(c) State Hermitage Museum St Petersburg / Hermitage Museum Amsterdam

Go to the end for photo credits

I went to see this exhibition on Jan. 3rd as it looked really promising for both costume lovers and costume historians :-)
I also have a 'thing' for the Russian style of dress, so this was a unique opportunity.

The Hermitage museum itself is apparently a new museum in Amsterdam, the opening of which coincided with the opening
of the exhibit itself. It's housed in a building that was formerly a nursing home but which has been adapted to everything
a museum needs. The builiding itself looks out on the river Amstel and is easy to reach by tram line 9.

The price for this exhibition was rather high with 14 Euros, regarding the fact that there is no (not yet) permanent collection
that you could also look at (like, for example, at the V & A or the British Museum). However, the exhibition was truly worth
the price and I'd gladly pay it again.

The display itself is very well made. The museum is divided into two wings, the 'Keizervleugel' (Emperor's wing, after the
waterway 'Keizergracht' that is close by) and the 'Herenvleugel' (Lord's wing or Gentleman's wing after another waterway,
'Herengracht'). One half represents the 'official' side; the other half is dedicated to court life itself. You can choose which
wing to enter first.

If you chose the official wing, the visitor enters the throne room of the grand hall at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg; the
Tsar being represented by a throne at the far end. In a large glass display, all the gowns and uniforms are lined up
according to their rank as if for an audience with the Tsar. You get to see ladies-in-waiting, princesses, generals, maids of honor, gentlemen of foreign courts and dowager empresses, each more splendid than the other.

The other wing is called the Ballroom. It has huge portraits of various ladies and gentlemen on its walls; a piano and a
harp to one side and cylindrical glass units with approx. 10 gowns each. As dance music starts to play, these units gently rotate, creating the effect of people actually whirling around in dance and the visitor stands among them. It's quite a
charming display.

Grand Duchess Elizaveta Alexeevna, German born princess
Louise of Baden, wife of Alexander I. in a portrait by Marie Louise Elisabeth
Vigée-Lebrun (1795)

I loved this portrait and I love her dress and headpiece!

Attached to the throne room and the ballroom are smaller rooms in both basement and first floor that show the various
other items attached to each side of life in imperial Russia. These include themes such as 'Dinner at the Winter Palace',
'Gifts from foreign Courts', 'Russia and the church', 'Court Mourning', 'Leisure time', 'St.Petersburg through the ages' and
so on... In most rooms, there are not only items on display but also at least one dress or uniform.

Most of the dresses belonged to either 'Empress Maria Fyodorovna', or 'Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna', a name by
which at least two tsarinas (each!) were known, so if you're not familiar with Russian history, all the Marias and
Alexandras and Nicholas' and Alexanders tend to get quite confusing after a while.

Unfortunately, we somehow missed the upper level on the Ballroom side and only noticed after we already had left.
I'm kinda angry at myself for that 'cause this side would've had some really nice things, including a striped 19th century
leisure dress that reminded me of Mrs Lovett (*g*) and a huge display of 18th and 19th century shoes. As it is, I only
have some postcards of the shoes >sighs<

They do have a catalogue available at the museum, but unfortunately it doesn't show all the dresses that are on display;
and the pics of the ones that are shown are actually rather small and sometimes blurry (of the court gowns, there are only official images that you can also find on the website of the Hermitage St.Petersburg). I did buy the catalogue, just for the
sake of completing my fashion library, but I was rather disappointed in the picture material. The essays are really good, though. I wish they had more of the dresses as postcard pictures though...

As far as I understood, non-flash photography was generally allowed, just not in the room with the court gowns (as one of
the guards pointed out to me) - which makes sense, as these are apparently very fragile and made of costly materials
such as silver embroidery, spangles and purl which are quite sensible towards light. Even if it says "no flash", there will
always be some people who just won't listen or understand....So that's why I only snapped some pics from afar of the
court display, and of course without flash :-)

Some of my pics may not be top quality. It is always difficult to photograph objects behind glass. Using flash, you get
ugly reflections in the wrong places; without flash, pictures tend to get blurry if you don't hold ultra-still and the light
conditions are not top notch, either.

In some of the rooms, the light was pretty dim and the pics are kinda blurry (but still good enough, I think). I resized most
of them, which gave them a little added sharpness. There were some that I left in the original size though because of recognizable details.

I blurred out all the faces, just to be sure. I wouldn't want such pics of myself on the net either, so.... ;-)

Go to my pictures

Here's a good article (in French) about the exhibit that also has some pictures.

Portrait of Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna
born Princess Maximilienne Wilhelmine Marie of Hesse and by Rhine
by Christina Robertson (1849)
Today in the State Hermitage Museum St.Petersburg

Photo credits

Actual exhibit photos in this text from top to bottom are ©The State Hermitage Museum St. Petersburg (except stated otherwise) and taken from the website http://www.hermitage.nl/en/pers/russische_hof/beeldmateriaal.htm

-Detail Main Hall 'Keizersvleugel' - photo: Roos Aldershoff
-Exhibition Main Hall 'Keizersvleugel' - photo: Roos Aldershoff
-Ch. Mayer, Russian throne with double-headed eagle and footstool, 1797, gilded wood carving, velvet 183 x 87 x 104
-Exhibition Main Hall 'Herenvleugel' - photo: Roos Aldershoff

- Detail Main Hall 'Herenvleugel' - photo: Roos Aldershoff

-(clockwise) White Satin Half-boots of Empress Maria Fyodorovna, 1880s, with Bows, on French Heels; Paris
Pale Lilac Satin Shoes with Bows, 1890s–1900s, Embroidered with Silver Beads, on French Heels
Pale Pink Satin Shoes of Empress Maria Fyodorovna, 1870s, with Valenciennes Lace, on French Heels
Pink Rep Shoes of Empress Maria Fyodorovna, 1870s, with Valenciennes Lace, on French Heels -
Provenance: after 1917, from the Anichkov Palace
White Satin Half-boots of Empress Maria Fyodorovna, on French Heels, 1880s .
Photography: Herman van Heusden en Ruud van der Neut

- 1880’s, shoes, in different colours, of Empress Maria Fyodorovna, on French heels. Photography: Herman van Heusden en Ruud van der Neut
-Unknown atelier, Ceremonial dress of the Dowager Tsarina Maria Fyodorovna, widow of Paul I Maria Fyodorovna, zijde / silk, 1820-1830

- St.-Petersburg, Studio of Izambard Chanceau, embroidery studio of A. Laman, Ceremonial court dress of Tsarina Maria Feodorovna, velvet, satin, gold embroidery, 1880-1890. Photography: Herman van Heusden en Ruud van der Neut


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