Online Talk | Chinoiserie in the Reign of Elisabeth Petrovna

Posted in lectures (to attend), online learning by Editor on March 23, 2022

Chinoiserie Figures, Imperial Porcelain Factory, 1752–60
(Jordanville, New York: Russian History Museum)

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Sponsored by the museum:

Ekaterina Heath | Art in Chinese Style during the Reign of Elisabeth Petrovna
Online, Russian History Museum, Jordanville, New York, 9 April 2022, 1.00pm (EDT)

Empress Elisabeth Petrovna (1709–1762), second-eldest daughter of Peter the Great, was an unexpected ruler whose place on the throne was under constant threat. As a young child, she experienced the intrigue and mystery of the Chinese embassy’s visit to Empress Anna Ioannovna. This visit had a lasting effect. The fact that the Chinese desired a relationship with a European country was unique in international relations at the time; yet Russian Empire’s attitude towards China remained ambiguous throughout Elisabeth’s reign. The Empress oscillated between critiquing China and seeking good relations with the Chinese Emperor.

The malleability of art in Chinese style (chinoiserie) allowed to use it to reflect the changing meanings of the East. At the same time, Russian chinoiserie often reveals more about Russian court culture and politics than it does about Russia’s complex relationship with China. Chinoiserie’s multiple meanings also served Elizabeth Petrovna to challenge the norms of her gender to support her legitimacy to rule. Neither Chinese nor European, chinoiserie allowed the Imperial court to define and promote the values and interests of the empress and the Russian state. Join us as we explore this unique combination of diplomacy through decorative arts.

This virtual lecture will be presented live via Zoom. Registered users will be emailed a link to join. If you’re unable to watch the live stream, please fill out this form and we will send you a link to the recording.

Dr. Ekaterina Heath is a Research Associate at the University of Sydney. She has published essays on Russian eighteenth-century art and gardens. Her recent articles include “Grand Tour Memories In Maria Feodorovna’s Pavlovsk Park, St Petersburg, 1782–1825” (with Emma Gleadhill), “Giving Women History: A History of Ekaterina Dashkova through Her Gifts to Catherine the Great and Others,” and “Sowing the Seeds for Strong Relations: Seeds and Plants as Diplomatic Gifts for the Russian Empress Maria Fedorovna.” She is finishing a book on Empress Maria Fedorovna’s use of Pavlovsk Park to influence Russian politics. This online talk is based on a chapter that Ekaterina Heath wrote with Professor Jennifer Milam, to be published shortly in the volume Russian Orientalism in a Global Context (edited by Maria Taroutina and Allison Leigh).

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Opened in 1984, the Russian History Museum in Jordanville, New York, 60 miles east of Syracuse, “promotes the understanding and appreciation of the rich history and culture of Russia and the Russian diaspora.” The museum’s history is closely associated with the Holy Trinity Monastery, founded in 1930. The monastery became “an important spiritual and cultural center for the Russian diaspora, [and] emigres from the former Russian Empire, displaced by revolution, civil war, and World War II, began to view the monastery as a trusted repository for the treasured artifacts and documents they brought with them from their homeland or had painstakingly collected abroad” (from the museum’s website). Responding to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the museum’s ‘plea for peace’ is available here.

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