Special Exhibition of 41 Russian Antique Salon “Hunting is my Passion” is dedicated to hunting theme in the artistic culture of the late 18 - early 20 centuries.
Special exhibition of 41 Russian Antique Salon is dedicated to hunting - one of the most popular, exciting and thrilling aristocratic entertainment.
Hunting was not just a pastime; it also represented an exciting competition, a game of chance that allowed confident and ambitious people to express themselves in extreme situations. It was a special world with its own rules, traditions, fashion, ethics and aesthetics. Hunting scenes are traditionally among the most popular in the history of world art culture, thus making art with hunting scenes the subject of special collecting. For true fans these works of art are as much of a catch, as a prey for a hunter. For true hunter the process of hunting is more important than the actual trophy; and for a collector of “hunting art” the artistic value of a specific art-item sometimes is less important than the accuracy in the depiction of individual scenes and hunting events. To a large extent this was due to the specifics of the hunting genre – aristocratic customers initiated and conditioned the development of this genre.
At all times, the customers especially valued those works which clearly demonstrated the great skills of a painter or a sculptor in portraying the anatomy and habits of animals, methods of hunting for them, the ability to professionally and accurately depict the details of the different types of hunting. Among these works are the works of the Russian school of art sculpture, and, above all, the works of famous Russian sculptor Nikolai Ivanovich Liberikh (1828 - 1883). Liberikh dedicated to hunting - one of the most famous hobbies of Russian aristocratic society - numerous sculptures, which were extremely popular not only in Russia but also abroad. The sculptor managed to brilliantly convey the excitement of hunting and to embody all participants of hunting into a single unit. And his hunting scenes became widely known and enjoyed special preference in England after the World Exhibition in London in 1862.
In the mid-1860s Liberikh repeatedly attended the imperial hunts of Alexander II, who, as is well-known, was an avid hunter. On March 9, 1865, the Emperor was hunting in Lisino farm, 50 kilometers south of St. Petersburg, and got a spectacular hunting trophy, which had nearly cost him his life. The size of “Lisinski Bear” struck even seasoned hunters; and the bear became the original model for the sculptor. Liberikh not only reproduced the exact appearance of a bear – the linear measures indicate the scale of the image and are inscribed on the nameplate not by chance - but also conveyed the characteristic fleeting condition of the animal, sensing danger. The figure of the bear standing on its hind legs gained the widest popularity.
Along with these well-known works, the exhibition presents for the first time the spectacular scenes of hunting in Turkestan. These scenes were made by the models of an unknown Russian sculptor who worked in the last quarter of the 19th century.
The first episode is hunting for a wild boar, the confrontation between the animal and the hunter is determined by the accurate shot from a pistol. Hunting for a wild boar with a gun was extremely dangerous and required special courage and skill of the hunter. It is no coincidence the composition is called “Russian Meleager” - an allusion to Meleager, the famous Aetolian hero, who won a famous Calydonian hunting for a ferocious boar. It is obvious that the author of the model was thoroughly familiar with the features of this hunting: the gun is aimed at the head of ferocious beast: “The old boars have something like armor on their back and on the sides, almost invulnerable to bullets ... this armor protects the sides of the animal”.
The second composition is the dramatic episode of hunting for tiger, which took place in 1874 in Kara-Uzyak (southern Kazakhstan). After the annexation of Turkestan to Russia in the second half of the 1860s, hunting for tiger became very popular after its initial regress. Hunting for tiger gained wide popularity among the Russian troops from the border units, which formed a special “hunting teams” of Cossacks and officers.
Despite numerous descriptions, hunting for tiger is rarely a subject of artistic representation. The exhibited sculpture reproduces hunting scenes in detail, with the exact designation of the place and time, and with good reason it can be attributed to the unique works. The design of the composition allows to view it from different angles, giving an additional opportunity to observe and empathize with every single moment of the fight. The scene is very emotional, and the viewer can feel these emotions, too. Specific realities, textural peculiarities and facial expressions of the characters are performed in free, but confident modeling manner.
The expressive tapestry, depicting scenes of bear-hunting is surely a rare example of “hunting genre”. Tapestry was made on one of the French manufactories by the cardboard sketches of Russian artist P.P. Sokolov (1821-1899) in the last third of the 19th century. It is a unique example of cooperation between the French weavers and Russian artist.
Among other paintings and drawings at the exhibition there is a rare, full of special stirring beauty, romantic “Landscape with Wood Grouses”, painted by a talented artist, Count Vladimir Leonidovich Muravyov (1861-1940); a piece from the series “Hunting for Elks” by Alexander Sergeyevich Khrenov (1860-1926) - Grand Duke Nicholay Nikolaevich the Younger, a passionate hunter, was a collector of watercolors of this artist.
Among the objects of arts and crafts there exhibited the famous plates from the “Hunting Dinner Set”, a spectacular gift from Catherine II to General Grigory Orlov. The plates were made at the Imperial Porcelain Factory, following the model of the dinner sets made at Meissen Manufactory of 1760s. Later, Russian emperors from Pavel I to Alexander III made orders to add different pieces to that dinner set. Presented plates are marked “AII” and decorated with a variety of hunting scenes in the romantic landscape.
True historic rarities – a decanter and a small drinking glass from the set of the Imperial Palace in Belowezh, the venue of the famous hunting of Russian emperors – are exhibited for the first time.
The exhibits are provided by galleries and private collectors from Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod.
Curator - Lyudmila Aronovna Dementieva, Ph.D., Head of Metal Department of the State Historical Museum, laureate of the State Prize of Russia