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Art in Chinese Style During the Reign of Elisabeth Petrovna

An online lecture by Dr. Ekaterina Heath 

Empress Elisabeth Petrovna was an unexpected ruler whose place on the throne was under constant threat. As a young child, she experienced the intrigue and mystery of the Chinese embassy’s visit to Empress Anna Ioannovna. This visit had a lasting effect.

The fact that the Chinese desired a relationship with a European country was unique in international relations at the time, yet the Russian Empire’s attitude towards China remained ambiguous throughout Elisabeth’s reign. The Empress oscillated between critiquing China and seeking good relations with the Chinese Emperor.

The malleability of art in Chinese style (chinoiserie) allowed it to reflect the changing meanings of the East. At the same time, Russian chinoiseries often reveal more about Russian court culture and politics than it does about Russia’s complex relationship with China. Chinoiserie’s multiple meanings also served Elisabeth Petrovna to challenge the norms of her gender to support her legitimacy to rule.

Neither Chinese nor European, chinoiserie allowed the Imperial court to define and promote the values and interests of the empress and the Russian state. Join us as we explore this unique combination of diplomacy through decorative arts!

About the Speaker

Dr. Ekaterina Heath is a Research Associate at the University of Sydney. She has published essays on Russian eighteenth-century art and gardens. Her recent articles include “Grand Tour Memories In Maria Feodorovna’s Pavlovsk Park, St Petersburg, 1782–1825” (with Emma Gleadhill), “Giving women history: a history of Ekaterina Dashkova through her gifts to Catherine the Great and others,” and “Sowing the Seeds for Strong Relations: Seeds and Plants as Diplomatic Gifts for the Russian Empress Maria Fedorovna.”

She is finishing a book on Empress Maria Fedorovna’s use of Pavlovsk Park to influence Russian politics.

This lecture is based on a chapter that Ekaterina Heath wrote with Professor Jennifer Milam. It will be published shortly in the volume Russian Orientalism in a Global Context (edited by Maria Taroutina and Allison Leigh).

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Connecting With Zoom

This virtual lecture is presented live via Zoom. Registered users will be emailed a link to join this Zoom program. To get started, please download Zoom on your chosen device and explore the Frequently Asked Questions.

This program will be recorded.

Image: “The Chinese,” Imperial Porcelain Factory, 1752-60, Russian Museum, GRM f.615, f.617, f. 618, f. 621

The Second Saturday lecture series is supported in part with federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds allocated to the New York State Library by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).


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