Feature Articles

December 2013

NC Museum of History in Raleigh, NC, Offers Three New Exhibitions

The NC Museum of History in Raleigh, NC, is presenting three new exhibitions including: The Tsars’ Cabinet: Two Hundred Years of Russian Decorative Arts Under the Romanovs and Windows into Heaven: Russian Icons from the Lilly and Francis Robicsek Collection of Religious Art, on view through Mar. 5, 2014; and For Us the Living: The Civil War Art of Mort Künstler, on view through Jan. 5, 2014.

The year 2013 marks the 400th anniversary of the beginning of the Romanov Dynasty, or the House of Romanov - the imperial monarchy that ruled Russia from 1613 until 1917 and included the reigns of Peter the Great, Catherine the Great and Nicholas II, the last tsar.

“To commemorate this anniversary, the Museum of History will present these exhibitions that give visitors a rare glimpse into the splendor of Imperial Russia,” said Dr. Jeanne Marie Warzeski, Exhibition Curator.

The NC Museum of History is the only mid-Atlantic venue to host The Tsars’ Cabinet, a traveling exhibition showcasing more than 230 objects that exemplify the craftsmanship of artisans under the Romanov tsars. A feast for the eyes, the exhibit features decorative arts dating from the reign of Peter the Great to that of Nicholas II.

From richly ornate table services designed for coronation banquets to jewel-encrusted personal items, the spectacular objects in this exhibit reveal the extreme lavishness and opulent lifestyle of the Romanov reign. Many of the pieces were made for the ruling tsars and their families.

The exhibit includes objects produced by the Imperial Porcelain Factory in St. Petersburg, one of the oldest porcelain factories in Europe, as well as wares made by the Imperial Glass Factory in St. Petersburg and examples of intricate enamel work from renowned firms such as Fabergé and Ovchinnikov.

Among the treasures in The Tsars’ Cabinet are items from a Kremlin ceremonial table service, yacht service pieces, and elaborate urns made for imperial palaces. Stunning personal artifacts include an Ovchinnikov silver gilt and lapis-lazuli jewel casket and a Fabergé gilded silver and shaded cloisonné enamel cigar case.

The Tsars’ Cabinet was organized by the Muscarelle Museum of Art at the College of William & Mary from the Kathleen Durdin Collection, in collaboration with International Arts & Artists.

From the life of sumptuous excess under the tsars, Windows into Heaven plumbs the mystical depth of the Russian spirit and offers a glimpse into eternity via the dignified grandeur of the Russian Orthodox Church. The exhibition brings together 36 Russian icons dating from the 18th and 19th centuries, during the time of the Romanovs, from the collection of Lilly and Francis Robicsek of Charlotte, NC.

When Russia converted to Byzantine Christianity in 988, its churches adopted the ancient tradition of painting icons. Over time, Russians developed a distinctive style of iconography featuring religious scenes in the Byzantine, or Eastern Orthodox, tradition. Eastern Orthodox Christians venerate icons as conduits to God and a focus for their prayers and meditation. Thus, icons become “windows into heaven.”

Visitors will recognize many familiar Christian themes in Windows into Heaven. Icons showing the Mother of God, events in the life of Christ, the apostles and saints are featured. Less familiar representations include the Old Testament Trinity, as well as saints important to Russia, such as Cyril and Methodius and Seraphim of Sarov.

Beautiful to behold, icons were often made by monks or nuns. The religious images brought comfort to many in times of sorrow and hardship. The variety of icons presented in Windows into Heaven provides an intimate look at Russia’s complex past.

A variety of programs will complement both exhibitions, and Russian-themed lunches and teas are available for groups of 10 or more. The Exhibition Shop will feature a splendid selection of merchandise, much of which is imported directly from Russia.

Major sponsors of The Tsars’ Cabinet and Windows into Heaven include North Carolina News Network, Duke Energy, News & Observer, Ragland Family Foundation and Mr. and Mrs. Everette C. Sherrill. Additional sponsors are Catering Works, Mr. and Mrs. Paul F. Hoch, Mr. George R. McNeill III, Our State, Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth B. Howard, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, Smith Family Foundation, ThemeWorks and the Mary and Elliott Wood Foundation.

