June 6th through September 23, 2012, the Zubov Wing of the Catherine Palace houses the exhibition Treasures from a Private Collection. For the first time a museum in Russia has the honour to present to a wide public the collection of the Karisalov family, which contains over two hundred previously undisplayed works of various arts, with true masterpieces among them.
All the works of painting, furniture, bronze, porcelain and glass on this display used to be interior furnishings which, over the course of time, became mediums of information on the epoch that yielded them and gained ‘an object of art and history’ status, drawing everyone who is sensitive to art and beauty.
A man’s interest in the varied world of material things, and hence his passion for collecting, ensue from seeing things as pieces of art. In Russia the history of collecting began under Peter the Great. His reign was a rich soil that brought forth impressive results in the time of Catherine II when the liking for objects of art and nature acquired new forms and bloomed like never before. Knowing that art patronage and collecting, as well as various private and state collections, increased the prestige of Russia as an enlightened country, Catherine supported collecting by her personal example. In the second half of the eighteenth century, the liking became a true passion of many wealthy Russians, its scope being in direct relation to a collector’s education and wealth level. The collecting tradition is kept alive today.
The St Petersburg–based collection on display in the Catherine Palace, gathered over two decades by the Karisalov family, boasts a striking range and quality. The expressive portraits, masterly bronzes, elegant furniture pieces and unique Kholmogory bone carvings, all lovingly combined by the collectors into a tasteful ensemble, have become temporarily exposed to art specialists and the public.
The predominance of Russian articles of the 1790s–1820s, however, does not mean the collectors’ interests were limited to the ‘Golden Age’ of Russian art, with their attention also on works from the second half of the nineteenth to the early twentieth century that have been undeservedly discarded by other collectors.
The collection has accumulated wonderful pieces of painting and decorative arts that illustrate achievements of artisanic handicrafts in Russia for two centuries. Its not extensive but carefully compiled painting section, which many state collections would be proud of, includes works by Dmitry Levitsky, Vladimir Borovikovsky, Jean-Louis Voille, the father and son Lampi, Alexander Molinari, Henri-François Riesener, Henryk Siemiradzki, Ivan Aivazovsky.
Also noteworthy are the candelabra by Friedrich Bergenfeldt, a chest-of-drawers by Christian Meyer, a kidney bean table with the inventory numbers of Tsarskoye Selo, an armchair by Pavel Spol, porcelain vases, pieces of services by the St Petersburg Imperial Porcelain Manufactory and rhodonite articles with the monogram of Empress Maria Fiodorovna, which originated from imperial palaces and noble estates and were sold abroad during the massive sales of art objects authorized by the Soviet government in the 1920s and early 1930s. The fate of many of those was unknown until recently.
It is the collectors’ desire to share their aesthetic experiences with others that has brought the treasures of a private collection into the museum space. Mikhail Karisalov opens his interesting and full-fledged collection to specialists and lovers of antiques, pursuing the importance of introducing previously nameless artifacts into the scientific world — an effort that art historians can only welcome, because the more material is studied and published, the more ‘full-blooded’ and diverse the picture of Russian art development will be. This exhibition and its catalogue are an important step in the same praiseworthy direction.
Exhibition will run through September 23, 2012, 10.00–18.00 daily, except Wednesdays.
Entrance to Exhibition is from Private Garden (see map below)