Glories of imperial Russia on display

By Zhang Kun ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-07-21 08:35:56

Glories of imperial Russia on display

Elena Gargarina (fourth right), general director of the Moscow Kremlin Museums, at the opening of the Russian armory treasury show at Shanghai Museum. [Photo provided to China Daily]

There were eggs a few years ago, and now there are swords and guns. Mind you, these were not any old eggs, but really fine Easter eggs, decked in gold. Like them, the weapons are from Russia, and they can be seen in an exhibition titled The Armory Treasury of the Russian Sovereigns at Shanghai Museum through Oct 10.

The show has been tailor-made for the museum, according to Elena Gargarina, general director of the Moscow Kremlin Museums.

"Kremlin Museums never give touring exhibitions," she said in Shanghai before the show opened on July 3. "Each of the items is one of a kind, and it is impossible to estimate their value. We can't afford the risk of frequent travel."

More than 120 pieces from the Armory Chamber of Kremlin Museums, dating back to between the 17th and 18th centuries, are on exhibition. Among them are weapons decorated with intricate carvings and jewels, as well as ceremonial costumes that were worn by Russian rulers.

The Armory Chamber is the historical core of the museum's collection, Gargarina says.

Rare masterpieces preserved with the utmost care provide a comprehensive picture of the range of tsars' and emperors' weapons, assembled over more than 200 years in Moscow and St Petersburg.

Many of the weapons, including those studded with sapphires and emeralds, were not used in battle but rather for diplomatic ceremonies and other occasions. The show features items representing the period from when Peter the Great reigned in the late 17th century until the end of the reign of Catherine II more than 100 years later.

Sergei Orlenko, a senior researcher with the Kremlin Museums, says he and his colleagues were at pains to select items for the Shanghai exhibition that not only embody the fine craftsmanship and high value of its collection, but also showcases the lifestyle of Russian royal courts in the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as the political scene, to "present a panoramic picture of Russia at the time".

The exhibits not only show Russian craftsmanship, but also skills of artisans from other parts of the world, because the royal courts used to order works from different European countries, as well as Asia and Middle East, such as India, Iran and Turkey.

Chen Kelun, deputy director of Shanghai Museum, says some of the sword handles in the exhibition feature settings of precious stones on jade and embroidery on silk in some of the ceremonial costumes.

"Similar craftsmanship can be found in China's antiques from the same age. I am sure Chinese visitors will find the exhibition enjoyable."

Yang Zhigang, director of Shanghai Museum, says the exhibition is the second collaboration between the two museums, the first being the exhibition of Faberge eggs from the Kremlin Museums, shown in Shanghai in 2012. The Easter eggs designed and created for the Russian emperors attracted tens of thousands of people.

If you go

9 am-5 pm, through Oct 10. Shanghai Museum, 1 Exhibition Hall, 201 Renmin Avenue, Huangpu district, Shanghai. 021-6372-3500.


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