Nationally acclaimed artist Mort Künstler has been painting captivating scenes of American history for more than 50 years. Known to many as “America’s artist,” he has focused on the Civil War almost exclusively since the 1980s.

An exhibit at the NC Museum of History in Raleigh showcases original paintings by the renowniFor Us the Living: The Civil War Art of Mort Künstler will run through Jan. 5, 2014. This free exhibit is significant for two reasons.

First, Künstler has selected 33 original paintings from his personal collection for the exhibit. Second, he has recently announced that he will only produce eight more Civil War-era paintings before moving on to other topics.

“One of these Civil War paintings, titled Capitol Farewell, was unveiled especially for the exhibit,” said Museum Director Ken Howard. “The North Carolina State Capitol is prominent in this winter scene of a young couple saying good-bye during wartime.” Capitol Farewell is one of two paintings by Künstler of the Raleigh landmark as it appeared on Feb. 5, 1863. The first such painting is Winter Riders (1995).

Künstler’s exceptional talent lies in his ability to tell a story dramatically and realistically, from scenes of raging battles to a soldier’s private moments. Viewers often get the sensation that they are looking back through time at the real event.

“Künstler strives to make each Civil War scene as authentic to the event as possible,” adds Howard. With painstaking attention to detail, the artist researches the uniforms, guns, buttons and other gear. He often visits the locations depicted in his paintings and tracks down an event’s weather conditions when possible.

Each painting in For Us the Living is accompanied by text in Künstler’s own words. He describes the inspiration for a scene or the historical event behind it.

The paintings in For Us the Living cover a variety of topics. A sampling of titles from the exhibit follows: First Shot at Fort Sumter: P. G. T. Beauregard at Charleston Harbor, Charleston, SC, April 12, 1861; The Gunner and the Colonel, Battle of Fort Fisher, NC, Jan. 15, 1865; A Fleeting Moment, Stonewall and Mary Anna Jackson, Winchester, VA, Feb. 1, 1862; and The Angel of the Battlefield, Clara Barton with Walt Whitman at Chatham Plantation, near Fredericksburg, VA, Dec. 1862.

Come see these paintings and others that illuminate fascinating individuals and historic events through the eyes of a distinguished Civil War artist.

Prints of Capitol Farewell are available for purchase in the Museum Shop. Call the shop at 919/807-7835 to reserve your print.

The NC Museum of History is located on Edenton Street, across from the State Capitol. Parking is available in the lot across Wilmington Street. The Museum of History, within the Division of State History Museums, is part of the NC Department of Cultural Resources.

The NC Department of Cultural Resources (NCDCR) is the state agency with a vision to be the leader in using the state’s cultural resources to build the social, cultural and economic future of North Carolina. Led by Secretary Susan W. Kluttz, NCDCR’s mission to enrich lives and communities creates opportunities to experience excellence in the arts, history and libraries in North Carolina that will spark creativity, stimulate learning, preserve the state’s history and promote the creative economy. NCDCR was the first state organization in the nation to include all agencies for arts and culture under one umbrella.

Through arts efforts led by the North Carolina Arts Council, the North Carolina Symphony and the North Carolina Museum of Art, NCDCR offers the opportunity for enriching arts education for young and old alike and economic stimulus engines for our state’s communities. NCDCR’s Divisions of Archives and Records, State Historic Sites, and State History Museums preserve, document and interpret North Carolina’s rich cultural heritage. NCDCR’s State Library of North Carolina is the principal library of state government and builds the capacity of all libraries in our state, developing and supporting access to traditional and online collections such as genealogy and resources for the blind and physically handicapped.

NCDCR annually serves more than 19 million people through its 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, the nation’s first state-supported symphony orchestra, the State Library, the NC Arts Council and the State Archives of North Carolina. NCDCR champions our state’s creative industry that accounts for more than 300,000 jobs and generates nearly $18.5 billion in revenues.

For further information check our NC Institutional Gallery listings, call the Museum at 919/807-7900 or visit (www.ncmuseumofhistory.org).


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