Russian Odyssey Opens to the Public November 2nd

Russian Odyssey: Riches of the State Museum
Opens at Florida International Museum
Exhibit Celebrates 800 Years of Russian History

St. Petersburg, Florida (October 13, 2003) Florida International Museum (FIM) announces the opening of an outstanding exhibit, Russian Odyssey: Riches of the State Russian Museum, spanning 800 years of Russian history. The first of its kind exhibit will be featured November 2, 2003 through April 4, 2004. The display of more than 300 objects is part of a ten-year agreement between FIM and the State Russian Museum. “This is the first time many of these objects have traveled from Russian soil,” says Kathy Oathout, FIM Executive Director. “This is the largest exhibition ever to travel from the State Russian Museum and includes a remarkable display of paintings, porcelain, furniture and jewelry.”

Russian Odyssey is funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services by an Act of Congress. Other regional sponsors include St. Petersburg Times and Renaissance Vinoy Resort and Golf Club.

The exhibit spans many themes including religious culture, the life of the Czars, a comparison of the life of noblemen and peasants, and other cultural elements, such as the ballet.

Russia's Religious Culture
Religious culture plays an enormous role in Russian life. For more 800 years, until the reforms of Peter the Great (reigned 1682-1725), the main form of Russian art was the icon. Icons hung alone or in special groups called an “iconostas”. They were encountered not only in churches, but also in people’s homes. Icons were dedicated to Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, Christian saints and religious festivals, illustrating the Gospels at a time when not everyone could read or write. Russian Odyssey focuses on religious life and the impact that it had on society.

Lives of the Czars
The lives of the Czars are perhaps the most well-known aspect of Russian history. Russian Odyssey includes a special section dedicated to the Czars, particularly Peter the Great and Catherine the Great. Peter the Great sent leading Russian icon-painters to study in Italy, France and Germany. He also invited foreign masters of painting, sculpture and architecture to Russia. The result was the formation of a Russo-European style, which gradually developed into an independent form of national art.

The cultural reforms of Peter the Great in the early eighteenth century were continued by Catherine the Great (reigned 1762-1796) in the late eighteenth century. In 1764, Catherine founded the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg, which produced a galaxy of outstanding architects, sculptors and painters. Included in the exhibition are china and other artifacts from Catherine The Great's ballroom and a reproduction of her bedroom chambers.

Noblemen and Peasants
Russian Odyssey provides a unique and educational look at the differences between the lives of noblemen and peasants. Noblemen could be civil servants, officers, writers, poets or artists. Some worked in government departments; others did not work at all. Some owned serfs; others did not. Some were rich; others were poor.

The nobility was the main purchaser of Russian art in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. They commissioned portraits, landscapes and genre scenes. They were also the main connoisseurs, patrons, critics and collectors of art. When their collections were nationalized following the 1917 revolution, many masterpieces found their way into the country’s leading galleries, including the State Russian Museum.

Many painters depicted the lives of the Russian peasantry during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Their canvases portray the traditional crafts, hobbies and rites of the Russian countryside. The peasant way of life was one of the most important components of Russian culture. The center of peasant existence was the house, in which whole families lived from generation to generation. Peasants built their own huts from wood. Houses differed from region to region, depending on the climate or the wealth and size of the family. Their general features, however, remained the same throughout the centuries.

The Golden Age of Russian Arts
Russian Odyssey has a section dedicated to the arts. Russian artistic culture experienced a golden age in the nineteenth century. The Imperial Academy of Arts produced such famous painters as Orest Kiprensky, Karl Brullov and Alexander Ivanov. Architects created the stunning palaces and squares of St. Petersburg.

The works of many Russian poets, novelists and philosophers were translated into other languages, becoming classics of world literature. The high level of Russian artistic culture in the nineteenth century led to an unprecedented flourishing of poetry, fine art and theater at the turn of the century. One of the most remarkable phenomena of this period of glittering achievement, known as the Silver Age of Russian culture, was Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes.

The ground-breaking exhibit will cover 10,000 square feet, and feature ten galleries. The museum is being remodeled and the objects are scheduled to arrive in mid-October. Yevgenia Petrova, deputy director of the State Russian Museum, will be in St. Petersburg, Florida to oversee the placement of the objects. Vera Espinola Beery will be the on-site curator. Ms. Beery was very involved in the blockbuster exhibit, Treasures of the Czars at FIM in 1995.

Advanced tickets, gift certificates and membership brochures are now available for this sensational exhibition. Single exhibition tickets for adults are $15. Discounts apply for children, seniors, military and college students. Memberships provide unlimited museum visits for one annual general admission fee. Special exhibitions may require a small additional charge. Group Tour Discounts and evening rentals are also available.

The Florida International Museum has extended hours during this exhibition. Join us Monday through Saturday - 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday - 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Last tickets are sold at 4 p.m., 7 p.m. on Friday. For general Museum information call 727.822.3693, or visit our website at www.floridamuseum.org.

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The Florida International Museum is a non-profit educational institution supported, in part, by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, Florida Arts Council, State of Florida, Division of Cultural Affairs, and the City of St. Petersburg. Other major sponsors include Progress Energy, Renaissance Vinoy Resort & Golf Club, and St. Petersburg Times.