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Russia: Royalty & the Romanovs opens at The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace

Release date: Friday, 9 November 2018

Faberge Mosaic Egg

Faberge Mosaic Egg ©

A fashionable Russian-style dress worn by Princess Charlotte, daughter of George IV; three of Fabergé’s celebrated Imperial Easter eggs; and some of the earliest-known photographs of Moscow and St Petersburg are among almost 300 works on display in a new exhibition at The Queen's Gallery.

Russia: Royalty & the Romanovs examines familial and diplomatic links between Britain and Russia and their royal houses over a period of 300 years. Many of the items of decorative arts, paintings, jewellery, costumes, books, letters and photographs are on public display for the first time.

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 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 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. 

The Mosaic Egg is one of the most technically sophisticated of all Fabergé’s creations. The ‘shell’ is made from a platinum mesh into which are fitted tiny diamonds, rubies, topaz, sapphires, garnets, pearls and emeralds to form a floral motif.  Within the egg sits a ‘surprise’, a medallion painted with the portraits of the five children of Nicholas and Alexandra. 

The coronation of Alexander II at the Kremlin in 1856 was attended by Lord Granville as Queen Victoria’s representative.  Irish Corporal James Mack accompanied Granville to make a photographic record of the places visited by the diplomatic party during their stay in Russia.  Mack’s images, some of the earliest-known photographs of Moscow and St Petersburg, were shown in the first exhibition of the Photographic Society of Scotland in 1856 at the request of the Society’s Patron, Prince Albert.

Russia: Royalty & the Romanovs is at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, 9 November 2018 – 28 April 2019, with Shadows of War: Roger Fenton's Photographs of the Crimea, 1855

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