"Jewels of the Romanovs" A Lecture for The Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton, Mass.

As part of the opening event of the new exhibition "The Tsar's Cabinet" at the Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton, Massachusetts.  Nicholson presented the history of the Russian Imperial Crown jewels, from the foundation of the "Diamond Chamber" by Peter the Great to the dispersal of the collection after the Russian Revolution.  Nicholson focused on pieces of the 18th and the early 19th century "The Diamond Age" to offset the collection of Russian porcelain on display in the museum.

Porcelain, glass, enamel, silver gilt and other alluring materials make this extensive exhibition dazzle. The items demonstrate the evolution of style from the European Classicism of the court of Catherine the Great, to the rich oriental motifs of mid-nineteenth century Russian Historicism of the Kremlin and Grand Duke Constantine Nicholaevich services and the enamel work of Fedor Ruckert and the firm of Ovchinnikov.

The exhibition includes many pieces from significant porcelain services made by the Imperial Porcelain Factory, from the reign of Empress Elizabeth and Catherine the Great to Nicholas and Alexandra.  Visitors will see items featured at state banquets at the Kremlin and other Imperial Palaces, as well as items designed for the tsars’ private use aboard the Imperial yachts.  Among the rare items are two pieces from a service Catherine the Great ordered for her grandson, Grand Duke Constantine Pavlovich, as well as pieces from services presented by Augustus III of Saxony and Frederick the Great to the eighteenth century Russian tsarinas.

The exhibition also features two hundred years of glassware, from a beaker from the time of Peter the Great to a vase made by the Imperial Glass Factory that the Dowager Empress Maria Fedorovna kept on her desk in Denmark after the Russian Revolution. Russian enamels from the late nineteenth century include a major jewel casket made by the Ovchinnikov firm and presented to Tsar Alexander III’s Minister of the Interior, as well as the work of Fedor Ruckert and the work masters of the Faberge firm.

The objects exhibited provide a rare, intimate glimpse into the everyday lives of the tsars. The collection brings together a political and social timeline tied to an understanding of Russian culture. In viewing The Tsars’ Cabinet, one is transported to a majestic era of progressive politics and dynamic social change.

The Tsars’ Cabinet is developed from the Kathleen Durdin Collection and is organized by the Muscarelle Museum of Art at the College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia, in collaboration with International Arts & Artists, Washington, DC.  The exhibition runs through the end of May, 2014.