Catherine II: Crowned in the name of art

When Catherine II was crowned, she held a “golden apple” that symbolized power. The 46.92-carat pear-shaped diamond in the middle of this “golden apple” is clear and translucent, and the Sri Lankan sapphire above is 200 carats, surrounded by 1,370 Brazilian diamonds.

A total of 4,836 diamonds weighing 2,858 carats are inlaid on this large radiant crown. Among them, the decorative crown is the world’s largest and most beautiful red velvet spinel, weighing 398.72 carats, and is listed as one of the seven historical famous diamonds in the Soviet Union.

Peter the Great has always been the most outstanding emperor in the hearts of Russians. In the long history of Russia, there is another person who has also won the honor of “Great Emperor”. She is Empress Catherine II, a woman who has distinguished achievements and loves art and jewelry for Russians.

From ancient times to the present, the royal family of various countries has been obsessed with jewelry. In addition to the European royal family that has always been on the topic list, the Russian royal family is also a “large family” with a special liking for jewelry. Among them, Catherine II, who has a legendary life, is even more a fan of jewelry.

Russia is a mysterious and legendary country. Even if it is too poor, the exquisite Russian women will still wear beautiful clothes and exquisite jewels to the theater to see a “The Nutcracker”.

As the Empress of Russia, Catherine II, her love of art is unparalleled.

“The Godsend Queen”
As a female czar who ruled Russia for 34 years, Catherine II’s life is quite legendary. Before becoming the mighty emperor Catherine the Great, the queen of Peter III, and even the princess, she was just a little girl in the family of a German duke.

Catherine II, formerly known as Sophia August, is a pure German. When she was 13 years old, she was selected by fate and became a distant cousin (grandson of Peter the Great of Russia), the wife of the future crown prince.

Everyone felt that this was the destiny special prize directly hitting the Duke’s daughter, but they didn’t know that this was actually the beginning of misfortune. The future King Peter III is weak, timid and suspicious, and the marriage of the two people is close to each other, and it has been unprecedentedly intensified in the 17th year after the marriage. It is rumored that Peter III fell in love with a court lady with the intention of being abandoned. Deeply aware of the crisis, Catherine II preemptively launched a coup on July 8, 1762, and drove her husband from the throne.

Later, under her rule, the land of Tsarist Russia expanded by more than 1/3 compared to the previous one, and eventually became the “trans-Eurasia” power in the future. Gentile women sat on the throne for 34 years, Ekaterina II Shi has also become the only female czar named “The Great”. The queen’s life is quite legendary. Before her death, she left such a bold statement: “If I can live to 200 years old, the whole of Europe will crawl under my feet. And her jewelry also witnessed her golden age. .

The brightest star in Europe
Even today, looking back at the coronation in 1762, you will still be amazed by the Queen’s pomp. Catherine II pioneered the use of the crown of the Russian Empire by the Romanovs. To this day, if you see the great crown crowned by Catherine II, you will still be amazed by the luxurious and exquisite crown composed of countless rare and precious stones. Shining pearl and glowing candlelight, it’s hard to tell who is more shining.

On July 18, 1762, Catherine II wore a large crown to crown herself. Russia has always claimed to be the successor of the Roman Empire. The design of the big crown is deeply influenced by it. It consists of two hemispheres, symbolizing the Eastern and Western Roman Empire. In the middle is an oak leaf-shaped wreath and acorns, symbolizing the Tsarist Empire. Divine power.

A total of 4,836 diamonds weighing 2,858 carats are inlaid on this large radiant crown. Among them, the decorative crown is the world’s largest and most beautiful red velvet spinel, weighing 398.72 carats, and is listed as one of the seven historical famous diamonds in the Soviet Union. It is worth mentioning that this spinel comes from China and was purchased from Beijing in 1676 for Russia using 2672 gold rubles. The total weight of the crown is 1907 grams, the height is 27.5 cm, and the lower circumference is 64 cm. It was the most valuable item in Europe at that time.

If you want to wear the crown, you must bear its weight. This sentence Nicholas II made the best interpretation. Legend has it that the big crown was later passed on to Nicholas II’s hands. Because it was too heavy, it was obviously not very comfortable to wear on the head. Nicholas II’s forehead was squeezed out by the big crown and a scar was squeezed out of it. Migraine. Since Catherine II, all Russian emperors have worn imperial crowns in their coronations.

When the queen was crowned, she also held a “golden apple” that symbolized power. The 46.92-carat pear-shaped diamond in the middle of this “golden apple” is clear and translucent, and the Sri Lankan sapphire above is 200 carats, surrounded by 1,370 Brazilian diamonds. But you must not have imagined that it was driven out by the craftsmen within 2 weeks! I have to lament the extraordinary craftsmanship of the Russian jewelry workshop. This jewel embodies the ruler’s ability to “hold” the country.

