The Attic (a name which commemorates our first physical location) is, first and foremost, a site for the research students of the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester: a virtual community which aims to include all students, be they campus-based and full-time, or distance-learning and overseas. But we welcome contributions from students of museum studies - and allied subject areas - from outside the School and from around the world. Here you will find a lot of serious stuff, like exhibition and research seminar reviews, conference alerts and calls for papers, but there's also some 'fluff'; the things that inspire, distract and keep us going. After all, while we may be dead serious academic types, we're human too.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Historical Hot or Not VI

Today's museum hottie isn't a museum person per se. Catharine the Great (1729-1796), a German princess who became Empress of all the Russias in the 18th century, built the building and amassed the bulk of the collection that would become one of the world's greatest museums. The Hermitage was her private palace, and the collection of art, sculpture, decorative art, and ethnographic material that filled it was by-and-large purchased from the estate sales of European collectors on her behalf by agents. It was only opened to the public in 1852, 88 years after its founding, and didn't become a national museum until after the Revolution. Still, it is only due to Catharine's Enlightenment ideals that Russia possesses any relics of European culture worth speaking of.

Portrait of Catharine Großherzogin von Rußland von Anhalt-Zerbst (Princess Sophie Friederike Auguste of Anhalt-Zerbst, later Catherine II of Russia), 1745, Kunstsammlungen der Veste Coburg

Portrait by Georg Christoph Grooth of the Grand Duchess Ekaterina Alexeevna (later Empress Catherine II of Russia/Catherine the Great) painted circa 1745, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.Portrait of Grand Duchess Catherine Alexeevna, the future Catherine the Great of Russia, from 1745, painted by Louis Cavaque.

We tend to remember Catharine as a portly oversexed despot; but before the many lovers, the killing of her husband, the brutal political repressions, she was a clever, sprightly, and lithe young fraulein with great promise. Recall that she was once played in a film by the great Marlene Dietrich. So: hot or not?

2 comments:

Jenny said...

Ok, the last picture - approaching hot. Pretty, at least. And I like the Englitenment ethos that she proclaimed. You have to admire a woman who gained that position, and who built a museum as world famous as the Hermitage. Quite an interesting lady.

Mike Simpson said...

Elegant, rich, powerful, cultured. I think that more than makes up for the Michael Schumacher chin. So yes - hot.