Looking for something to do this late afternoon/early evening? Interested in a potential preview of an upcoming GMOA exhibition? Check out Dr. Asen Kirin's lecture "Exuberance of Meaning: The Art Patronage of Catherine the Great," which he will give as part of the Visual Culture Colloquium (VCC) Lectures at the Lamar Dodd School of Art, in room S150 of the Dodd, at 5 p.m. today (Thursday, Sept. 8). A description follows:
The lecture introduces an exhibition project the work on which has already commenced. This exhibition intends to make a contribution to the current knowledge of patronage in eighteenth-century Russia and to our understanding of the perception of Byzantine culture in the era of neo-Classicism. The plan of the curator is to accomplish this goal with a relatively limited number of objects—loans from a small number of museums in the U.S.A.Dr. Kirin has worked with the museum before, perhaps most notably on the exhibition "Sacred Art, Secular Context," which examined Byzantine works of art from the collection of Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C.
The exhibition will illustrate the complex dynamic between the collection of historical art and the commissioning of new works of art during the reign of Catherine the Great (1762-96). The focus of the exhibition is on the particular manner in which Catherine applied not only her knowledge of ancient and medieval glyptic art but also her collection of carved gems to new works of art that she commissioned. This was a deliberate continuation of the centuries-old tradition of placing pagan, Greek, and Roman carved stones onto sacred Christian liturgical and devotional objects. The empress not only shared the Enlightenment sentiment that carved gems were essential material vestiges from the past, but she was also fully cognizant of the cultural meanings associated with the practice of collecting cameos. Accordingly, she addressed these cultural meanings in her art patronage.
The title “Exuberance of Meaning” refers to a crucial characteristic that distinguishes Catherine the Great’s endeavors in the arts. Her innumerable projects—whether a new city, a church, a liturgical vessel, or a dinner set—were conceived in a manner allowing for multiple yet complementary interpretations covering a wide spectrum of meanings. Some of these meanings and references remained relevant only within a Russian context, thus forming unique aspects of this country’s neo-Classicism. This multiplicity of meaning is the direct outcome of the empress’s wish to assert her empire’s status as a key participant in the Project of the Enlightenment whose aim was to reform society and advance knowledge. The empress believed that accomplishing this goal in Russia necessitated not only knowledge of classical mythology, literature, and art, but also of Russia’s heritage of Byzantine theology, political ideology, as well as history. Catherine strove to add a neo-Classical stratum to Russia’s material culture and with it to expand the system of cultural references in her empire. The most ambitious trait of her ideological creativity consists of constructing an environment in which a learned audience would understand works of art, architecture, and literature through proficiency in the “languages” of both classical and medieval culture.