The pomp and pageantry of imperial coronations were documented and promoted in lavish albums that became almost as important as the extravagant events themselves. To mark the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Romanov dynasty in 1613, the Hillwood Museum will present a special exhibition of the albums created over the course of the family’s reign.
Over the course of their reign, the Romanovs celebrated coronations with elaborate celebrations, which included their grand entry into Moscow, fireworks, and the ruler symbolically crowning himself. Fully illustrating the grand celebration and all its details, sumptuous albums were created to spread word of the event and all its symbolism.
In the year of the 400th anniversary of the crowning of the first Romanov tsar, the most complete presentation ever of these coronation albums, including two copies of the monumental Alexander II album of 1856 with one in its original binding, will be on display at Hillwood. Beginning with Catherine I, Peter the Great’s wife, there were a total of seven coronation albums created by the Russian tsars — each published within a few years of the event. The exhibition will feature five albums from Hillwood’s collection, plus supplemental material on loan from the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress, and the University of Texas at Austin, bringing together six of the seven coronation albums together for the first time in an exhibition in the United States.
With objects from Hillwood’s Russian decorative arts and paintings collection — the most comprehensive one outside of Russia—an exploration of the Romanovs’ lasting influence on Russian art and culture will add to the understanding of their reign and the coronation albums. Coronation books from other countries such as the Holy Roman Empire will illustrate the bearing that the West had on the Romanovs and the dynamic relationship of the cultures.
In addition, the images of each coronation album already digitized by the New York Public Library in their Digital Gallery will be presented as an e-publication on iPads placed in the exhibition space. Visitors will be able to scroll through selected images from the book, examine images not on view, and zoom in on details. The entire e-book will be available as a free download from the Apple iBooks store and available for use during and after the exhibition.