Originally set for an exhibition in Houston in May 2011, the State Hermitage Museum, located in St. Petersburg, Russia, is still being postponed over legal ownership of the Schneerson Library collection in Moscow.
A US court decision favored the Chabad organization of Brooklyn, ruling that it may have a legal claim to a trove of Jewish religious documents held in Moscow. The Russian government disagreed with the ruling, and in response, has delayed all new loans of cultural objects of any kind to American museums.
The planned exhibition in Houston would have focused on 150 objects from Russia's imperial past. Many of the objects would have travelled outside of the country for the first time since they were acquired by Russian monarchs such as Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, Alexander I and Nicholas II.
The exhibition would have also included archaelogical artifacts from the Scythian and Sarmatian cultures. These historical treasures were collected by Peter the Great (1672-1725) but also used for inspiration by some of the world's most famous goldsmiths and jewelers, including Carl Faberge.
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The Hermitage planned to loan Faberge's famous detailed miniature of the Russian Imperial Regalia executed at the turn of the 19th century as the centerpiece of the exhibition.
Additional selections included imperial jewelry and luxury object created or acquired by the Imperial Court throughout the centuries. Also, some of the first emeralds ever recovered from present-day Colombia by Spanish conquistadores and presented to Russian emperors and empresses as gifts would have been displayed.
In addition to the pieces collected by Peter the Great, the exhibition also would have featured Catherine the Great's finely carved 16th century French and Italian cameos, along with enameled and jeweled pearl pendants created in the Netherlands in the 16th century.
Diplomatic gifts from England, France, Germany, China, The Netherlands, and the Ottoman Empire highlight not only Russia’s imperial collecting tradition, but also the international acknowledgement of this tradition by those who brought gifts of priceless jewels when seeking Russia’s favor in the world of politics and commerce.