The queen’s coronation kits are now hidden in the Moscow Kremlin Armory, and they are still dazzling after more than 250 years.

Among the diamond collections of Ekaterina II, the most famous one is the “Orlov Diamond”, which is known as the third largest diamond in the world, weighing about 189.62 carats. It was originally the Indian Temple of Salinga. Eyeballs of the middle Brahman idol. After India was conquered by the Persian dynasty, the diamond went through several turnovers and was finally sold by the Russian imperial jeweler Ivan for 400,000 rubles in 1773 to Catherine II’s fourth lover-Orr Earl Love.

Rumor has it that Count Orlov named the diamond “Orlov” and dedicated it to Catherine II as a gift on her naming day. Then “Orlov” was welded into a carved sterling silver pedestal, inlaid on the top of Catherine II’s scepter.

Catherine II also had a famous black diamond named “Black Olof”. Legend has it that its predecessor was a 195 carat black diamond named “Eye of Brahma”, inlaid with the eyes of the ancient Indian god “Brahma”. According to legend, in order to break the curse of “Brahma”, black diamonds were cut into three pieces and moved around the world. One of them is this 67.5 carat black diamond, which has been circulating in the Russian royal family since Catherine II.

If changing a new dress every day is every woman’s dream, then Catherine II’s dream is to decorate the entire palace and even everything around herself with diamonds. When she saw that the silver cover of a 17th-century “Bible” she used frequently was so ordinary, she hired a craftsman to decorate the cover of this purely handwritten altar gospel book with rare gems, pearls and enamel, light diamonds There are 3017. This is the most expensive “Bible” in the world.

Even the jewellery that she usually wears, the queen also demands excellence.

Among the diamond necklaces of Catherine II, the most famous one is the bow diamond necklace made of small leaf-shaped diamonds around 27 large cushion-cut diamonds. The bow in the middle of the necklace can be disassembled and worn separately, and the mechanism is hidden under the bow, which is extremely clever. Unexpectedly, the queen also has a girlish heart. A large part of her jewelry collection is in the shape of bows. Even if it is modern, it is unconventional. It shows how leading the fashion trend at the time. . At Sotheby’s Magnificent Jewelry and Noble Jewelry Autumn Auction in 2005, this necklace was sold for 2.148 million Swiss francs.

The queen also cherished emeralds very much and collected many of the largest emerald treasures at the time: a 75.61 carat emerald diamond necklace, which was sold for 3.5 million US dollars at the 2019 Christie’s Hong Kong Spring Auction; a central inlay weighing about 65 carats The Colombian emerald brooch was sold for $1.6505 million at the 2010 Christie’s New York auction.

Ekaterina II also has a necklace containing 172 diamonds, with a total weight of 275 carats. Its cutting method has become the predecessor of the brilliant cutting technique, with countless facets glowing with dazzling colors under the refraction of sunlight. The necklace was later passed to Napoleon, and he gave it to his second wife, Mary Louise, as a gift for the birth of the prince.

Without Catherine II, the magical appeal of diamonds to women would undoubtedly be greatly reduced. The queen has extremely high requirements for diamond cutting and setting. The most outstanding diamond cutting expert in Russian history appeared during the time of Catherine II. Before 1725, the most fashionable diamond cutting method in Europe was still the ancient but not shiny rose cut. Because of wanting to change this ancient cutting method, the queen ordered craftsmen to invent a new bright and shining diamond cutting method. Italian diamond craftsmen invented the brilliant cut that can reflect more brilliance of the diamond, and only then can there be such a brilliant diamond today. It is precisely because of the persistence of Catherine II that Russian jewelry has a name in the world of jewelry.

Knowing the preferences of Ekaterina II, officials of all sizes regarded tribute diamonds as the most direct way of promotion. According to records, once Catherine II celebrated her birthday, more than half of the tens of thousands of birthday gifts received were diamonds. Catherine II has a soft spot for bow-shaped jewelry. We can see that many of the queen’s jewelry are bow-shaped, diamonds and silver materials.

Catherine II’s diamond collection is grand and luxurious, and each piece represents the supreme dignity and authority. And in her noble and bold heart, there is actually a young literary and artistic person living in her. As a fanatical advocate of Western European culture and art, she was born in Germany and devoted her life to introducing Western European civilization into Russia.

Catherine II was very interested in the ideas of the Enlightenment, and had long-term correspondence with French thinkers such as Montesquieu and Voltaire. She hired Diderot, a representative of the encyclopedia, as the librarian, and paid her salary for the next 50 years, up to 500,000 rubles, which shocked the whole of Europe. Under her promotion, a large number of outstanding European scholars, scientists, architects and artists gathered in Russia. St. Petersburg was shining with stars, which greatly promoted the progress of the entire Russian society.

