Russia : Royalty & the Romanovs

We will explore the relationships between Britain and Russia and their royal families over 250 years, from Peter the Great’s visit to London in 1698 through to Nicholas II. We will see portraits, sculpture, photographs, archival documents and miniature masterpieces by Fabergé. The talk will illustrate historic events and family meetings between the rulers of the two nations. The visit will bring to life the shared patronage of artists and craftsmen from both countries.

“In 1698 Tsar Peter I, known as Peter the Great, arrived in London. The first Russian ruler to set foot on English soil, he stayed for three months as part of a ‘Grand Embassy’, a diplomatic and fact-finding tour of Western Europe that included meetings with the British King, William III of Orange. On his departure, Peter presented the King with his portrait, painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller. Kneller depicts the Tsar as a young and vibrant ruler, looking to the West and hoping to establish a new, ‘open’ Russia,” the Royal Collection Trust says.

During the rule of Empress Catherine II Russia expanded to the south and west, establishing herself as one of the great powers of Europe. The coronation portrait of Empress Catherine II (Catherine the Great) by Vigilius Eriksen, done 1765–9, is said to have been given to George III and was hung in the Privy Chamber at Kensington Palace in 1813. Even though George III never visited Russia, his interest in the country was evident as observed from the books in his library.

George IV commissioned Sir Thomas Lawrence, English portrait painter and the fourth president of the Royal Academy, to paint portraits for the Waterloo Chamber at Windsor Castle, of central figures that played a role in Napoleon’s defeat. A painting of Matvei Ivanovitch, Count Platov, commander of the Cossack cavalry, and of General Fedor Petrovitch Uvarov, Emperor Alexander I’s Aide-de-Camp at the Congress of Vienna pay tribute to Russia’s efforts.

The Duchess of York (later Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother) commissioned in 1923 a portrait of herself from the Russian artist Savely Sorine. 25 years later she commissioned Sorine again to paint her daughter Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh, the future Queen Elizabeth II. “During an official visit in 1956, First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev and Premier Nikolai Bulganin presented Her Majesty The Queen with a number of gifts, including the oil painting ‘A Winter’s Day’ by the prominent painter, publisher, and art historian Igor Grabar,” the Royal Collection Trust continues.

The exhibition runs from November 9, 2018, through April 28, at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, Westminster, London SW1A 1AA, UK. For details: https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/