Nicholas II. Family and Crown

State Historical Museum Exhibitions

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10.11.2018 - 15.04.2019

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State Historical Museum

The year 2018 marks 150 years since birth and 100 years after tragic death of the last Russian Emperor, Nicholas II (1868‐1918). Thousands of books about this monarch have been written, hundreds of documental films have been made, dozens of exhibitions were held both in Russia and beyond its borders. However historians still did not reach common ground, what was the epoch of Nicholas’ government for the country: a golden age or a stagnating period that lead to the downfall of the country and monarchy.

The exposition "Nicholas II. Family and Crown", prepared by Historical Museum, is entirely documentary and gives its visitors an opportunity to look at life of the Russian monarch and his family, as if through camera lens.

It is well‐known that the Emperor and members of his family had particular feelings to the photography art: all of them had picture‐taking cameras and were willing to take photographs of one another as well as close associates (unfortunately only several pictures made by members of the royal family remained intact in the museum collection). Nicholas II was almost always accompanied by professional photographers who documented very nearly every day of his 23‐year government (the main credit is due to the court photographer A. K. Yagelsky, an owner of the studio "K.E. von Gan and C°". The museum collection includes more than 750 pictures from the last Russian Emperor’s life; many of them came from the palaces of Tsarskoye Selo and Peterhof, from the private chambers of the royal family, which renders them a special memorial status.

The exhibition comes under the sections: family, official and memorial one. The first two show us two "functions" of Nicholas: a master of the house and a governor of the huge empire. They represent about 300 pictures made in 1870’s ‐ mid 1910’s by leading Russian and foreign masters of photography: K. K. Bulla, S. L. Levitsky, A.I. Saveliev, F.P.Orlov, M.I. Gribov, A.A. Ozup, K. A. Fischer, along with studios "Boissonas & Eggler", "K.E. von Gan and C°", "J. Russell & Sons", "W. & D. Downey". The autographs and letters of Nicholas II and several significant documents (the manifest about the birth of the Grand Duke Nicholas; the menu of the dinner on account of Crown‐Prince Nicholas’ adulthood; the announcement about the coronation of Emperor Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra) are also exhibited.

The family section is divided into following themes: "The Grand Duke. The Crown Prince. The Emperor", "Nickie and Alix", "Royal children. ОТМА", "Royal children. Alexey","In the family circle. Tsarskoye Selo. Livadia, Finland. Poland". A particular emphasis is made on the figure of Crown‐Prince Alexey, the only son of Nicholas II and the most important child of the empire, whose tragic destiny left its mark on lives of all the royal family.

The official section of the exposition shows us photographs where Nicholas II is captured during the meetings with heads of foreign states: British monarch Edward VII, German Emperor Wilhelm II, Siam king Rama V, French presidents Armand Fallières and Félix Faure; during the celebrations in honor of 200th anniversary of St Petersburg and 100th anniversary of Patriotic War, as well as the openings of grandiose monuments and dedication services, holdings of regiment holidays and parades, along with the years of the First World War. Pride of place goes to the demonstration of two most important dynastic events where Nicholas II himself took direct involvement – the coronation (1896) and tercentenary of the House of Romanovs (1913). The big ceremonial portrait of Nicholas II written by the famous painter L.S. Bakst in Paris, in 1895, will be represented to the general public for the first time ever. This work of art has never been on display and was renovated specially for the exhibition. The exposition will also represent picturesque portraits of Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra written by G.M. Manizer and A.V. Makovsky, series of watercolours by N.N. Karazin, N.S. Matveev and A.I. Sharleman.

Speaking about memorial items, you can see the uniforms of Nicholas II and Crown Prince Alexey; the Easter egg "Crown Prince Constellation" elaborated by "Faberge" firm as an Easter gift to Alexandra in 1917 that was never presented to the Empress; the bronze frame with Crown Prince Alexey’s watercolour portrait and authentic curl of his hair; drawings made by Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra and their children.

The emotional conclusion of the exposition is a small room that reminds a cellar or a crypt where seven stelas are disposed representing the photographic portraits of Emperor Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra, Crown‐Prince Alexey and the grand duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia who were executed by firing squad below stairs of Ipatiev house in Yekaterinburg on the night of 16th to 17th July, 1918.