Thursday, September 01, 2016

"Gifts and Prayers: The Romanovs and Their Subjects"

Beginning this Saturday through December 31, 2016, visitors to the Georgia Museum of Art will have the chance to see objects of Russian art never before shown in public. “Gifts and Prayers: The Romanovs and Their Subjects” highlights a collection on long-term loan to the museum that is also a promised gift. Assembled by a single private collector, the collection has been virtually unknown for decades. Curator Asen Kirin, professor of art history at the Lamar Dodd School of Art, has selected nearly 200 objects to introduce the collection and its presence at the museum, which will promote its study in years to come.

“It is truly remarkable that a collection like this was formed in the United States in the midst of the Cold War and is now made public through the generosity of a private collector,” said Kirin. “This is only the first step in a long-term process of research that will result in the thorough publication of the entire set of 1,226 objects. Even at this initial step we plan to unwrap the many layers of meaning they convey.”

Cigar box with enamel miniatures celebrating the coronation of Alexander II, 1856

Kirin has already been studying many of the objects. With the help of UGA’s College of Veterinary Medicine, he used an x-ray machine to look more closely at a portrait by Russian court painter Alexey Venetsianov, to help authenticate its signature. A fully illustrated catalogue, published by the museum, accompanies the exhibition and includes details of Kirin’s discoveries so far.

Among the objects are military decorations such as medals, badges and awards from the Russian Imperial Orders of Chivalry. Many of these insignia, beautifully rendered in gold, translucent enamel and jewels, were presented by the tsars in recognition of military service. Also showcased are ceremonial swords including a diamond-encrusted sword awarded by Alexander I, armor, helmets topped with double-headed eagles and an intricately designed silver trophy from the Crimean War. The House of Romanov ruled imperial Russia for 300 years, until the Russian Revolution, in 1917, which replaced the tsars with a Communist government. The court created elaborate gifts for military leaders, attendants, noble families and others, as part of a system of patronage that helped it maintain its power. Those gifts make up this display, which includes such treasures as the personal cigar box of Alexander II commemorating his coronation (which features individually painted miniatures covering its top), a miniature FabergĂ© rendition of Peter the Great’s boat, diamond-encrusted brooches worn by ladies of the court, the 1802 Charter of Ennoblement, a luxurious folio volume presented to Lord Durham by Tsar Nicholas I, portraits, statues, photographs of the Romanov family and silver icons.

Plan your next trip to the Georgia Museum of Art with programs related to “Gifts and Prayers: The Romanovs and Their Subjects.”

Tour at Two: “Gifts and Prayers: The Romanovs and Their Subjects” with curator Asen Kirin. Wednesday, September 7, 2 p.m.

90 Carlton: Autumn. Friday, September 16, 5:30–8:30 p.m.

Shouky Shaheen Lecture: Suzanne Massie. Friday, September 23, 5:30–6:30 p.m.

International Scholarly Symposium: “Gifts and Prayers: The Romanovs and Their Subjects”. Friday and Saturday, September 23 and 24, 8 a.m.

Lecture: “The Russian Imperial Awards and their Recipients” with Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm. Tuesday, November 1, 5:30–6:30 p.m.

Family Day: Royal Treasure. Saturday, December 3, 10 a.m.–noon

Tour at Two: “Gifts and Prayers: The Romanovs and Their Subjects” with curator Asen Kirin, Wednesday, December 7, 2 p.m.

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