Thursday, September 17, 2015


I've always had a bit of a fascination with Russia. To be honest I don't know a lot about it, just bits I've picked up from books, film, and chatting to people over the years. I've never studied it or even read a potted history. I know Russia from Ballet, Theatre, classical music, and Russian Literature. I know a little about The Romanovs and of course Catherine the Great who I've always joked I was named after. I was not. I don't think.

Years ago I saw the stunning piece of film called Russian Ark. Shot at The Hermitage, in one take, this fictionalised moving piece of art loosely showed historical figures set against the backdrop of the museum. I was in awe. It was stunning.

So when I found out Masterpieces from The Hermitage: The legacy of Catherine the Great would be in Melbourne while I was there I was excited.

I headed to the NGV, my favourite Australian Gallery, and lined up for Catherine!

The first section was my favourite, featuring dining settings, sculpture etc. It wasn't until after I left I realised I could take photos and it was too busy to turn back! In particular the table setting took my fancy, its detail was exquisite, so much finery, so much gold, I was entranced. I also noticed the cutlery was set differently too, the spoons and forks were placed curved up. I've never seen this before, must have been the custom back then.

I watched a lovely little film filmed in the winter Palace much like Russian Ark.

Each room I then went into housed amazing pieces of art, mostly paintings. The gallery itself was decked out just perfectly with warm colours and seating that evoked that era.

I was particularly taken by the Walpole Room, a vast collection she acquired from the estate of the Walpole's in England when they were in need of money. It was highly controversial and I remember an article in Vanity Fair a few years back about how the heirs were now trying to reclaim some it back, at least on loan.

In terms of paintings it is not my favourite era of art but they were impressive all the same. 

I did love the lesser known - to me - etchings and paintings of European cities from that time and history. In particular Rome, she was quite the fan!

This wasn't a large exhibition, but decent enough, I imagine only a small slither of what the collection actually is. One day I will head there myself.

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