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Tsars & Knights


From 19 November 2020 to 20 June 2021 the Hermitage-Amsterdam Exhibition Centre in the capital of the Netherlands will house the exhibition Tsars and Knights: The Romanovs' Love Affair with the Middle Ages showcasing, among other artworks and artefacts, one painting from our Museum.

The Tsarskoe Selo Carousel, an oil on canvas of 1843 by Émile Jean-Horace Vernet (a.k.a. Horace Vernet), depicts a carousel joust which took place in the Alexander Park of Tsarskoe Selo on 23 May 1842. The medieval-style costumed celebration with "horseback dancing" was Emperor Nicholas I's present to his spouse Alexandra Fyodorovna for their silver wedding anniversary. The equestrian procession led by Nicholas and Alexandra passed from the Arsenal pavilion to the White Tower and then to the Alexander Palace.

The painter captured the main figures of the celebration. Nicholas I, his elder son (the future Alexander II) and Maximilian de Beauharnais, 3rd Duke of Leuchtenberg (the husband of Nicholas' daughter Maria) are wearing armour suits. Nicholas' wife, Empress Alexandra, and their daughters Olga and Alexandra are dressed as medieval ladies, while their younger sons Konstantin, Nicholas and Michael as page-boys. 

The canvas is exhibited together with the armour suits worn by the imperial family members at that celebration and kept in the Arsenal until they were moved to the State Hermitage in 1885.

All the other 300-something objects on show come from the State Hermitage collection and include paintings, graphics, armour, weapons, works of medieval applied art, manuscripts, stained-glass windows, furniture, glass, ceramics, porcelain, fabrics and tapestries.

The exhibition describes the Middle Ages through the eyes of Russian society of the late 18th and early 19th centuries and the passionate fascination with medieval culture shared by Russian emperors, especially Paul I and Nicholas I.