D.C.'s Hillwood Estate, with one of the most significant Tsarist imperial art collections outside Russia, is now one of few U.S. museums to own Tula decorative steel, and will display the exquisite candlestick beginning Mar. 19.
The newly acquired rare 18th century Tula piece fits perfectly with Hillwood's extraordinary Russian collection, and certainly its current exhibition, "Pageant of the Tsars: the Romanov Coronation Albums", celebrating the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Romanov dynasty in 1613.
The Tula candlestick is typically decorated with rows of diamond-like steel beading, and encrusted with gold and silver garlands flowers and ribbons.
In the city of Tula, 120 miles southwest of Moscow, Peter the Great established Russia's first arms factory 301 years ago. From the 1740s on, it also produced everyday items including chess sets and furniture. Catherine the Great greatly admired Tula works.
The candlestick was purchased in memory of longtime Hillwood chief curator Anne C. Odom, an internationally known scholar of 18th and early 19th century Russian art. Odom had begun working at Hillwood in 1978, the year after the mansion opened as a public institution.
Highlights of its collection include:
- Fabergé eggs (March 23 is Hillwood's Fabergé Egg Family Festival)
- Russian porcelain and Russian Orthodox icons
- Late 18th century French furniture
- Sèvres porcelain
- Post's extravagant jewels
March is also Women's History Month, and Marjorie Merriweather Post should be remembered not only as an heiress and avid collector, but also as one of the first women to build a company into a hugely successful conglomerate, and a major philanthropist for the Salvation Army, Red Cross, veterans, and many arts institutions in Washington. Most of all, her crown jewel, Hillwood.