Educated Fancy. The Collection of Nikolai Borisovich
8 February, 2002 - 26 May, 2002
The 8 February 2002 saw the opening of an exhibition organized by the
State Hermitage in conjunction with the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts
and the Arkhangelskoye Estate Museum, both in Moscow.
The display acquaints visitors with one of the largest collections created
in Russia of Western European painting and decorative and applied art
of the 18th and 19th centuries. It was assembled by Prince Nikolai Borisovich
Yusupov (1750/51-1831), a statesman and diplomat, director of the Hermitage
and the Armoury Chamber, a connoisseur and patron of art. This is the
first documentary reconstruction of the celebrated collection whose make-up
reflects the leading stylistic tendencies of the period when it formed
and the heyday of European Noe-Classicism and early Romanticism. The exhibition
features more than 150 items, including paintings and graphic art, sculpture
and works of decorative and applied art, as well as volumes of the unique
1827-29 catalogue of the Yusupov collection.
On display are Dutch and Flemish paintings of the 16th and 17th centuries.
It was in the Netherlands that the young Yusupov acquired his first books,
drawings and paintings. Among the masterpieces of the Prince's collection
are the Hermitage's Shepherd and Shepherdess by David Teniers
the Younger. The collection of French 17th-century painting includes works
by Classical artists, such as Claude Lorrain's Battle on the Bridge
(Pushkin Museum). Exceptional completeness and variety characterize the
collection of the French 18th century. The Prince's personal tastes found
reflection in the selection of Boucher's paintings that includes the Pushkin
Museum's masterpiece Hercules and Omphale. The fÚte galante is
represented by some superb works from Nicholas Lancret. When abroad the
Prince would visit the studios of noted artists. Among the masterpieces
of Yusupov's collection are landscapes by Joseph Vernet and Hubert Robert.
He actually commissioned David's Sappho and Phaon and Robert's
Fire, both now in the Hermitage.
Among the masterpieces of the collection of Italian paintings that numbered
over 200 items in its time are a Female Portrait by Correggio (Hermitage).
Among works representing various schools, those of the 18th-century Venetian
school are outstanding. The high standard of many of them is evidence
of the owner's interested involvement in the formation of a collection.
The core comprises paintings by Giovanni Battista and Giovanni Domenico
Tiepolo, Pietro Rotari, Jacopo Amigoni and Sebastiano Ricci. Among the
masterpiece's is the last's Childhood of Romulus and Remus (Hermitage).
The display also includes a marble statue of Cupid by the outstanding
late-18th-century Italian sculptor Antonio Canova. It now belongs to the
Hermitage which also possesses his Cupid and Psyche.
Among the works of decorative and applied art that Yusupov acquired during
his frequent travels around Europe, one can find examples of porcelain
from the celebrated Sévres factory: vases and part of a unique
service in the ''Chinese style'', a cup in the form of a vase with figured
handles and a lid and a dish bearing Nikolai Yusupov's portrait and his
Of special interest among the works of French bronze-smiths is the mantle
clock called The Oath to Cupid (Hermitage) that was produced by
Pierre-Philippe Thomire from a model by P.-L. Roland.
Yusupov's interests as a collector also extended to the art of the Far
East. A true masterpiece of the collection is a bronze sculpture of a
Bodhisattva (16th-17th century) from the Hermitage.
Following 18th-century fashion the Prince also acquired snuff-boxes and
walking-sticks for his collection. The elegant little snuff-boxes are
made of gold, silver, minerals, glass and ivory, covered with lacquer
and mother of pearl and decorated with diamonds, translucent enamels and
applied medallions. The stick that Yusupov chose to match his outfits
were embellished with tortoiseshell and mother of pearl. The heads were
carved from ivory and antler, rock crystal and agate.
Prince Nikolai Yusupov's collection of tapestries was the most significant
in private hands in Russia. The display includes tapestries that belonged
to the series The Story of Meleager and The Story of Titus and Vespasian
Yusupov's collection of ancient and Western European carved gems was considered
one of the sights of St Petersburg.
Other ''pearls'' of the Prince's collection are the works of carved ivory
now kept in the Hermitage. Figures of Venus and Mercury, The Chariot
of Bacchus, and the composition Cupid and Psyche once adorned
the Cupid Room or Psyche's Salon in the palace at Arkhangelskoye.
Visitors' attention is also drawn to the drawings from Yusupov's collection
that include works by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo and Rembrandt, as well
as rarities from the Prince's library, the largest private repository
of books in early-19th-century St Petersburg. On display is a rare edition
of Cicero's letters, one of the first books that the young Prince purchased
abroad. Of interest too is a publication of the private letters of Johann
von Winckelmann, the scholar, philosopher and noted connoisseur of art
who formulated the ideas of Neo-Classicism.
Portrait of Prince Nikolai Yusupov
Johann Baptist Lampi
Sappho and Phaon
Jacques - Louis David
The Oath to Cupid mantel clock
Chariot with Bacchus group
Lidded cup and saucer with a portrait of Prince Yusupov
F. Ya. Gardner
Figure of a bodhisattva
Items from a chinoiserie service
Sèvres Porcelain Factory