A large quantity of paintings, watercolours, prints, drawings and works of applied art from the time of the last tsar are now to be found in the Hermitage, including many objects owned by the tsar himself and by his family. This is a collection of not only artistic value, but also of immense historical and commemorative value.
Alexander III's early death in 1894 was an unexpected blow to the entire family, then gathered at Livadia in the Crimea (now Ukraine), and to the country. The event was recorded in 1895 in a series of 11 watercolours, The Death of Alexander III in Livadia, by the Hungarian artist Mikhai Zichy.
In November 1894, the young Emperor Nicholas II married Princess Alice of Hesse-Darmstadt, who took the name Alexandra Feodorovna after her adoption of the Russian Orthodox religion. This important event was depicted by the Danish painter Laurits Tuxen in his Marriage of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (1895).
An event no less important to Russia, the coronation of Nicholas II was also reflected in various paintings, drawings, prints, and medals created specially to commemorate the theme. Again Tuxen produced a painting of the high point of the coronation as it took place in the Cathedral of the Assumption in the Moscow Kremlin.
P. Pesetzski's watercolour Panorama of Moscow During the Coronation of Nicholas II (1896-1900) is over 50 metres long and represents all the most important moments of the coronation as well as numerous interiors of buildings in the Moscow Kremlin: the Cathedral of the Assumption, the Terem and Great Palaces and the Faceted Chamber. The Panorama ends with a depiction of a military parade on Khadyn Field. In the etched Coronation Portrait of Nicholas II by F. Demoulins we see the emperor depicted in the full imperial vestments appropriate to the coronation.
Every layer of Russian society took part in the celebration and commemoration of the coronation, each in their own way. They purchased silver samovars, icons with silver settings, porcelain articles and stone objects produced at the Imperial manufactories, or one of the medals showing portraits of the Emperor and Empress, produced at Russian mints.
Russian portraiture of that period is also rich in prints, drawings, and watercolours of the many members of the imperial family, of outstanding statesmen, military leaders, courtiers, merchants, and other celebrated Russian personalities. Such is a series of portraits by M. B. Rundaltsov, including a Portrait of Nicholas II with Portrait of Crown Prince-Tsesarevitch Alexey Nikolayevich (after the original by Valentin Serov, lost during the 1917 Revolution), Portrait of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, and Portrait of Crown Prince Alexey Nikolaevich with Portraits of his Sisters. Worthy of note is a drawing showing a portrait of Gregory Rasputin, by E. N. Klokacheva.
Leading Russian manufactories, firms, and workshops continued to produce furniture, bronzes, porcelain, and stoneware fit to adorn the imperial residences and the houses of the aristocracy: mosaic furniture made at the Peterhof manufactory, a bureau from the study of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, marquetry tables from the N. F. Svirsky manufactory, a piano painted by Ernst Liphart and jewellery created by I. Khlebnikov, and P. Ovchinnikov, artists from the Faberge workshop.
The Orthodox religion was always central to Russian society. All the members of Nicholas II's family were profoundly pious and both public and private rooms in the imperial palaces were filled with icons, crucifixes, and Books of Gospels. The cathedrals and churches were lavishly decorated and after the Revolution of 1917 numerous religious objects, including those from the Large and Small Churches of the Winter Palace, were transferred to the Hermitage Museum. Noteworthy are the icon St. Nicholas and St. Tsaritsa Alexandra, presented to the royal family by the icon-painter A. I. Tsepkov, and the icon Selected Saints, representing the patron saints of members of the royal family.
The museum's outstanding collection of costume, textiles, and embroidery can only be displayed at temporary exhibitions, for reasons of conservation, but here we find formal dresses belonging to Nicholas II's mother the Empress Maria Feodorovna, his wife Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, and to the Grand Duchesses, as well as the magnificent military uniforms, court attire, and masquerade costumes of the male members of the royal family and the aristocracy.
Portrait of Emperor Nicholas II with the Remarque Portrait of Tsarevich Alexei Nikolayevich
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