Russian descendants of a French
empress. Dukes of Leuchtenberg in St. Petersburg
The exhibition Russian descendants of a French empress. Dukes of Leuchtenberg in Petersburg, a joint State Hermitage and State Museum of the History of Saint Petersburg project. It describes the story of the Leuchtenberg dukedom and its Russian branches, which became a part of the Russian Romanov imperial family tree.
In 1839 Duke Maximilian of Leuchtenberg, an heir to the old French family
Beauharnais, grandson of Empress Josephine of France, married the daughter
of the Russian emperor Nicholas I, Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna. The
couple was united not only by family ties, but also by common interests.
They both adored visual arts and liked collecting. The vast Leuchtenberg
collection included works of Western European and Eastern art of the
At the exhibition “Russian descendants of a French empress. Dukes of Leuchtenberg in Petersburg” paintings, sketches, works of decorative and applied art from the State Hermitage collection, which were previously part of the collection of the dukes of Leuchtenberg, are displayed. Many of the exhibits used to adorn the walls of the mansion on the English Embankment. Paintings from the 17th and 19th centuries are included in the exhibition, which come from Empress Josephine’s Malmaison Collection: “The Christ Child and the Infant Saint John the Baptist in a Landscape”, school of Peter Paul Rubens; “Interior of a Gothic Church”, Pieter Neffs the elder; “Valentine of Milan” painted by Fleury-Richard.
Many works of art from the 17th and 19th centuries are displayed, from the collection of Eugene de Beauharnais: “The Blessing Infant Jesus”, school of Peter Paul Rubens; “Faith, Hope and Charity” by Heinrich Maria Von Hess; “Monastery of San Francesco di Civitella in the Sabine Mountains” by Joseph Anton Koch; “Morning in Partenkirchen” by Peter von Hess. In Eugene de Beauharnais collection are also items of decorative and applied arts and artistic weapons. The exhibition has, in particular, plates and cups from the so called Eugene de Beauharnais Service. Other display cases contain swords and sabres which belonged to Eugene de Beauharnais and other members of Napoleon Bonaparte’s family.
In the first and second halls are picturesque and graphic portraits of Emperor Napoleon I (in particular, the coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte on a miniature by Jean Franc,ois Soiron, portraits of Empress Josephine, her children (Hortense and Eugene de Beauharnais) and the descendants of Eugene de Beauharnais. A masterpiece of graphic art by Carle Vernet are also displayed, the watercolour Departure of Marie-Louise, which shows the cortege of Napoleon I second wife, empress Marie-Louise leaving the Italian Pavilion in Parc de Saint-Cloud.
The exhibition shows several works which used to belong to the dukes of Leuchtenberg and the Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna. At the end of 1854, the Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna, widow of Maximilian of Leuchtenberg, brought the collection of the dukes of Leuchtenberg from Munich to Saint Petersburg. Most of these works of visual art are held in foreign museums and private collections or have not been saved. Only a small part of the famous collection of the dukes of Leuchtenberg, the best private collection of its time, remained in Russian.
All these works of art were owned by Eugene de Beauharnais and not Maria Nikolaevna. Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna had her own private collection, mostly collected in the mid 1860s and kept in Villa Quarto near Florence. The exhibition displays the “Portrait of Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna” by Charles-Franc,ois Jalabert and a watercolour by Emmanuel Sto"ckler, “Room in the Quarto Villa, near Florence”.
Some works of art from Maria Nikolaevna’s collection in Villa di Quarto
were then inherited by her son, Evgeny Maximilianovich of Leuchtenberg,
the Fifth Duke of Leuchtenberg. Later they were owned by the Prince Lev
Mikhailovich Kochubey, and subsequently donated by the Kochubey princes
to the Hermitage. Lev Mikhailovich Kochubey, the grandson of Viktor Pavlovich
Kochubey, married Darya Evgenyevna of Leuchtenberg (nee countess de Beauharnais).
So the families of the Kochubey princes and the dukes of Leuchtenberg
were joined. The father of Darya Evgenyevna Leuchtenberg, Evgeny Maximilianovich
The collections put together by the dukes of Leuchtenberg, the Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna and the Kochubey princes have their own special section in the exhibition. The following pictures from the 16th and 19th centuries, in particular are displayed: “Saint Sebastian” by Antonio Rimpatta; “Madonna and Child” by Biagio d’Antonio; “Portrait of a Boy” by Vittore Ghislandi; “Christ Child with Mary and Joseph” by Carlo Dolci; “Soldier and a Maid” by Pieter de Hooch; “Portrait of Countess M.V. Kochubey” by Louise E'lisabeth Vige'e Le Brun; “Portrait of Prince Viktor Pavlovich Kochubey” by Francois Gerard; “Death of Masaccio” by Louis-Charles-Auguste Couder.
In the section “Collections” there are also works of eastern decorative and applied art (so-called Chinese cloisonne'), from the Leuchtenberg-Kochubey family collection.
The exhibition catalogue contains 86 works of figurative and decorative and applied art. In fact the exhibition has 106 exhibits, as in a number of instances the art weapons and the service of Eugene de Beauharnais are included under one catalogue number.
Exhibition concept: E.E. Piyaeva, T.V. Tverye, T.M. Shmakova (the Rumyantsev Mansion, branch of the State Museum of the History of Saint Petersburg), S.O. Androsov, A.A. Babin (the State Hermitage).