Exhibition | France and Russia: Ten Centuries Together

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on December 19, 2021

Pierre-François Drais, snuffbox, made in Paris between 1776 and 1789, with portraits added sometime between 1814 and 1830; gold, enamel, and lapis lazuli, mounted with miniatures in watercolour on ivory (London: V&A, 905-1882). The portraits depict Marie Antoinette and her children Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte (1778–1851), the Dauphin Louis (1781–1789), and Louis-Charles the future Louis XVII (1785–1795), along with a sculptured bust of Louis XVI.

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From the press release for the exhibition:

France and Russia: Ten Centuries Together / Франция и Россия: 10 веков вместе
Exhibition Halls of the Patriarch’s Palace and the Assumption Belfry, Moscow, 7 September 2021 — 9 January 2022

The Moscow Kremlin Museums present the exhibition France and Russia: Ten Centuries Together as part of the cross-cultural year between Russia and France, highlighting their interregional cooperation. The project, dedicated to the centuries-long history of cultural and diplomatic relations between the two countries, showcases over two hundred artifacts: memorial objects, archival documents, and artworks from national Russian and European museums. The exhibition explores the history of Russian-French relations through intertwining fates of outstanding personalities including prominent statesmen, scientists, writers, artists, and craftsmen. The chosen approach aims at reconstructing the character of the relationship between the two countries as an immediate, multifaceted, somewhat contradictory, but an ultimately fruitful process for both parties.

The show opens with a unique charter, dating back to 1063 and recalling the important political event of the 11th century: the dynastic marriage of Princess Anna Yaroslavna, daughter of the Great Prince Yaroslav the Wise, to King Henry I of France. The charter, provided by the National Library of France, is believed to be the only surviving document that bears the handwritten sign of the cross and monogram of King Philip I with his mother’s authentic signature ‘ANA RHNA’ (Queen Anne) placed underneath in Cyrillic letters. Visitors are also afforded the rare opportunity of seeing the Reims Gospel—a unique illuminated manuscript of great cultural and historical significance. Generously offered for the exhibition by the Municipal Library of Reims, it will take centre stage among the key objects on display.

Among the later period pieces featured in the exhibition is a drawing by artist J. Desmarets capturing Peter I and Louis XV in Paris on 11 May 1717 and presented to the Soviet leaders as a diplomatic gift in 1944 to commemorate the visit of Charles de Gaulle, the Chairman of the Provisional Government of the French Republic, to Moscow. The development of the 18th-century political dialogue between Russia and France is chronicled through paintings and sculptures, weapons, textiles, and jewellery commissioned for the Russian Imperial Court from famous French masters or created by prominent French artists invited to Russia. The passion for French art is evidenced by luxurious tapestries, the ceremonial dress of the young Emperor Peter II, the exquisite lacework adorning the gowns of Russian monarchesses, the pieces from the silver Paris set owned by Empress Elizaveta Petrovna, and magnificent weapons, including a pair of pistols belonging to Emperor Peter II and made by the Arquebusier du Roi (royal gunmaker) Jean-Baptiste Laroche.

J. Desmarets, Peter I and Louis XV in Paris on 11 May 1717, 1717, ink, watercolour, red chalk, and gouache on tinted paper (Moscow Kremlin Museums)

Portraits from the collection of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts recreate a gallery of outstanding political and cultural figures from the reigns of Empresses Elizaveta Petrovna and Catherine the Great. The section on Catherine the Great’s reign showcases pieces from the legendary Orlov porcelain service executed by the Parisian silversmiths Jacques and Jacques-Nicolas Roettiers along with the precious desk clock with inkstand—the work of a Parisian master—that belonged to the Empress. Unique pieces from the collection of the Pavlovsk Museum and Heritage Site will hark back to Grand Duke Pavel Petrovich and Grand Duchess Maria Feodorovna’s tours of Europe. The years preceding the Great French Revolution are epitomised by the rare memorial objects and are captured in the portraits painted by Élisabeth Vigée-Le Brun, Queen Marie-Antoinette’s favourite artist.

A special section of the exhibition is devoted to relations between Russia and France during the reign of Emperor Alexander I. Here, visitors will see a magnificent cased set of weapons made by the famous French gunsmith and bladesmith Nicolas-Noël Boutet—the gift presented to the Russian governor-general of Paris, Baron Fabian Gottlieb Fürst von der Osten-Sacken from the grateful Parisians. Another highlight is the Olympic porcelain service produced at the Sèvres porcelain factory and presented in 1807 by Napoleon to the Emperor Alexander I in commemoration of the Treaty of Tilsit. The star of the Order of the Holy Spirit, awarded to Alexander I by King Louis XVIII after the former’s victory over Napoleon and the restoration of the monarchy in France, is another showpiece not to miss! The exhibition introduces visitors to the history of ‘Russian Nice’ and feature stories of the World Exhibition that took place in Paris in 1867. It also offers insights into the process of strengthening of Franco-Russian friendship and formation of the Franco-Russian Alliance at the turn of the 19th century.

Participating Institutions
The Moscow Kremlin Museums, the Palaces of Versailles and Trianon, Victoria and Albert Museum, the National Museums of Castles Malmaison and Bois-Préau, National Library of France, the Reims Municipal Library, the State Tretyakov Gallery, the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, the Shchusev State Museum of Architecture, the State Hermitage, Museum and Heritage Site ‘Pavlovsk’, the Russian State Library, the Archive of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Russian State Archive of Ancient Documents

Svetlana Amelekhina et al. Frantsiia i Rossiia: Desiat’ vekov vmeste / Франция и Россия: 10 веков вместе (Moscow: Muzei Moskovskogo Kremlia, 2021), 383 pages, ISBN: 978-5886783872. Available here»

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