Britannia and Muscovy: English Silver at the Court of the Tsars

Thursday, May 25, 2006
Sunday, September 10, 2006

The superb collection of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English diplomatic silver from the Armory Museum of the Moscow Kremlin was the centerpiece of this exhibition. During that period, emissaries from the British crown, as well as from the Muscovy Company (a group of merchants trading with Russia), visited the Tsar’s court bearing gifts. Through the display of magnificent pieces of silver from the Armory Museum, as well as related historical books, manuscripts, maps, and sea charts of the various rulers and ambassadors, Britannia & Muscovy: English Silver at the Court of the Tsars explicated the development of diplomatic relations, trade, and cultural ties between England and Russia from the time of Elizabeth I through the early reign of Charles II.

Because much English silver from the period was melted down, especially during the English Civil War, few pieces of the scale and splendor of the Kremlin items have survived anywhere in the world. Dating from the 1550s to the 1660s, the silver is of a type not represented in other museums in Europe and America. The pieces from the Kremlin are gilded and heavily embellished, displaying the technical brilliance and ingenuity for which Elizabethan and Jacobean London silversmiths were famous. Also on view was an important group of nineteen firearms that were prized as diplomatic gifts because of their technical ingenuity. In order to recreate the splendor that English visitors encountered at the Kremlin, the exhibition also

Attributed to Joan Blaeu, Kremlenagrad (detail), 1622, hand-colored etching, from Geographie Blavianevolume by Joan Blaeu (Amsterdam: Labore and Sumptibu, 1622), Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

included fifteen precious objects of Russian origin pro-
duced in the Kremlin workshops for use at the Moscow court.

The exhibition was organized by the Armory Museum of the Moscow Kremlin in association with the Gilbert Collection, London, and the Center. Works in the exhibition were selected by curators from the Armory Museum; the organizing curator at the Center was Cassandra Albinson, Assistant Curator of Paintings and Sculpture. Britannia & Muscovy was generously supported by a grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.

Yale Center for British Art:
May 25–September 10, 2006

The Gilbert Collection, London:
October 14, 2006–January 28, 2007