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National Russian Art (De Shabelsky Collection)

DATES March 04, 1931 through March 25, 1931
ORGANIZING DEPARTMENT European Painting and Sculpture
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  • March 2, 1931 A famous collection of Russian art of the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries was brought to America - about six months ago - by Count and Countess B. M. Pushkin. It will be on view at the Brooklyn Museum from March 4th to 25th.

    Centuries ago a Russian country woman thought nothing at all of keeping house for a family of a dozen or so, working a while in the fields, and then settling down in the evening for several hours at the spinning-wheel, the loom or her embroidery needles. It was a pleasure and recreation for her to create beautiful needlework.

    About 50 years ago, Mme. N. de Shabelsky, a Russian noble lady, was the first person of a high position who became interested in peasant art. It took many years to accumulate this wonderful collection of the finest authentic peasant art, which escaped destruction by being taken out of Russia to France some years before the war. Many of the articles were exhibited in Russia; in France; in Chicago and at Antwerp and Brussels. For the last 30 years it has been kept in France as a private collection of the Shabelsky family.

    In this exhibit there are magnificent costumes, cuff sets to hold up the long sleeves, head-shawls richly embroidered in gold threads, historical head-dresses studded thickly with glimmering gems and seed-pearls, aprong, runners, etc. executed in cross-stitch and the numerous unusual and remarkable embroideries, laces of the 18th century can hardly be described. On the exquisite linen drawn-work foundation (looks similar to the filet lace, historical and legendary motifs such as the Bird of Paradies, the birds of Happiness and Sorrow, the lion, the double headed eagle, peacock figures, etc. are woven in white, or in deep garnet red, pink, green, yellow and blue. There are beautiful bobbin laces, church embroideries, ikons, silver and ivory boxes,

    Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1931 - 1936. 01-03_1931, 038.
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  • March 2, 1931 An Exhibition of National Russian Art of the 17th, 18th and early 19th Centuries is being installed in the Brooklyn Museum on the third flour and will be on view from March 4th to 25th. It consists of peasant embroideries, costumes, headdresses, hand-woven materials, laces, ikons and articles of silver, cooper and other metals.

    The collection contains mainly rare specimens of old national typical embroideries, weavings and laces of Velikorossia - meaning Great Russia - very rich in original primitive designs and ornaments which reflect the Russian folk genius and offer in addition to the archaeological interest a wide source of patterns for artistic industry. The antique Russian ornament has its source in the remotest antiquity and we find in the national embroidery some samples echoing the heathen cult of almost prehistorical times. Neatly all the objects were manufactures in the home which is the reason that such objects as sheets and towels are listed in the catalogue. However, these were not articles of ordinary use as they were often used for decorative and ceremonial purposes. The embroideries contain geometrical figures similar to those on manuscripts of the 12th, 13th and 14th Centuries. The motifs used are conventional lions, eagles, peacocks, the legendary bird, the "Siron", the symbolical "Swastick" - common to other parts of the world - and in the later pieces architectural motifs, such as palaces, churches, hunting scenes and country landscapes. The material for making these articles was mainly the product of home industry as the linen and thread were made and dyed by the peasants.

    The collection is extremely valuable as Count Puskin, who is exhibiting it, says that practically no textiles exist now in Russia earlier than the 17th Century because the houses were built of wood and fires were frequent, so few objects which were made before the 17th Century escaped destruction

    The objects called towels do not correspond to those in daily use with us as they are only as wide as the narrow hand looms and are embroidered many yards in length. They were used to be hung in the right hand corners of the rooms and draped around the ikons because when the people were still pagan the priests who conducted the worship of the sacred tree and the sacred animals used the towels to wipe their hands during the services.

    This collection is the result of years of searching and of acquiring these pieces of fast-disappearing ancient national embroideries in the far corners of Russia. It was gathered by Mrs. N. de Shabelsky and kept in France where she died in 1905. The collection thus escaped the danger of destruction during the Revolution. Many of the articles have been exhibited in Russia, as well as in France, in the Exposition of 1900, at Chicago in 1893, at Antwerp and Brussels in 1894 and several times in Russia in 1890 and 1891 in the Grand Duke Nicholas' palace in Petersburg and during the coronation of the Emperor Nicholas II in the historical museum in Moscow.

    Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1931 - 1936. 01-03_1931, 041-2.
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  • April 1, 1931 Current Exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum include the following:

    The first important exhibition of the American Union of Decorative Artists and Craftsmen, commonly known as AUDAC, will be presented on the third floor of the Museum from May first through July first. Modern decoration in both house and office furnishings will be shown, as well as group arrangements of specially designed furniture. Other exhibits include textile designs, applied art of various forms and an interesting section devoted to the graphic arts including an unusual collection of book illustration and design. All the exhibitors are members of the Union and are leaders in their individual fields

    Until May 28h the Exhibition of Persian Art will be on view in the fourth floor galleries. The exhibition includes a good chronological review of Persian art in its various forms from 3500 B.C. until the present time. The effect on present day design is indicated. Exhibits include sculpture and bronzes of the very early periods, potteries of various leading schools and periods, textiles, rugs, jewelry and a splendid collection of miniatures. The Museum's collections are supplemented by loans from important private collectors and commercial houses.

    The Hispano-Peruvian Collection of furniture, paintings and decorative objects will continue on view until autumn. The influence of Spanish art on the native design and the interesting combination of the two schools is shown in this group lent by Mrs. Frank Barrows Freyer.

    On April 30th a practical demonstration of Indian handicraft will be presented by a group of native Navajo Indians in costume.

    An Exhibition of Pictorial Drawings, work of the elementary classes in the public schools will be hung in the Library Gallery until April 30th.

    The collection of Russian National Art is reinstalled in the basement of the museum and will remain on view here for an indefinite time. Examples of peasant craft-work in embroideries, woven materials, ikons, decorative objects and costumes. Particularly interesting for design both traditional and occasional.

    The Mary Hoyt Wiborg loan collection of modern paintings will continue on view for some time. Representatives of such famous leaders as Leger, Vlaminck, Picasso, Chirico and Madeleine Luka are shown. There are also two highly interesting screens by Natalia Goncharova.

    Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1931 - 1936. 04-06_1931, 075.
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  • June 3, 1931 The Brooklyn Museum announces the acquisition of the famous collection of Russian National Art which has been on view in its galleries since March 4th. This splendid addition to the Museum's collections is made possible through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Edward S. Harkness, prominent New Yorkers and members of one of Brooklyn's oldest families.

    The value of this collection of native applied art can scarcely be over-estimated. Originally gathered together by Mme. N. de Shabelsky at the end of the last century the collection has been retained in Paris by that lady's daughters and has only recently come to the United States to be circulated by Count and Countess B.M.- Pushkin. The fact that the collection has always been maintained as a whole and due perhaps to the fact that it escaped possible dispersement through its being in Paris throughout the stormy days of the Revolutionary period in Russia, makes it an absolutely unique collection of the native arts and crafts of the 17th to early 19th centuries.

    The exhibits consists of peasant embroideries, costumes, head¬dresses, hand woven materials, laces, ikons of various types, and articles in silver, copper and other metals.

    The greater part of the collection consists of rare specimens of old national embroidery showing the use and development of motifs of design that had been handed down through centuries of tradition. The archaeological interest is as great perhaps as is the very personal way in which the individual worker has seen fit to adjust the motifs to her own fancy and always successfully, with an unerring taste for balance and line. Every part of these and the printed materials was made in the homes and manufactured in the most literal sense of the word by the peasant classes.

    It is expected that the wealth of design and the handling of the motifs in their arrangements will prove of immense value to the art classes that frequent the Museum.

    There are a number of ikons, demonstrating the transposition from the simple early ones of carved wood through the painted and gilt one of the middle period, to the richly embossed gold and silver jewel-encrusted ones of the later rococo type.

    The entire collection antedates the introduction of mechanical production in Russia, with its inevitable standardization, and with the exception of the group in the Historical Museum in Moscow is the only collection of the kind in the world.

    Part of the collection was shown at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1892 and in Paris at the Exposition of 1900.

    A great deal of credit is due to the far-seeing work of Mme. de Shabelsky, who collected it and to the donors who have made it possible for the collection to be permanently shown to the public in a great museum, where its fullest value in decorative and historical research may be realized.

    Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1931 - 1936. 04-06_1931, 107-8.
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  • June 3, 1931 To the Editor of the Art News
    49 West 45th Street
    New York, New York

    Dear Sir:
    We have noticed that this museum's mention in your current calendar is incorrect as it lists only two exhibitions, one of which was current in April and has long since been discontinued. We would particularly like the Wood Block Exhibition to be mentioned in this calendar for the benefit of Philadelphia readers.

    A list of the current exhibitions that should be mentioned include:
    Fifth Annual Exhibition of Block Prints assembled by the Ink Print Club of Philadelphia
    International Summer Show opening June 12 through October 1st
    AUDAC Exhibition of Decorative Arts and Crafts, continued because of its extreme popularity until September 1st
    Exhibition of the newly acquired Collection of Russian National Art
    The Wiborg Collection of Modern Masters

    Will you please correct your list with the above additions.

    Very sincerely yours,
    Director, Publicity Department

    Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1931 - 1936. 04-06_1931, 111.
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