Exhibition: Jewels! Glittering at the Russian Court

Before the Russian Revolution in 1917 the Russian Imperial Court was the place to show of your splendid jewelry. The exhibition Jewels! Glittering at the Russian Court at the Hermitage in Amsterdam, The Netherlands makes it painfully clear that many imperial Russian jewels have gone lost. The Romanovs and aristocrates who fled the country took their valuable stuff with them, and often sold them to be able to survive. The crown jewels that remained are kept in Moscow. Most jewelry however vanished without a trace. It is the surviving masterpieces that are on display now in Amsterdam.

A few weeks ago two friends and I visited the exhibition – that is open from 14 September 2019 to 15 March 2020 – with high expectations. When thinking of jewels, we thought of tiaras, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, brooches. Unfortunately there was only a handful of tiaras on display. Many jewels in the exhibition were not owned by the imperial family, but by aristocatic families and even me, a genealogist, had not heard of many of these families before. In that we were a bit disappointed, but we forgot a bit that jewels is so much more.

The jewelry is on display together with gorgeous portraits, richly decorated dresses, amazing fans and luxurous objects decorated with gemstones or made out of precious minerals. According to the Hermitage themore than 400  items on display represent two centuries in fashion and jewels starting with the Empresses Anna, Elizabeth and Catherine the Great to the early 20th century. At court people, not only women but also men, wore dazzling costumes, set off by bijoux. One was to show off identity, taste and wealth. They were ordered at jewelry houses like Fabergé, Cartier and Tiffany.

Among the top pieces are bracelets of Queen Anna Pavlovna of the Netherlands, a born Grand Duchess of Russia – a loan from the Royal Collections in The Hague. There is a double-sided mirror, decorated with flowers and animals, made by Charles Kaendler as a wedding gift for Tsar Peter III and his wife Catherine. The mirror was restored especially for the exhibition. Also the jewel bouquet of Empress Elizabeth from the 18th century, containing many gemestones, and made by the royal jeweller Jérémie Pauzié, can be seen. The most beautiful tiara at the exhibition once belonged to Empress Maria Fyodorovna, the wife of Tsar Alexander III, created around 1885 by Mikhail Perkhin for Fabergé. Normally the tiara is on display at the Fabergé Museum in Baden-Baden.

There is an exhibition catalogue with 208 pages available in Dutch and in English for € 34,95. ISBN 978-90-78653-80-6 (Dutch) or 978-90-78653-81-3 (English).

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