No. 1, 2005

Mikhail Zagulyaev


Perm is hosting unique exhibits from the Museum of the Moscow Kremlin

At this exhibition, which was a joint project of JSC LUKOIL and the Museum of the Moscow Kremlin, the people of Perm were able to see, for the first time ever, a complex of unique exhibits devoted to hunting - the favorite pastime of Russian czars and emperors.

Remnants of a great past

The exhibition Hunting by Czars and Emperors, held in Perm, virtually opened the celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the Moscow Kremlin State Historical and Cultural Museum. At the same time, it was devoted to the birthday of Perm's Art Gallery, which reached the venerable age of 82 on November 7, 2004. The organizers of the exhibition included the Ministry of Culture and Mass Communications of the Russian Federation, the Moscow Kremlin State Historical and Cultural Museum, the Department of Culture and Art of the Perm Region, the Perm State Art Gallery and LUKOIL, which undertook to resolve not only organizational, but also financial matters, such as transportation and insurance of the unique exhibits, preparation of new exhibition stands and so on.

So that the people of the Kama area might obtain a complete picture of the splendid and luxurious life of the Russian czars and emperors from the exhibition, 135 items were shown that are both works of art and eloquent historical testimony to the ways and fancies of the Russian rulers. Hunting by Czars and Emperors is an exhibition of treasures. Each item is invaluable. Many rarities are unique and their uniqueness is amplified by the fact that they are housed in their own OhomeO - the Armory Chamber, which, in czarist times, was in charge of manufacturing and maintaining the czars' weapons.

The oldest exhibit is an embossed helmet dating back to the 16th century. It opens the exhibition, together with other items of royal armor. Next to it lies a mace - a weapon that is also a symbol of power, the military embodiment of the scepter. Opposite is a superb broadsword with a dragon's head on the handle and the blade encrusted with precious stones. This is already the 17th century. A bow, arrows and quiver - everything looking as if it comes from the Russian fairy tales, illustrated by the Russian artist Viktor Vasnetsov.

A special section of the exhibition is allotted to horse harness. For example, a silver "clanking" chain: a special huge chain of pure silver that hung at the side of the horse and rang out ceremonially. Trappings, snaffle are all velvet, gold and pearl. Further on there are weapons and tackle of the "enlightened" 18th century: harquebuses and short rifles, encrusted with mother-of-pearl. Each of the 135 exhibits should really be described separately.

In the opinion of many visitors, the exhibition is one of a kind. It allows the people of Perm to see wonderful exhibits that have been gathered in the Armory Chamber in Moscow over centuries. No other museum in the world has such a collection of hunting rarities. It is interesting that many of the exhibits were "born" and "served" here in the Armory Chamber before they, in fact, became exhibits. Up until the 18th century, the palace officials in charge of the hunt were housed in the Armory Chamber, so arquebuses, forks, and various other weapons and equipment were made and stored in the Armory Chamber initially for use, and only later did they become museum exhibits, to be supplemented by other, equally unique ones.

The exhibition was opened by a section devoted to the Armory Chamber and the Stables, OestablishmentsO where, for centuries, ceremonial armor and weapons and horse trappings were made and stored. The section Imperial campaign. The March presents travel clothes and equipment, such as a riding kaftan (old traditional dress-up) featuring the state emblem, a velvet suitcase and a flint-gun case. Subsequent sections are devoted to the hunting predilections of the czars who founded the Romanov dynasty. Here, for example, the visitor can see amulet pendants made from a bear's claw, set in silver, which brought luck to Czar Alexey Mikhaylovich. Particularly rare exhibits dating from the 17th century are hunting quivers, a hunting horn made of a strange shell and a hunting drum, as well as famous harquebuses made by Kremlin armorers, the pride of the museum's collection.

In the 18th century, hunting changed in character. It was no longer a purely male entertainment. This was a "woman's" century, with the country being ruled by Empresses Anna Ioannovna, Elizaveta Petrovna and Catherine II. Under their fosterage, the hunt became a fashionable picnic for courtiers. So the trappings changed correspondingly. This section displays Russian silver travel roasting pans for game.

