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Russia, Royalty & the Romanovs opens at The Queen's Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse

Release date: Friday, 21 June 2019

The Mosaic Egg and Surprise

The Mosaic Egg and Surprise ©

Three of Fabergé’s celebrated Imperial Easter eggs; a fashionable Russian-style dress worn by Princess Charlotte, daughter of George IV; and a portrait of the last Emperor of Russia wearing the uniform of his Scottish regiment are among more than 170 works in the new exhibition Russia, Royalty & the Romanovs at The Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Russia, Royalty & the Romanovs examines the familial and diplomatic links between Britain and Russia and their royal families over a period of 300 years, beginning with Peter the Great’s visit to Britain in 1698. It is the first exhibition from the Royal Collection to explore these historic links through decorative arts, paintings, jewellery, costume, books, letters and photographs, many of which were exchanged as diplomatic gifts or intimate personal mementos. The majority of works in the exhibition are on display in Scotland for the first time.

Empress Catherine II (Catherine the Great) established Russia as one of the great powers in Europe during the 18th century. The Empress’s coronation portrait by Vigilius Eriksen, c.1765–9, is thought to have been a diplomatic gift to George III. Measuring almost three metres tall, the portrait is a clear statement of magnificence and power.

Emperor Alexander I visited London in 1814, and his presence may have influenced a fashion for Russian clothing. A Russian-style dress belonging to Princess Charlotte, daughter of George IV, has a drawstring waist to accommodate the Princess’s pregnancy, as seen in her portrait by George Dawe of 1817. Princess Charlotte died during childbirth and was widely mourned by the British public. The dress, on display in Scotland for the first time, is thought to have survived as it was particularly treasured in the tragic circumstances.

Works by Carl Fabergé illustrate the shared patronage of the renowned jewellery house by the British and Russian royal families in the early 20th century, when pieces were often exchanged as gifts. The most significant additions to the group of Fabergé works in the Royal Collection were made by King George V and Queen Mary, who purchased the Basket of Flowers, Colonnade and Mosaic Eggs in the 1930s. The eggs were originally commissioned by Nicholas II, the last Emperor of Russia, for his wife Alexandra Feodorovna.

Queen Victoria’s 63-year rule spanned the reigns of four Russian emperors, and the British, Russian and Danish royal families were linked through the marriages of a number of her children and grandchildren. These dynastic links were captured by the Danish artist Laurits Regner Tuxen in his painting The Family of Queen Victoria in 1887, which was commissioned to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee that year and shows her at Windsor Castle surrounded by more than 50 members of her extended family.

Russia: Royalty & the Romanovs is at The Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, 21 June – 3 November 2019.

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