Enfilade

Exhibition | Dining with the Tsars: Fragile Beauty from the Hermitage

Posted in books by Editor on October 12, 2014

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Items from the Service of the Order of St George, Porcelain manufactory of Franz (Francis) Gardner in Verbilki, Dmitrovsky, Moscow Province, Russia. 1777–78 (State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg)

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Press release from the Hermitage Amsterdam:

Dining with the Tsars: Fragile Beauty from the Hermitage / Breekbare schoonheid uit de Hermitage
Hermitage Amsterdam, 6 September 2014 — 1 March 2015

The Hermitage Amsterdam’s fifth anniversary exhibition Dining with the Tsars: Fragile Beauty from the Hermitage opens on 6 September 2014. Eight magnificent porcelain and creamware services from the collection of the Hermitage in St Petersburg will be exhibited in a setting that conveys what the balls and banquets of the Tsar’s court were like. Visitors will imagine they are guests, in possession of a coveted imperial invitation, climbing the steps of the Winter Palace, reviewing the rules of etiquette and preparing for a festive occasion. Finally they enter the main hall where the fine porcelain dinnerware is set out in a festive display.

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Items from the Green Frog Service, Wedgwood, Etruria (Stoke-on-Trent). 1773–74 (State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg)

The exquisite porcelain services, comprising no less than 1,034 pieces, exhibited on authentically laid tables with decorative centrepieces, reveal the enchanting grandeur of the Tsars’ banquets. The exhibition tells the story of the lavish ball and banqueting culture that reached its zenith under the reign (1762–1796) of Catherine the Great, Queen of Feasts, when hundreds of dishes would be served at a single banquet and thousands of guests attended the balls. The last tsar, Nicholas II (ruled 1894–1917) and his wife Alexandra, who organised the largest balls but were only present for as briefly as possible. With their abdication, the ball and banqueting customs that had once captured the imagination of all the courts of Europe came to an end.

The finest pieces are from the dinnerware collections of Catherine the Great, such as the Green Frog Service (Wedgwood, England), the Cameo Service (Sèvres, Paris, exhibited for the first time with silver gilt flatware), which at one time comprised nearly a thousand pieces, and the Berlin Dessert Service (Königliche Porzellan-Manufaktur Berlin). The services of later Tsars were no less impressive and significant for their connection to European history. The services are exhibited in accordance with the rules of etiquette, augmented with ornate centrepieces, gold-rimmed crystal glassware, candelabras, vases, detailed silverwork and wall decorations. The exhibition features a wide range of pieces, from ice buckets for liqueur bottles and ice-cream coupes to salt and pepper sets and table figurines.

The exhibition also offers a culinary view of imperial dining customs, in a culture where banquets of 300 dishes were no exception. Dessert was the highpoint of the meal and the ideal course for showing off the host’s wealth and refined taste. Richly decorated delicacies were served with exceptional inventiveness. There is attention for iconography and the diplomatic function of giving services as gifts and hosting state dinners in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. And the balls and performances, gossip and scandal also feature in the exhibition. Evidence of the excesses of the imperial court abounds. Particularly revealing are the quotes drawn from the memoires of Marie Cornélie van Wassenaer Obdam. She visited the Winter Palace in 1824 as a member of the retinue of Anna Paulowna and the later King Willem II.

The surpring final exhibit is the service given to Stalin by the Hungarian people in 1949, which has never been used or exhibited before. It illustrates the diplomatic role that dinnerware also played in the twentieth century.

Never before have so many porcelain dinnerware pieces from the Hermitage been exhibited in the Netherlands. The rich collection of European porcelain from the Hermitage in St Petersburg comprises over 15,000 items, purchased by or given as gifts to the Tsars of Russia between 1745 and the years prior to the First World War. The services, which include many unique pieces, were produced by leading porcelain manufacturers such as Meissen, Sèvres, Gardner and Wedgwood and decorated to the highest artistic standard.

Spatial designer Lies Willers and stylist Jeanine Aalfs joined forces to produce an innovative, festive, engaging, dreamlike and overwhelming scenography.

Dozens of high-resolution images are available here»

New Book | The Drawing Room: English Country House Decoration

Posted in books by Editor on October 12, 2014

From Rizzoli:

Jeremy Musson, foreword by Julian Fellowes with photographs by Paul Barker, The Drawing Room: English Country House Decoration (New York: Rizzoli, 2014), 272 pages, ISBN: 978-0847843336, $60.

www.randomhouse.comA highly detailed look at the most accomplished English country house interiors, exemplifying English decorating at its best. The English drawing room, a formal place within a house of status where family and honored guests could retire from the more public arena, is one of the most important rooms in an English country house, and thus great attention has been paid to preserving the decoration of this most elegant of spaces: the center of life in the English countryside and the epitome of English country house decoration. This book offers privileged access to fifty of the finest drawing rooms of country houses and historic townhouses—many still in private hands—including Althorp, Attingham, and Knepp Castle. Through these sumptuous rooms, readers experience a history of English decorating from the sixteenth century to the present day, including the work of design legends such as David Hicks, Nancy Lancaster, John Fowler, and David Mlinaric. Specially commissioned photographs capture the entirety of each room, as well as details of furniture, architectural elements, artwork, collections, and textiles, creating a visually seductive book that will inspire interior designers and homeowners interested in the widely popular classic English look.

Jeremy Musson is the former architectural editor of Country Life, the cowriter and presenter of the BBC television series The Curious House Guest, and the author of many books, including English Country House Interiors, The English Manor House, How to Read a Country House, and The Country Houses of Sir John Vanbrugh. Paul Barker is one of England’s premier interior and architectural photographers, whose books include English Country House Interiors, England’s Thousand Best Churches, and English Ruins. Julian Fellowes is the creator of the hit series Downton Abbey.