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Russian Glass at the State Historical Museum

Russian glass exhibition
Glass painting in the Renaissance style. Simple shapes and subtle color pattern. (State Historical Museum)

Last year the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation acquired a fabulous collection of some 200 items of intricate Russian glassworks for the State Historical Museum on Red Square. The collection of works, now on display at the museum,  from the late XVIII through early XX century, consists of artistic glass manufactureed at the Imperial Glass Factory. 

Visitors to the museum will enjoy seeing the rich “style palette in glass:” Chinoiserie” (“Sinicism”) and the “second Rococo,” “painting of flowers and fruits,” along with Neo-Classicism, decorations “in the Oriental style,” and delicate “Renaissance-inspired” work. These Russian style works exemplify the spectrum of glass art from modern to the Byzantine stylistic lines.

(State History Museum)
Mug with a portrait of Alexander I. Imperial Glass Factory. (State Historical Museum)

For those unfamiliar with the Imperial Glass Factory, this was in operation between 1777 and 1917. The factory remained an authoritative trend setter for the art of the glass makers' craft. Among the works on exhibition, there is a rare cup of glass “gold ruby” painted at the turn of XIX century, a mug (above) with a portrait of Emperor Alexander I – a memorial souvenir of the era of the Patriotic War in 1812.

The collection has items from glass sets from the largest and most famous ensembles of the XIX century, such as: the “Own” garden service “Alexandria” from Peterhof, “Gothic” and “Bahmetevsky” sets, and one with the monogram of the Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolayevich. The items of ruby-colored glass in a rich silver frame that were part of the wedding service of Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna, the daughter of Emperor Nicholas I, are notable for their particular ensemble.

(State History Museum)
(State Historical Museum)

Works from private glass factories are also on display in an autonomous section of the same exhibition. Examples with printed images (portraits of members of the reigning house, allegories, landscapes etc.) from the 1840s are among the pieces on display from this independent direction. Museum guests will also see works created by the largest factories in Dyatkovskoye and Gusevskoye, which belonged to the “crystal kings of Russia," The Maltsovs; for example, a vase with an image of the little coat of arms of the Russian Empire, and a throne-shaped salt-cellar and bratina (loving cup), which was made after the drawings by Elisabeth Boehm. These objects were once on display at the World Exhibition of 1893 in Chicago, where the artist was awarded with a medal for “high artistic revival of the ancient Byzantine and nationalist style.” For more information please consult the museum website for times, directions, and tickets.