Matryoshka in Winter
September 24, 2018 – February 17, 2019
The mini-exhibition, Matryoshka in Winter, features a selection of nesting dolls from the Museum’s collection that celebrates Russian winter and the Christmas season. Some dolls in this exhibit tell the story of Grandfather Frost and the Snow Maiden who are said to bring joy and presents to children on New Year’s Eve. Other themes will include Santa Claus, nutcrackers, and the joyful activities of Russian winter.
The bright colors, distinctive shapes, and creative concepts of Russian nesting dolls have delighted children and adults alike for over a century. The toys are recognized around the world as the quintessential Russian souvenir. Contemporary independent matryoshka artists developed unique and creative styles, taking their work beyond traditional patterns and themes. Transcending the boundaries of conventional Matryoshka production, they elevated the medium from a craft to fine art.
Nesting dolls make an entertaining medium for storytelling and artists sometimes paint detailed pictures on each doll so that the story progresses as the matryoshka is opened, depicting elaborate stories from the daily lives of Russians to famous fairy tales.
OPULENCE REDISCOVERED: The Romanov Liturgical Silver
October 19, 2018 – January 13, 2019
This extraordinary set of Orthodox silver liturgical implements were part of the Imperial dowry of Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna Romanova (1853-1920), daughter of the Russian Emperor Alexander II. She married Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh in 1874, and used this set in her private chapel in a British royal residence in London.
Recently completed attribution attested the set’s Russian Imperial and British Royal family provenance, uncovered rich history of its creation, and reestablished its historical significance as an example of Russian Neo-Byzantine style.
Commissioned by the Cabinet to the Russian Imperial Court, the set was created by one of the leading purveyors, the Saint Petersburg firm of Nicholls & Plincke known as Magazin Anglais. Based on designs by the Imperial Court architect, Professor David Grimm, it was recognized by its contemporaries as distinguished by the subtlety and elegance of its artistic execution.
Opening reception will take place on October 19, 6:00-8:00pm. Remarks will be given by His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion, Metropolitan of Eastern America and New York. Please RSVP by October 15. Call 978.598.5000 x121.
CORNCOBS TO COSMONAUTS: REDEFINING THE HOLIDAYS IN THE SOVIET ERA
November 9, 2018 – January 27, 2019
The Museum of Russian Icons is presenting an exhibition of over 150 Soviet-era ornaments from November 9, 2018-January 27, 2019. Mostly donated by collector Frank Sciacca, the decorations come from the former USSR and will be displayed alongside various sizes of “New Year’s Trees” along with toys, books, and cards that will transform the Museum’s West Gallery into a winter wonderland.
Following the Russian revolution in 1917, the anti-religion Bolsheviks discouraged Christmas and New Year celebrations in the Soviet Union, the gift giving and extravagance that accompanied the holidays came to symbolize the greed and excess of the bourgeois. The tradition of celebrating Novy God (New Year) re-appeared in 1935 as a secular holiday that would symbolize Soviet children’s prosperity and happiness. The New Year’s tree, or yolka, was repurposed as the central symbol of the celebration but with all religious references removed.
The Red Army’s ruby star replaced the star of Bethlehem on top, and the tree was decorated with non-religious shaped ornaments such as animals, plants, Kremlin architecture, airplanes, and the hammer and sickle. After the Soviets launched Sputnik 1 in 1957, figures of cosmonauts, rockets, satellites, and planets became popular. Ornaments that celebrated the country’s achievements in agriculture, like peppers, grapes, and carrots, were sold during Nikita Khrushchev’s time–the most popular being corncobs because of Khrushchev’s “corn campaign.”
The Russian fairytale figure, Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) was said to travel in a horse-drawn sleigh with his beautiful granddaughter, Snegurochka (Snow Maiden), to deliver gifts to children across Russia. In the early years of the Soviet regime, the Ded Moroz was an unacceptable link to old Russia. In later years he became the symbol of Novy God a move taken by the government as a way to stop the advance of the western tradition of Santa Claus. Ornaments and statues of Ded Moroz, sometimes with Snergurochka, became favorite decorations for New Year’s trees and family rooms during winter festivities.