The Royal Hunting exhibition shows not only ornamental items, but also paintings and drawings by Russian artists of the "Silver Age" - Alexander Benoit, Yevgeny Lansere, Valentin Serov and others. "The exhibition is largely made up of archive items that no one has ever seen", Viktoriya Pavlenko, head of the exhibition department of the Museums of the Moscow Kremlin, tells us. "Many have been restored and not even the museum staff have seen them before. The educational part of the exhibition is intended for children, while the exposition itself - for all the visitors", she adds. The exhibits are, indeed, unique. "First of all it is a royal collection: many items were made in the workshops of the Moscow Kremlin itself. There are beautiful illustrations and personal items that belonged to crowned heads", we are told by Alexander Chubinsky, curator of the Russian firearms in the Armory Chamber Museum. "These include a hunting gun and a dagger that belonged to Anna Ioannovna, who, as we know, was an ardent huntswoman. There is a pair of pistols bearing the monogram of Catherine II", he says. In the 18th century, hunting, constituting a substantial part of court life, was quite an extravaganza. Not only Czars and Emperors, but also all Russian Empresses of the 18th century, devoted a considerable part of their time to it.

It should be added that, when in the 18th century St. Petersburg became Russia's capital, the Kremlin somewhat lost its significance as an arms manufacturing center. There were no longer workshops there as such. At best, the weapons were merely repaired. Even so, the emperors still used to come to Moscow, including to hunt, because the traditional hunting grounds, full of game, were still here.

Peter II was very characteristic in this respect. He was truly obsessed with hunting! The czar used the Armory Chamber as a sort of hunting store. Under him, for example, a unique item was brought there - a thick, padded leather hat that was worn under a helmet in ancient times. It had probably been kept in the Armory Chamber since the 17th century. At some time or other, Peter II took it out from the stores and wore it as a warm winter hat when hunting. The exhibition also displays a gun that may have been made personally for him at one of the new workshops built in Sestroretsk, outside St. Petersburg.

Not all the Russian czars were so fond of hunting, however. Peter the Great, in contrast to his father Alexey Mikhaylovich, considered it a futile and worthless pastime. A special place in the exhibition belongs to objects of ceremonial horse harness. The trappings of OceremonialO horses that participated in ceremonies when the czar traveled or received ambassadors were particularly luxurious. The visitors to the exhibition were shown a bridle made by Turkish craftsmen in the 17th century. This is a special decoration for the horse's head, richly ornamented with semiprecious stones - a great rarity in Russia at that time.

Learning the lessons of the past

The exhibition also includes a so-called educational program, intended for schoolchildren. For this very purpose, JSC LUKOIL-Perm equipped one of the halls in the Perm State Art Gallery as a computer class. Following an interesting excursion, youngsters of all ages can take another, closer look at all the exhibits, this time on the screen. They can see not only the actual weapons, but also pictures by Russian artists depicting hunting scenes in which these weapons were used. The program created for this exhibition enables young visitors, in virtual mode, to dress hunters in clothing fitting to the age, equip them for the chase, select weapons and seat them on horses. No wonder that this computer exhibition game was very popular among the exhibition's younger visitors and delighted them.

Lectures by historians from Moscow and Perm provided older children with much interesting and useful information. For example, the well-known Russian saying "work done, have your fun" came originally from Czar Alexey Romanov, and related to falconry, which he enjoyed. Alexey Mikhaylovich also created a code of falconry rules, consisting, on the one hand, of a number of formal rules of conduct for falconers and, on the other hand, of the lyrical artistic work Falconers' Guard, which is a classic piece of ancient Russian literature. The first children to get to know about the history of royal hunting were those from the local orphanages sponsored by LUKOIL-Perm.

At the opening ceremony of the exhibition, Olga Ilinykh, Chairwoman of the Department of Culture and Art of the Perm Region, noted the significant role played in this project by support from socially responsible businesses. Without their participation, she stressed, such a vast project would have stretched the resources even of a Moscow museum, let alone the Perm gallery.

Veniamin Sukharev, Representative of LUKOIL President in the Perm Region, said, in turn: "The Perm exhibition develops the traditions of mutual cooperation between the Museums of the Moscow Kremlin and LUKOIL. It is essentially a follow-up of the celebrations of the 75th anniversary of the Perm oil industry."

The exhibition in the Perm Art Gallery is another new page in the history of the Museums of the Moscow Kremlin. The people of the Kama area have been lucky enough to get to know and look deep into the fascinating ancient history of their homeland.

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Oil of Russia, No. 1, 2005
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