Luxury and Identity: Konstantin Makovsky and the Decorative Arts in Russia

A rich and exquisite treasure of Russian decorative arts, with objects from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century, provides the context to immerse us in one of the Museum’s largest and most beloved paintings, Konstantin Makovsky’s intriguing Choosing the Bride (1887). Our exhibition Konstantin Makovsky: The Czar’s Painter presents over 40 pieces – paintings, icons, silver, ceramics and enamels – from Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens in Washington, D.C.

Makovsky collected objects for his own pleasure, and also to use them as props in paintings dealing with brides, weddings, and wedding feasts. But rather than just adding a wealth of eye-catching detail to his paintings, these objects allowed the artist to explore the cultural history of the seventeenth century, a formative period for Russia’s nationhood. Thus, the beautiful vessels, jewelry and plates used in old-style wedding ceremonies took on a wholly new patriotic and emotional resonance. The exhibition presents a collection of the type of objects Makovsky collected, and unravels the poetry, meaning and impact of his paintings.