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, tapestries, glass.
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 December 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 and Maria-Louisa.
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.