Russians in Paris: St. Petersburg - Paris, 1800-1830
The exhibition opened in the Alexander Hall (room No. 282) of the Winter
Palace is dedicated to two Emperors,
The exhibition presents a wide panorama of spiritual, political and cultural contacts between the two nations. About 130 exhibits including paintings, drawings, sculptures, medals, orders, coins, and applied art, from George Dawe's portrait of Alexander I to Antoine-Jean Gros' Napoleon Bonaparte on Arcole Bridge, tell about the two great men. The Emperors' personal belongings and memorabilia are given a prominent place in the exhibit.
The general's coat (1814-1815) and the robe of the Ordre du Saint-Espit (first quarter of the 19th century) were made for Alexander I by French tailors. On his military campaigns the Russian Emperor always had with him the holy utensils designed by Russian architect Aleksandr Voronikhin and the silver liturgical vessels designed by French artist Charles Percier. The exhibition shows arms which belonged to the Russian and French Emperors, including Alexander's sword made by an unknown master in the late 18th century and broadsword with the inscription Alexander The Peacemaker made in Zlatoust. The French marshal's baton belonged to general Davout. Napoleon's sword (1809) is one of the best creations of the French armorer Nicolas Noel Boutet. The collection of the French Emperor's memorabilia includes things from St Helen where he spent his last years - three books from his last library, death-mask and a medallion containing a lock of his hair. The wineglass with Napoleon's monogram under crown was made in 1804-1810 by the Parisian glass engraver Charpentier for the French Emperor.
The rich numismatic collection including orders, commemorative medals, coins and jetons is an excellent illustration of Russian-French contacts.
Another section is dedicated to Empress Josephine. In the portrait by Francois Gerard (1801) she stands on the terrace of the Chateau de Malmaison, Napoleon's preferred residence. After the Allies entered Paris in March 1814, Alexander I often visited Malmaison, and due to him Josephine and her children preserved their fortune and honors. As a sign of gratitude, the ex-Empress gave the Russian Emperor the Gonzago cameo.
After Josephine died in 1814, Alexander I purchased from her heirs the Malmaison art collection mostly consisting of trophies, which was presented to the Empress by Napoleon. The collection included thirty eight masterpieces of painting and four marble statues by Antonio Canova.
The Hermitage exhibition's background - relations between the Russian and French Courts, battles and everyday life - are showed in paintings, prints and applied art. Three canvases by the Munich military painter Peter Hess (1792-1871) illustrate important battles fought in 1812.
The exhibition is centered around the unique vase Russia, made to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Napoleon's defeat and to honor the memory of Alexander I. It was created by Russian and French artists at the Imperial Porcelain Works in St. Petersburg.