Scythians: Warriors of Ancient Siberia - Welcome to ... Things we did in 2017 With plans afoot for...
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Things we did in 2017 With plans afoot for the major Hermitage exhibition at the British Museum, Scythians: Warriors of Ancient Siberia (which opened in September to rave reviews) we held our annual Gala Dinner at the British Museum in April with its director, Hartwig Fischer, among the honoured guests.
Monies raised exceeded expectations and will go a long way to realisation of projects supporting the Hermitage’s research, publication and exhibition activities. The Hermitage Museum and the Foundation also supported Dimitri Prigov: Theatre of Revolutionary Action at the gallery Calvert 22, as well as a conference on Prigov’s work at the Courtauld Institute. Based on the construction of an installation from a drawing in the Hermitage Collection, the exhibition – the first devoted to this distinguished Moscow Conceptualist in the UK – drew works from Tate and the Prigov Foundation. Larissa Haskell, a former Hermitage curator of drawings who came to the UK in 1965, presented us with a fascinating nineteenth-century drawing to be presented to the Hermitage Museum. The work of Giacomo Quarenghi, it shows Emperor Paul I lying in state in 1801 after his assassination. Larissa had spotted the drawing in a Sotheby’s sale and recognised the significance of its provenance: it had belonged to Charles Whitworth, the British ambassador, who was involved in the plot against Paul.
The Foundation was happy to be able to purchase a Mamluk jug requested by the Museum from the income of the International Endowment, which the Foundation manages on behalf of the State Hermitage. We also paid for the restoration of a Sogdian mural out of money generated by our membership. In June, we sponsored a visit to the Hermitage of a dendochronologist, Peter Klein from Hamburg, to study early Flemish paintings on panel and help date them. Amongst the eighteenth paintings he studied was a Virgin and Child by Gerard David which turned out to be painted on an oak panel from the same tree as two other Davids, one in the Metropolitan Museum in New York and one in Genoa.
We arranged for the Hermitage to have a stand at the London Book Fair in March and were delighted to welcome Academic Secretary Mariam Dandamaeva, Head of the Hermitage Publishing Company Elena Zvagintseva, Head of Image Rights and Reproduction Anastasia Miklaeva and photographer Andrey Terebenin to London to show off the books published by the Hermitage and establish contact with British publishers and booksellers. In December we helped launch the book Natter’s Museum Britannicum, publishing an eighteenth- century study of collections of engraved gems in Britain. Compiled by Lorenz Natter, a gem carver and collector who was invited to St Petersburg by Catherine the Great but died there in 1763, just a month after his arrival, the manuscript was thought lost until its rediscovery in the late twentieth century by the late Oleg Neverov, curator of Classical gems. The book was prepared for publication by Julia Kagan, curator of post-Classical gems, with the help of Sir John Boardman and Claudia Wagner from the Classical Art Centre at the University of Oxford, and was published for the Foundation in Oxford by Archaeopress. We launched the Natter volume at the Russian Ambassador’s annual reception for the Foundation on 18 December, which also saw the first showing of our own film record of the Hermitage’s exhibition, The Winter Palace and the Hermitage in 1917 – History was made Here. Directed by John Wyver of the British company Illuminations, the film will be shown widely in 2018. It was sponsored by Viking Cruises, who hope to show it on their cruise boats visiting St. Petersburg. It was another good year for our Visiting Curator scheme that allows Hermitage curators to spend two weeks in England to pursue their studies in British libraries and museums. There were nine visiting curators in 2017: Ksenia Malich pursued her interest in contemporary architecture, Sonia Kudriatseva explored collaboration on innovative education schemes with the Courtauld Institute; two curators of costume and textiles, two from the department of Classical Antiquities, two curators from the Russian Department working on an exhibition of trompe l’oeil and one from the Education Department working on Chippendale furniture. Why not get involved and help us do more things to support academic and exhibition exchanges!