In order to satisfy her taste for art, Catherine II personally participated in and arranged embassies in European countries, and purchased famous paintings and other artworks from various institutions and private individuals, or directly ordered works from painters to decorate her palace , The Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. Countries such as Britain and France feared Russia’s strength, and even issued a ban on the sale of artworks to Russia.

Nevertheless, Catherine II often used super high prices to directly kill other European royal families participating in the bidding. For this reason, some people joked that “the power of Catherine II’s acquisition of art is no less than the power of the Russian cannon. With the unremitting efforts of Catherine II, from the Renaissance to the Baroque, from Da. From Vinci, Raphael, Titian to Rubens and Rembrandt, masterpieces of Western masters have hung the walls of the Winter Palace.

The Raphael’s Promenade has a total length of 65 meters. It is divided into 13 corridors by 13 arch “doors”. The domes, walls and wall pillars of each corridor are reproductions of the Vatican Raphael’s Promenade murals. Products for decoration.

The Winter Palace that evolved from a private residence
Catherine II was very afraid that others would take the opportunity to usurp the throne after he left Russia, so he could only travel around other countries through artworks. In 1783, Catherine II sent someone to the Vatican to copy and paint the murals, and then copied them as they were in the corridor of the Winter Official, so this corridor was called the Raphael corridor. The Raphael Promenade is considered to be the most elegant and beautiful art building in the Winter Palace.

Once, after seeing the giant murals painted by Raphael and his students for the Pope’s Palace in the Vatican from 1516 to 1518, Catherine II admired and liked it very much. Therefore, when the palace was expanded at the end of the 18th century, the queen specially ordered rubbings of these frescoes to decorate the newly added gallery.

After Catherine II ordered the Vatican “Raphael’s Bible” fresco rubbings, the rubbing work was completed by the painters Uchelbelgrad and Pierre. They copied the murals on the canvas with the technique of glue painting. Afterwards, the architect Kovareki submitted the dimensions and architectural design of these canvases to the Winter Palace, and the construction of the Raphael Promenade of the Winter Palace began.

It took about 10 years from the addition of the Raphael Promenade in 1783 to the completion of all the decoration works in 1792.

During the reign of Catherine II, China was in the heyday of Kangxi and Qianlong in the Qing Dynasty. There are also many exquisite Chinese tea utensils and toilet utensils in the collection of Catherine II. The materials are high in quality and the colors are bright. The superb artistic level during the Qing Dynasty.

In addition to the master’s paintings and Chinese fine works, Ekaterina II’s collection also includes French porcelain from Sèvres, Michelangelo’s statues and rare practice manuscripts of the masters.

The aforementioned Count Orlov presented a large diamond to Catherine II, and the other most famous and powerful lover of Catherine II, Duke Potemkin, also gave her Love deeply.

The Duke of Potemkin not only performed outstandingly in the war against Turkey, but also captured Crimea and built a powerful Black Sea Fleet from this base, allowing Tsarist Russia to finally have a dream-free port in the west. Potemkin was the queen’s life partner and comrade-in-arms. He fought bloody battles on the battlefield. This ugly grand prince has always had the same affection for Ekaterina II, with a polite expression. In 1781, Potemkin bought a three-meter-high, exquisitely crafted peacock clock made by James Cox. And gave it to Catherine II as her birthday present.

This chic and exquisite large clock is composed of oak, peacock, owl, rooster and mushroom clock dials. Every hour on the hour, various animals on the clock will start to perform and tell the time. First, the owl turns its head along with the music. , Then the peacock opened the screen, and finally the rooster shook his head and made a cry of “Cry Ming”. In the 18th century, it was amazing to be able to play music originally played by humans through automatic machinery in such an exquisite clock.

When Catherine II saw that the silver cover of a 17th-century “Bible” that he often used was so ordinary, he hired craftsmen to use rare gems and pearls on the cover of this purely handwritten altar gospel. As well as enamel modification, there are 3017 diamonds alone. This is the most expensive “Bible” in the world. Catherine II cherished emeralds very much and collected many of the largest emeralds at the time. This 75.61 carat emerald and diamond necklace was sold for 3.5 million US dollars at the 2019 Christie’s Hong Kong Spring Auction. Among the diamond necklaces of Catherine II, the most famous one is the bow diamond necklace made of small leaf-shaped diamonds around 27 large cushion-cut diamonds. The bow in the middle of the necklace can be disassembled and worn separately, and the mechanism is hidden under the bow, which is extremely clever. In 1781, Potemkin bought a three-meter-high, exquisitely crafted peacock clock made by James Cox and gave it to Catherine II as her birthday gift. This chic and exquisite large clock is composed of oak, peacock, owl, rooster and mushroom clock dials. Every hour on the hour, various animals on the clock will start to perform and tell the time. First, the owl turns its head along with the music. , Then the peacock opened the screen, and finally the rooster shook his head and made a cry of “Cry Ming”.

