More than 600 of Russian and West-European works of applied art, drawings
and paintings will be exhibited to the public in the new exhibition rooms
of the General Staff (former appartments of the minister for foreign affairs
of the Russian Empire). Some of the interiors preserved their original
ornamentation executed to the design of a famous architect Carlo Rossi
who made the project of the General Staff building.
Heraldic eagles have for a long time been the emblems of European countries
- Russia, Austria, Prussia. In 1804 the throne of the new empire, 'the
realm of the eagle', was established for himself by Napoleon Bonaparte.
Neither of the European countries since the Roman Empire acquired the
power and might that France acquired under Napoleon who proclaimed his
country to be the heir of the great Roman Empire.
Roman military symbols became an inseparable part of the ornamental
motifs of the new style in art that was called Empire style. Unlike French
Empire style Russian Classicism of the Alexander I time did not center
on the figure of the emperor: 'Russian Empire' was inspired with the idea
of national unity.
Applied art was the sphere where Empire style manifested itself most
vividly.Ideas that agitated European countries were reflected in porcelain
paintings, ornaments of bronze articles, decoration motifs of cameos,
Artists who designed projects for applied art articles used in their
work lists of ornaments among which most popular were the ouvrages of
the French architects Charles Persier and Fontain. (Console table 'Sea
Bottom' (Jacob brothers, Paris), dressing table (Martin-Guillaume Bienner
to the design of Charles Persier)). An innovation of Empire style was
the dressing table with the mirror 'psyche' and special flower-stands.
A beautiful example of the Russian Empire is a furniture set made in 1817
- 1818 in the workshop of Baumann to the design of Carlo Rossi. This architect
also created project drawings for the articles of stone and glass some
of which are represented at the exhibition.
Egyptian motifs in decoration of furniture, bronze and porcelain articles
started to be widely used after Napoleonic expedition to Egypt. 'Egyptian'
porcelain set consisting of 146 pieces was presented to Alexander I in
1808. A desert porcelain set that belonged to Eugene Beauharnais, adopted
son of Napoleon, manifests all the specific features of the gala sets
of Empire style (produced by Diehl and Gerard, Paris, early 19th century).
Decorative bronze was one of the most important elements of the decoration
of the rooms. Works of the famous French sculptor, bronze artist and chaser
Thomire are on display: mantelpiece set with chandeliers and a clock 'Minin
and Pozharsky', round panel with six chandeliers on the brim, a pair of
vases in the form of amphorae with the figurines of Bacchantes. The part
of the exhibition devoted to costume is one of the most interesting. Military
full-dress coats decorated with embroidery occupy central place of the
display. Empire style vividly manifested itself in the antique forms of
cavalry helmets and cuirasses, ornaments on the shako emblems, artistic
decoration of the tips of standards and batons and also in the design
of weapon. Court-dress coats of Eugene Beauharnais - coronation garment
of viceroy of Italy and his coat worn at the ceremony of coronation of
Napoleon in September 1804 - are the gems of the exhibition.
Among the pictures, that are in most part portraits, an important place
belongs to a canvas of Horace Vernet 'Invalid Giving a Petition to Napoleon
during the Guard's Parade in front of the Tuileries Palace in Paris' commissioned
in 1838 by Emperor Nicholas I. The artist depicted famous generals of
the army of Napoleon during one of the parades in 1808 or 1809. A picture
of an unknown artist copied from the original of Giovanni Serangeli is
devoted to a historical event: 'Parting of Alexander and Napoleon in Tilsit'.
The panorama of the epoch is reflected in a large collection of graphics.
Historical figures of that time are represented on the engravings: 'Portrait
of Alexander I' (engraving of Thomas Wright from the original of George
Dawe), 'Napoleon in coronation dress' (from the portrait by Francois Gerard)
and also in the series of engravings depicting the wedding of Napoleon
The views of the two capitals - St Petersburg and Paris - and portraits
of their inhabitants at the beginning of 19 th century are represented
on the engravings of Russian, French and Austrian artists and also in
numerous drawings with genre scenes.
It is for the first time that the style of Napoleonic wars - one of the
most interesting periods of the history of Europe - is represented at
such a grandeur and magnificent exhibition.
Tapestry with portrait of Alexander I
Coronation Garment of Eugene Beauharnais
Invalid Giving a Petition to Napoleon during the Guard's
Parade in Front of the Tuileries Palace in Paris