Famous masters, Roman de la Rose, Basilewsky Collection, imperial armor
The eighteen complete suits of armor from the collection of Tsar Nicholas I that are exhibited, are of premium quality and are characterized by stunning craftsmanship, often by famous armorers. A number of these suits of armor are closely linked to legendary rulers. For example a suit of armor belonging to Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and a unique sixteenth-century exemplar that was especially remodeled for Nicholas I. Another eye-catcher is the German tournament suit of armor weighing about fifty kilograms from circa 1500, a gift that Nicholas received from his wife, Tsarina Alexandra Fyodorovna.
One of the main components of the exhibition is a magnificent selection from the Hermitage’s European medieval art collection. With works by famous masters such as the fifteenth-century triptych The Adoration of the Magi by Hugo van der Goes, paintings by Cranach, among others, and the circle of Agnolo Bronzino. Also The Garden of Earthly Delights by a follower of Hieronymus Bosch. Playing the leading role is Alexander Basilewsky’s impressive collection of medieval art. In 1884 he decided to put his collection up for auction, but just before the sale, the whole collection was bought up in its entirety by Tsar Alexander III, causing a great sensation in France. There are a number of top pieces from this collection on view, such as the beautiful gilded reliquary from Limoges from circa 1200, decorated with scenes from the New Testament. Or the five ivory plaques with scenes from the romance of Tristan and Isolde. There is also a bust of St Thecla (circa 1325–50), a loan from the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, where the bust from the Hermitage had ended up after a series of detours. Now it is temporarily reunited with the other pieces from the Basilewsky collection.