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Culture news
Catherine the Great - in Scotland for the first time
07.16.2012 20:10

Catherine the Great

An exhibition called ‘Catherine the Great, Educated and Liberal Monarch’ will be held in Scotland between the 13th of July and the 21st of October. Six hundred works of art associated with the image and life of one of the most famous women in the history of Russia have arrived in Edinburgh from the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.
Writers continue to write books about her, the theatre and cinema constantly return to the image of this great woman. Who could have thought that a modest German princess called Sophia Frederica Augusta of Anhalt-Zerbst, who was brought to Russia at the age of 16 to marry the heir to the Russian throne, would become Empress Catherine the Great. Catherine’s first portrait in Russia, painted by an unknown artist, is just a picture of an ordinary nice young girl. Eighteen years later, in the coronation portrait by Danish artist Vigilius Eriksen she looks a sovereign.
Contemporary western cinema, in the opinion of historian Olga Yeliseyeva, distorts the image of Catherine the Great emphasizing her German origin.
“Catherine spoke a very good Russian without an accent. We have a lot of documents at our disposal that Catherine wrote in Russian. It is true that she made small mistakes in spelling and punctuation but this is also true of many Russian women. In any case, what did it mean to be Russian in the Russian Empire? People could be of the German origin but at the same time feel Russian, accept the Russian ways and live like Russians.
Catherine adopted a lot of Russian features, such as generosity, taste for luxury and living in style. Catherine’s gifts to her

favorites and the luxury of her court became legendary. The exhibition in Edinburgh shows jewellery, dresses and accessories made by the best craftsmen of the time. Even snuff-boxes and perfume bottles are studded with precious stones. Catherine was interested in Chinese art and loved the elegant gold hair clasps that were given to her by the Chinese Emperor. She commissioned first-rate silver and porcelain sets for the dining-rooms of her palaces and she bought large collections of European art to arrange a picture gallery in the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. The Imperial Museum was to show the world that Russia had the right to be called a European country and the Russian Empress was well-educated. She bought paintings by Giordano, Rembrandt, Van Dyke and Velasquez. The National Museum of Scotland displays Rubens’ Apotheosis of James I from the Walpole collection bought by Catherine in 1779. This collection belonged to British Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole. It was famous all over Europe and was sought after by many art collectors. However, Sir Walpole’s grandson chose to sell the paintings to Russia. At that time Empress Catherine was already known to be an experienced art collector and an educated woman who corresponded with famous European philosophers and writers and wrote novels and plays herself.
At the presentation of the exhibition in St. Petersburg British Consul Gareth Word said that this year Russia and the UK were marking important dates in the history of their monarchies: Russian Empress Catherine the Great ascended the throne 250 years ago and Queen of England Elizabeth II is celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of her reign. The British Consul believes that for any country and nation the figure of a monarch symbolizes unity and permanent values even in the contemporary fast-changing world.
The exhibition ‘Catherine the Great, Educated and Liberal Monarch’ will undoubtedly be a great success, the staff of the National Museum of Scotland believe. A lot of applications to attend it have already been registered. The residents of the Scottish capital are eager to know the life story of that great woman ‘at first hand’, at the exhibition of works of art from the world-famous Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg which was actually founded by Catherine the Great.

News source: Voice of Russia
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