the European duel, and thus, helped us save the project,” commented Elena Gagarina, General Director of the Moscow Kremlin Museums.

The exposition features over 140 objects from eight Russian museums and libraries, including the State Hermitage, the State Historical Museum, the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, the State Historical Museum, the Library of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Russian State Library, Russian National Library, and the Military History Museum of Artillery, Engineers and Signal Corps. The exhibition was made possible owing to the generous support of the charitable foundation ‘Art, Science and Sport’ established by Alisher Usmanov.

The duel, as a popular historical subject enveloped in the aura of romance and conjuring the ideals of heroic chivalry and love, came to the attention of the general public through popular novels by Alexandre Dumas père, Robert Louis Stevenson, Maurice Druon and other writers, as well as through numerous TV shows and feature films, including the recent Ridley Scott's epic historical drama – The Last Duel. Engaging as they might be the works of fiction and feature films do not provide answers to multiple questions that arise in the viewer, unfamiliar with the reality and practices of the bygone era. Unfolding across its seven sections, the upcoming exhibition will bring to light numerous previously unknown historical facts and details whilst tracing the development of the duelling practices throughout the centuries. It will cover the key stages in the development of the Code Duello (the duelling code), such as judicial duels of the Middle Ages; the "duelling fever" of the second half of the 16th – first half of the 17th century; the development of the duelling arsenal, and the inevitable resulting confrontation between the duellists and the royal justice.

Visitors to the Assumption Belfry and the Patriarch’s Palace exhibition halls will see suits of armour displayed alongside various duelling weapons, as well as engravings, fencing manuals and treatises on the rules of judicial duels. The guests will explore the notion of the duel as key phenomenon in the European aristocratic culture; they will also learn about the legendary duelling dog of the knight De Montdidier. They will further discover that despite the official early ban on duels, the European monarchs had to tolerate their existence well into the reign of Louis XIV, the "winner of all duels". The exhibition will also feature portraits, engravings and rare graphic works of 16th – 17th centuries, including the portraits of French monarchs and such notorious combatants as the ruthless Guillaume du Prat, baron de Vitteaux, or the Marshal of France, Jean-Baptiste Budes, comte de Guébriant, marshal of France.

A variety of exhibition-themed educational programmes are also scheduled to run at the Moscow Kremlin Museums Lecture Hall. The lecture cycle Duel: the Ultimate Honour Dispute explores weapons and duelling practices characteristic of Western Europe and Russia. The lectures will be delivered by the exhibition curators and invited experts from leading universities and research centres. For teenagers aged 11-14, the Museums are launching the programme announced as The Duel Club. In the Footsteps of the Royal Musketeers. Its participants will investigate the standard duel procedure and the nobleman’s code of honour, and learn of the final stages of the duel and the royal authorities’ stance toward the duellists.

The exhibition is intended for a large and diverse range of audiences and promises to become a landmark event in the cultural life of Moscow.

The exhibition will run between 13 May – 14 August 2022 in the Exhibition Halls of the Assumption Belfry and Patriarch’s Palace.



For any other information queries and press images, please contact the Moscow Kremlin Museums Press Department: Telephone: +7 (495) 695-41-87

Download press release