Eagles and Lions United... Heraldic art in
The exhibition in the Arab Hall of the Winter Palace, which opened during the 2006 Hermitage Days, was prepared by the Research Library of the State Hermitage and demonstrates the way heraldry has been used in the artistic design of books.
The name given to the exhibition comes from Derzhavin’s verse Chorus for the Swedish Peace, which was written on the occasion of the solemn celebration of the conclusion of peace between Russia and Sweden. In this poem, eagles symbolize Russia and lions symbolize Sweden.
In the 18th century this allegory was understood by any educated person, and even today it is not difficult to understand. The eagle is a figure on the Russian coat of arms, while the lion is on the Swedish. However, they could come together only in poetry or in a book - in the form of juxtaposed coats of arms - insofar as in the very heraldry they are in a certain opposition.
The exhibition presents more than 100 printed books and encompasses the period from the second half of the 15th century to the beginning of the 20th century. It is divided into two parts on the basis of geography: the first part includes Russian books with elements of heraldry; the second part is devoted to Western European books.
In the first part there are books from the 17th - 19th centuries showing heraldry on the title pages, frontispieces, headband in the frames and also - in publications from the 18th to early 20th centuries - heraldic decoration on the bindings. A special section consists of variations on the Russian state coat of arms, family and corporative coats of arms on book bindings from the first third of the 18th century to the end of the 19th century.
In the second part there are the following separate sections: chronicles, atlases and books of tournaments; heraldic ornamentation on European book bindings (family, state, corporative, and city coats of arms). There are interesting coats of arms of European monarchs on title pages and frontispieces of the 16th - 19th centuries, miniatures, tail-pieces, initials in Western European books.
The exhibition does not show special books of coats of arms, however there are publications which could fill that function, since their design made use of a large number of coats of arms. For example, one can cite the Description of the Constance Cathedral of 1414-1418 by Ulrich Richental (Augsburg, 1483). Besides engravings of subjects decorated by hand, it has the coats of arms of all the persons represented in the cathedral, thereby enabling us to consider the publication as one of the first printed sources on heraldry and a predecessor of the specialized books of coats of arms that came later.
One other type of printed work that used elements of heraldry in decoration was geographic maps and atlases. On the maps the coats of arms were used not only to identify the kingdoms, provinces, cities, monasteries and possessions of private persons, but they also indicated the boundaries of new lands and showed to which state a colony belonged. Such books are represented in the exhibition by the first volume of the Great Atlas of Karel Allard (early 18th century).
Church heraldry is reflected in book bindings with heraldic bookplates of Pope Pius IX, Pope Innocent XII, Cardinal Gualteri, Bishop Auxierre Pierre de Brocq, the Benedictine Monastery of Tegernsee, the Ettal Monastery.
The Research Library of the State Hermitage has unique books in which coats of arms or their elements are used for the design. The authors of the exhibition took it as their task to show part of this collection in all of its diversity.
The curator of the exhibition is Georgy Vilinbakhov, Deputy Director of the State Hermitage for Research, State Heraldry Master of the Russian Federation, doctor of historical sciences. The curator on behalf of the Research Library is Olga Zimina, deputy director of the Department.