This peacock clock was made by James Cox, the greatest jewelry designer in British history, and his team of artisans. Initially, this clock was built for China, but because China was unable to buy it at that time, James Cox modified it: removed two snakes, added a rooster and an owl, and made it into It had to be in line with Western tastes, and then sold to Russia.

As a highly creative goldsmith, James Cox has produced all kinds of luxury goods in gold, silver and various metals. He also processed amber, pearls, tortoise shells and gems. He also employed many skills Superb craftsman. In the 1860s, James Cox began to trade with India, China and other countries. Emperor Qianlong had a unique interest in clocks and watches, and the prosperous Qing Dynasty at that time had strong financial resources to support the Qianlong Emperor’s collection of numerous clocks and watches, which made James Cox’s trade with China initially successful. Until now, the clocks and watches of the Palace Museum in Beijing still display many James Cox watches collected by Emperor Qianlong at that time.

From an artistic point of view, the design of the clock adopted the European style of art at the time, the so-called “Chinese style”. In the early 17th century, “Chinese style” began to appear in Dutch and British artworks. In the middle and late 17th century, “Chinese style” gradually became common. “Chinese style” became very popular in the 18th century and reached its peak in the mid-18th century. Since the “Chinese style” can be well integrated with the Rococo style, the monarchs of many European countries, such as Louis XV, particularly liked the “Chinese style”. Although on the whole, its asymmetrical layout is closer to the Oriental style, and even reminds people of the Chinese court paintings of flowers and birds in the Song Dynasty, but carefully observe all the animals on the clock and the oak tree where the peacock lives. They are all Expressed in the form of Western realism. But in any case, we can still feel its cultural affinity and charm.

Later, the peacock clock was broken into parts, packed and shipped to St. Petersburg. At the request of Potemkin, it was assembled by the famous Russian mechanic Ivan Kulibin. He overcame many technical difficulties, and it took many years to assemble it again. Since 1797, this peacock clock has been the treasure of the Hermitage Museum. It is the only large-scale mechanical clock of the 18th century that has not been remodeled and can still operate to this day. It is also the perfect combination of art and science and technology in that era.

The Queen’s Winter Palace, later the Hermitage Museum, contained a large number of artworks that were mainly acquired from European countries during the reign of Ekaterina II. Before the outbreak of World War II, the Hermitage Museum had 2.5 million artworks, and it would take 27 years to read them all. This also makes the Hermitage Museum become the world’s four major art museums as well as the Louvre, the British Museum and the Metropolitan Museum.

And Catherine II, who did all this, “humbly” positioned himself as an “art lover”. She told the entrusted artists that she didn’t even know art as a child. As a king with supreme power, she is more willing to show a soft side in front of literature and art.

Drawing on the models of Italian and French art academies, Catherine II ordered the establishment of the Royal Russian Academy of Fine Arts, which later became the Repin Academy of Fine Arts, established a Russian art education system and cultivated a large number of excellent paintings and paintings. Sculpture artists.

Catherine II came to Russia empty-handed, but it expanded the territory of Russia by 630,000 square kilometers. She sent Russia to the top and stepped into the ranks of world powers. This also made her a generation of British lord second only to Peter the Great in the minds of Russians, and was honored as “Ekaterina the Great.” In her later years, looking back at the more than 30 years in power, she said: “Everything I have done for Russia is just a drop in the ocean.”

Indeed, compared with the endless ambition of Catherine II, what she did was far from satisfying the heat wave in her chest. If she can really borrow from the sky for another 100 years, she will definitely bring all of Europe under her command and become the lord of the world. However, Catherine II’s ambitions were not rewarded, and Catherine II placed all hopes on his beloved grandson: “Name my grandson Alexander. I hope that he will build a bridge like Alexander the Great of Macedonia. The Great Russian Empire in Eurasia.”

In addition to political ambitions, as an “art lover” and promoter, the brilliance that Catherine II brought to Russia is unparalleled. She turned Russia into an art capital.

The collection of Catherine II is a huge treasure she left to Russia and the world. The wheels of history are rolling forward, and the splendor of the Romanov dynasty has long been buried in Shi Hai. And the most beloved collections of the emperors, as a footnote to the memory of a strong era, stood and stared, bringing the Russians back to the “golden age”.