|Prince Sergey S. Belosselsky-Belozersky and Florence Crane, ca. 1944|
In mid-July, the University of Georgia announced that, for the fifth consecutive year, UGA donors set a record in fundraising, contributing a total of $242 million in new gifts and pledges to the Commit to Georgia Campaign. This was the second consecutive year that the total surpassed $200 million. The museum has a goal of raising $22.5 million by the conclusion of the campaign, which includes works of art. One of the most exciting gifts we have received during the campaign is the one that makes up the current exhibition “One Heart, One Way: The Journey of a Princely Art Collection” (on view through January 6). Organized by Parker Curator of Russian Art Asen Kirin, it introduces our audiences to the art collection of the Belossersky-Belozersky family, a collection that has not been seen for decades and that now belongs to the people of the state of Georgia.
A little over a year ago, Princess Marina Sergeevna Belosselsky-Belozersky Kasarda was looking for a museum that could house her family’s collection of paintings and decorative arts dating back to 1660. Her father, Sergei Sergeevich, had previously donated items from the family archive, manuscripts and works of art to Harvard and Columbia universities, Hillwood Museum and Gardens and the Walters Art Museum, and she hoped to follow in his tradition of philanthropy. Marina and her husband, Vladislav Kasarda, contacted experts affiliated with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and the Harriman Institute at Columbia University — two noted sources with considerable expertise on Russian culture and art — for advice on the matter, and both of them recommended the Georgia Museum of Art. The museum had worked with Hoover and Harriman previously on scholarly exhibitions of Russian art, and they knew we were well suited to manage, exhibit and study such a gift. “One Heart, One Way” is only the first step in our process of doing so, and we look forward to discovering more about each object from this collection as well as making connections between it and others, like the Parker Collection.
The Belosselsky-Belozersky family traces its roots back to Rurik of Jutland, the 9th-century Viking chieftan and founder of the medieval state of Kievan Rus’ (the predecessor of Russia). The Beloye (white) Lake in northern Russia gave the family its name and was famous for its sturgeons, two of which appear on the Belosserky-Belozersky crest. The family played an important role in the history of Eastern Europe. In the 18th century, starting in the reign of Peter the Great, its members took part in European political, diplomatic and intellectual life. Prince Alexander Mikhailovich corresponded with the philosophers Immanuel Kant and Voltaire. Portraits of these aristocratic intellectuals and objects they owned are part of the collection, including paintings by renowned portraitists Anton Graff, Pietro Benvenuti and Christina Robertson.
With the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the Belosselsky-Belozersky family emigrated to its estate in Finland; a chartered train carried the collection to safety there. At this point in the art historical record, experts considered several famed paintings in the collection as lost, but happily their assumptions were incorrect. From Finland, the family moved to London, England, where the collection survived World War II, and finally to Ipswich, Massachusetts, when Prince Sergei Sergeevich Belossselsky married Florence Crane, of the family that owned the Crane Company. The Russian program at the Georgia Museum of Art has grown steadily since its inception and is now widely respected. For Mrs. Kasarda to trust us with her family’s heirlooms that have been through so much is a profoundly moving expression of confidence in our abilities. The art of giving consists, in part, of being able to make just such a magnanimous gesture. We will do our very best to live up to our end of the bargain.
Director of Development