“The Tsars and the East” is the name of a major exhibit at the Sackler Museum of the Smithsonian Institute. It will be on display through September 13.
The exhibit features 65 items from the Moscow Kremlin that were gifts to the tsar by statesmen, royalty, nobility and merchants from the Ottoman Empire and Persia, primarily in the 15th through the 17th centuries. Many of these items have never been out of Moscow before.
During this period of time, there was extensive trade between these various empires, and shifting, but continuing, political alliances. Gift giving was a matter of protocol when diplomatic or commercial enterprises entered the Russian empire. Except for certain gifts that may go directly to the tsar or his close family, all gifts were taken to the Kremlin, where they were catalogued and recorded, and detailed records kept of their provenance.
The items on display at the Sackler were “masculine” in nature. Swords and scabbards, daggers, shields, helmets, maces. Saddles, stirrups, saddle blankets (caparisons), bridles and other equine related items. Clerical robes. The fabrics came from the southern empires, the work was sometimes done in Turkey or Iran, and other times in Russia, in the Kremlin workshops. Gold and inlaid gems predominate. Tulip designs and Arabic inscriptions.
All in all, a very nice, and informative, exhibit.