Catherine the Great was a remarkable ruler in so many ways, not least of which was her passion for the arts and the important role she saw them playing in her adopted Russian Empire.
Catherine the Great (1729-1796) is considered one of the finest art collectors and connoisseurs of all time, and the Hermitage Museum of St Petersburg stands as a monument to her extraordinary vision, taste and eclecticism. This catalogue of an exhibition held in the Hermitage Rooms at Somerset House in 2000 centres on the collection amassed personally by Catherine, and amply demonstrates her inquisitive and aquisitive nature.
British art treasures from Russian Imperial collections in the Hermitage edited by Brian Allen and Larissa Dukelskaya
Unusually for the time, Catherine had a very strong interest in British culture and was at pains to include British works of art in her collection. This marvellous catalogue to an exhibition held in Russia and America in 1997 showcases some of these works alongside fascinating essays outlining Catherine’s own initiatives, as well as the ongoing cultural ties that developed with England during and after her rule.
If you can’t get to the Hermitage itself you can stroll through these two massive volumes and see a selection of extraordinary works from all of the museum’s major departments. Building on Catherine’s own broad collecting policy, curators through the years have continued to develop these vast collections to ensure that most movements and styles of the fine and decorative arts are well represented.
The collections of the Romanovs: European art from the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg: James Christen Steward, editor with Sergey Androsov
Catherine wasn’t the first, or the last, of the Romanovs with a passion for collecting, and this volume investigates the role the Russian Royal House exerted over artistic taste and culture from the time of Peter the Great and the founding of St Petersburg, through to the last Tsar Nicholas II and the end of the dynasty with the Russian Revolution.
This fine recent biography of Catherine by Robert K. Massie follows on from his superb biographies of Peter the Great, Nicholas and Alexandra and the Romanov dynasty, and leaves one in no doubt as to why she has come down to us as Catherine the Great.