Enlighten up: NGV's Catherine the Great home show opens

Catherine the Great was quite the home-maker. Her reign over Russia from 1762 to 1796 was known for her patronage of the arts, literature and education, but her passion for collecting saw her buy up thousands of works of art including those by Rembrandt, Rubens, Velázquez and Van Dyck, Poussin, Rubens, Clouet and Greuze. When Catherine II couldn’t get what she wanted she had copies made for her palace.

Now 400 works from her personal collection have left the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (opened to the public in 1852) and form the National Gallery of Victoria’s Winter Masterpiece show Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great that opened to the public today.

Catherine the Great’s thirst for ideas reflects the Age of Enlightenment. The exhibition’s organisers say Catherine saw herself as a reine-philosophe (Philosopher Queen): “Guided by Europe’s leading intellectuals, such as the French philosophers Voltaire and Diderot, she sought to modernise Russia’s economy, industry and government, drawing inspiration both from classical antiquity and contemporary cultural and political developments in Western Europe”.

The show, which runs until November 8, sees the downstairs galleries of the NGV’s St Kilda Road building transformed by paint, plaster, wallpaper and video to create a sense of The Hermitage’s grand rooms.

And then there is the art:

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Leonardo DA VINCI (school of) Female nude (Donna Nuda) (early 16th century) oil on canvas 86.5 х 66.5 cm The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. no. ГЭ-110) Acquired from the collection of Sir Robert Walpole, Houghton Hall, 1779

 

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REMBRANDT Harmensz. van Rijn (workshop of) Dutch 1606–69 Portrait of a young man in a beret (1640s) oil on canvas
83.5 х 66.0 cm The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. no. ГЭ-761) Acquired before 1797

 

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4 responses to “Enlighten up: NGV's Catherine the Great home show opens

  1. Love the rich colours and attention to detail of the install. Very Vogue Living but better really. More drama as in 1960s decor.

  2. An exhibition is an exhibition ( at NGV ). Please don’t reduce to ” show”. The lack of specificity re genre use today is driving me crazy!

  3. Before long, the trendiest melburnians will be doing up their lounges å la CtG, with suitable wallpaper, possibly painted by a friend, and accompanied by articles in the weekend columns, about whether it’s ok to pose nude so that people whom you know can create (on their large printer) a sfumato, ersatz-leonardo wall-hanging; nb leonardo might have been gay, strong hints of this appearing in the above portrait’s form, which is reminiscent of michelangelo’s later, masculine women … obviously in any event, the trend is available to all predilections. Hopefully though, the whole exercise will not lead to a rise in imperialist sentiment in our famously liberal southern ville.

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