Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The Romanov collection at the Pinacotheque in Paris, France

The Romanov collection, The Pinacotheque de Paris, 26th January to 15th September 2011, 28 place de la Madeleine, 75008, Paris. By Larissa Woolf, Arts Editor,

The Pinacotheque museum in Paris is showing at the moment the treasures of the Hermitage Museum from St Petersburg. It is a fantastic exhibition, showcasing more than one hundred works of art from all around Europe and the world and renowned artists that date right back to the fifteenth century. Beginning from the end of the eighteenth century the imperial leaders each began a massive project towards collecting rare and impressive pieces of work from around the world, beginning with Peter the Great in the seventeenth century to Nicholas 1st.

Under Peter the Great Russia saw the beginning of a genuine cultural opening and curiosity towards the Western Europe and foreign lands. The Great Embassy went overseas in 1697-1698 and visited workshops, libraries and museums and literally fell in love with what it saw and so began the history of avid Russian collecting. Once bought they transferred these paintings to St Petersburg which was built according to a model of Amsterdam with canals and Dutch, German, French and Italian architecture.

Peter the Great amassed a collection of 400 paintings, 165 of them were from Holland and Flanders. One example was a Joos de Momper le Jerne (1564-1635)oil painting,’ Monks in a cave’ - a beautiful and luminous landscape scene of monks in a rustic and religious setting. Within the collection is a magnificient Rembrandt, entitled ‘David and Jonathan’, where the two figures are depicted against the background of the city. The luminous colour and the detail of the figures attest to his great skill as a painter.

Catherine II of Russia was also an enlightened leader who, interestingly enough, had an enduring writing relationship with the French philosopher Diderot and spoke to Voltaire, and d’Alembert on a regular basis. It was her idea to buy a whole collection rather than just one piece, for example she bought the Comte von Bruhl’s collection and 4,000 drawings from the Phillip Cobentzel’s collection. One of the paintings that figures in her purchase is Rembrandt’s ‘Portrait of a bearded man with a beret’ which is particularly beautiful; invoking a solemn atmosphere and infused with complex and life like detail such as the wrinkles on his face and his subdued expression. One of the most impressive paintings of the collection is Gabriel Metsu’s ‘The sick person and the doctor’ in which we see a dark, black robed, ominous looking doctor’s exchange with an old lady in her bedchamber. The lady is depicted in a rich, sumptuous gown, fur trimmed with orange silk and is quite clearly dying. The solemn, funeral like atmostphere of the room is clearly depicted.

The biggest buy for the Hermitage was the Crozat collection in 1772 and Catherine had amassed an amazing 4,000 paintings by the end of her reign including works by Nicolas Poussin, Marie Louise le Brun and Claude Joseph Vernet.

The next Russian leader was just as prolific, Alexander I amassed art on a grand scale and felt it was an important aspect to his reign both for cultural posterity and for his standing as a leader. He had an amazing collection of Spanish art and Josephine Bonapart sold him the collection in the chateau de Malmaison. Francisco Ribalto and Diego Velasquez da Silva are some of the artists that were amassed. His successor Nicolas 1st inspired significant changes to the collection from 1825. One of the paintings that he bought was by Sofoniska Anguissola, entitled ‘portrait of a young lady in profile’ figuring a beautiful, rich detailed portrait of a lady holding three flowers wearing a rich green velvet dress lined with pearls. Another stunning piece is the oil painting by Andrea Vaccoro of Marie Magdeleine, the vision of her looking towards the sky in immense sorrow is profoundly moving. Amongst the collection, to name but a few, is Titian, Natale Shiavane and Gabriel Metsu.

The outstanding collection at the Pinacotheque in Paris reveals how enlightened and cultured these great Russian leaders were and how, through their effort, an entire cultural revolution was begun and a legacy left. To experience the magic of the Hermitage museum without having to travel to Russia go to the museum.

The Romanov collection, The Pinacotheque de Paris, 26th January to 15th September 2011, 28 place de la Madeleine, 75008, Paris. By Larissa Woolf, Arts Editor,
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