“The Tsar’s Cabinet: Two Hundred Years of Russian Decorative Arts Under the Romanovs”
WHERE:“Museum of Russian Icons.” 203 Union St. Clinton, MA 01510 Hours: Tues.-Fri. ~ 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Sat. ~ 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
March 27, 2014 – May 24, 2014
HOW MUCH:Generally: Adults: $9 Seniors: $5 Students: $2 Children: $2 Children (under 3): Free Special Free Admission: Varies, for more details, see here.
“CLINTON — The romance of the Romanov dynasty — in odor so like certain over-evolved orchids — has been affiliated, aptly enough, with fragile accessories forever. One thinks, above all, of the products of the House of Fabergé, but more generally of the decorative arts (particularly porcelain) produced specifically for the Romanovs between the 18th and early 20th centuries, when the dynasty came to its bloody and unambiguous end.
The Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton is currently hosting a show called “The Tsar’s Cabinet: Two Hundred Years of Russian Decorative Arts Under the Romanovs” that’s filled with porcelain, as well as glass, lacquer, enamel, and other luxury materials.
Drawn from the private collection of consultant Kathleen Durdin (who, according to a biographical note in the show’s catalog, used to collect magazine advertisements that featured the Forbes Fabergé collection), the show summons the rich history of Romanov rule.
It comes to Clinton at the end of a five-venue tour of Canada and the United States. It was organized by the Muscarelle Museum of Art, which is on the campus of the College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Va., in collaboration with International Arts and Artists, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. . . . .
“What do the Humanities do? I would argue that they help us understand ourselves and the world in which we live. When we read, we listen to words, respond to behavior, and try to judge what people’s mindset is. We “read” human behavior every day in our interaction with colleagues, family, friends, and public figures, and our reading improves our knowledge, perspicacity, judgment, and sensitivity. In other words reading helps us make sense of our lives and the world we live in.
Reading literature and experiencing music, dance, live theatre, and the visual arts are as much part of our life experience as other events and can have a similar impact. The Humanities contribute to our moral, historical, and political awareness; this occurs even if the events described in a literary text, a painting or sculpture, or an operatic or theatrical performance are more imaginative than factually accurate.
Thus Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1898), with its stress on European imperial greed and racist exploitation of Africans, helps us understand the history of the country now called the Democratic Republic of Congo — formerly the Belgian Congo — and to some extent other former colonies in Africa. E.M. Forster’s Passage to India (1924) helps us understand India, particularly the continued divide between Muslims and Hindus and the more recent efforts in India to move beyond both its caste system and its colonial past to define itself as an inclusive democracy.
Let me turn to a current event, namely, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s seizure of Crimea from the Ukraine. What follows is not an apology for Putin’s outrageous and duplicitous behavior but an effort to understand it through the lens of literature. . . . .”
“HE WHO controls the past controls the future.” Orwell’s dictum now faces a new test. Shortly before Russia annexed Crimea, the Bakhchisaray museum, north of Sevastopol, lent some valuable artefacts to an exhibition in the Netherlands. The question as to which country these (and other objects from Crimean museums) should return is creating a diplomatic conundrum.
“Let yourself be overwhelmed by the gold of Crimea,” boasts the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam. Never before has Ukraine lent so many mostly Crimean treasures. The Black Sea peninsula is filled with gems left by invaders over the centuries. The exhibition includes a Scythian gold helmet from 400 BC, pottery from Greek colonisers and a lacquered Chinese box that came along the Silk Road. “We have given our very best objects,” sighs Valentina Mordvintseva, a curator at the Crimean branch of the Institute of Archaeology. She fears she may not see them again.
Who is the rightful owner? On legal grounds, Kiev has the upper hand because the Allard Pierson signed a loan agreement with the Ukrainian state. And as the Netherlands does not recognise Russia’s annexation, Ukraine still owns the property. Yet the Dutch also signed contracts directly with the lending museums. And, says Inge van der Vlies, a professor at the University of Amsterdam, there is an ethical case for returning the objects to them. But there is no guarantee that Russia might not pinch the pieces the moment they arrive.
The Dutch foreign minister, Frans Timmermans, does not wish to meddle but he also wants to avoid being seen to accept a new form of art looting. This may be impossible; whether the gold returns to Crimea or to Kiev, each side will accuse the Dutch of pilfering. . . . .