The exhibition offers a perspective on how Russian internal and geopolitical transformations, in which Empress Catherine II played a major part, were reflected in art of the late 18th century
The second half of the 18th century in the Russian Empire was marked by significant transformations of the social structure, legislative framework, industry, and culture. Among the major milestones of that period were growth and development of national manufactories, the foundation of the Smolny Institute and Moscow Foundling Home, and the formulation of a new charter of the Academy of Arts.
Battle pieces and allegorical paintings, drawings and engravings reflect the major war events of the epoch: the Russo-Turkish wars of the 1768‒1774 and 1788‒1790, and the Russo-Swedish war of the 1788‒1790. It was in these wars that military leadership talent of such prominent Russian commanders as A. V. Suvorov and P. A. Rumyantsev manifested itself. In 1783, the Crimea peninsula became, as Catherine herself put it, an eternal part of Russia. The artworks of the period also represent some of the Empress’s projects, such as the so-called Greek project, the relationships with the Order of Malta and so on, as well as her travels across the southern governorates. Historical, cultural, and artistic connections between Russia and Western Europe were active and diverse then — among them Catherine’s contacts with the prominent French intellectuals, Diderot and Voltaire.
The rich and diverse exhibition provides insight into significant events in the history of Russia by bringing together over 500 works of fine and applied arts: paintings, graphic works, sculpture, glassware and china, costumes, and more. The exhibition also features archival documents.
The exhibition includes portraits of Catherine the Great and her contemporaries by Ivan Argunov, Dmitry Levitsky, Fyodor Rokotov, Stefano Torelli, Johann Baptiste Lampi, Joseph Kreuzinger, Salvatore Tonci, and others. Moreover, visitors will see sculptural portraits by a prominent master of Russian classicism Fyodor Shubin, Italian sculptor Jacopo Monaldi, and so on.
Landscapes by Mikhail Ivanov and Fyodor Alekseev invite one to follow the Empress on her journeys across Russia, especially the Crimea. Mikhail Ivanov is renowned for his battle scenes painted in watercolour and gouache, also present in the exhibition. Furthermore, one will see works by Jacob Philipp Hackert who was commissioned by the Russian court to capture naval battles of Chesma.
The exhibition brings together objects held in the Russian Museum, State Historical Museum, Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Tretyakov Gallery, Hermitage, Moscow Kremlin, Pavlovsk and Peterhof Museum Reserves, Suvorov Memorial Museum and many other museums, archives, and private collections.