Fabergé and the Russian Craft Tradition at the Walters Art Museum

After seeing Anastasia the Musical in New York City, the following Saturday we took in The Fabergé and Russian Crafts Tradition: An Empire’s Legacy exhibition at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.

This was quite the coincidence considering we booked our tickets for Anastasia before learning of the exhibit. I guess you could say was destiny on our “Journey to the Past”.The Fabergé exhibition “invites visitors to consider the broader historical context from which the House of Fabergé emerged” and features 70 works that illustrate the artistry of Russian tradition crafts by Fabergé and other artists of the Romanov time. The exhibition includes two Fabergé Easter eggs that are a part of the Walters’ collection:  the Gatchina Palace Egg and the Rose Trellis Egg.

Here are some of my favourite items from the exhibit:

The Daughters of Tsar Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra, ca. 1915.
Left to right: Maria, Anastasia, Olga, and Tatiana (seated)Oval Box with Monogram of Tsar Nicholas II, early 20th century.
Peter Carl Fabergé and Henrik Emanuel Wigström (workmaster)“OTMA” Portrait Diamond Necklace, ca. 1914
Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia nicknamed themselves “OTMA”. Rare, flat-cut diamonds, known as portrait diamonds, cover and protect the delicate watercolour miniatures that were painted from formal court photographs taken in 1914.Rose Trellis Egg, 1907
Peter Carl Fabergé and Henrik Emanuel Wigström (workmaster)
The Rose Trellis Egg was given by Nicholas II to his wife Alexandra to commemorate the birth of their only son, and heir, Alexei Nicholaevich in 1904. It originally contained a diamond necklace with a medallion and miniature, now lost, of His Imperial Highness the Grand Duke Tsarevich Alexei Nicholaevich.
Roses, a symbol of love, had been associated with the nobility since Catherine the Great. Those depicted are one of Alexandra’s favourites: the Baronne Adolphe de Rothchild rose. Keeping with Russian tradition, there are 49 blossoms on the egg, an uneven number that would have been seen as lucky.Box with a Miniature of Viktor Vasnetsov’s Warrior at the Crossroads (1882), 1907-1917
Fedor Ivanovich Rückert for the House of Fabergé
Teapot, 1899-1908
Nikolai Vasilevich Alexseev
This teapot is set in the Chinoiserie style, which appropriated Chinese or Pseudo-Chinese motifs as interpreted through Western eyes. Chinoiserie was in vogue from the mid-17th century through to the end of the 19th century.Gatchina Palace Egg, 1901
Peter Carl Fabergé
The Gatchina Palace Egg was commissioned as an Easter gift to his mother, Maria Feodorovna, by the last Romanov tsar, Nicholas II. Along with the other 49 Imperial Easter Eggs, it showcases the exceptional skills of Peter Carl Fabergé’s team of gem cutters, enamelers, metalsmiths, and designers. The tiny model of the Gatchina Palace inside the egg is rendered in gold, alloyed with different metals to create a range of colours. Even lamp posts are depicted in miniature, while windows are glazed in rock crystal.

Today,  100 years after the Russian Revolutions of 1917 and the violent end of more than 300 years of Romanov rule, the House of Fabergé still exists today, and remains legendary and synonymous with Russia’s extraordinary artistic talent.

If you’re in Baltimore, I highly suggest you visit the Walters Art Museum – and if you like Russian art and/or have an interest in Russian history, specifically the Romanov dynasty, you should definitely take the time to see the Fabergé exhibit.

The Fabergé and the Russian Crafts Tradition: An Empire’s Legacy exhibition runs until Sunday, June 24, 2018.

Galisteo Basin, New Mexico

One of the days of our trip was spent almost entirely at Galisteo Basin, where we wandered around the desert looking at plants and for signs of a by-gone era.We also hiked a lot, clambering our way up on top of some rocky hills and mountains that had spectacular views.Galisteo Basin is approximately 467,200 acres of desert and rugged sandstone with carved arroyos (Spanish for ‘streams’) and vast grasslands that stretch from San Miguel County, across Santa Fe County and into Sandoval County. Its main watercourse is the Galisteo Creek that flows down into the Río Grande.

Galisteo is located between two mountain ranges – in the northeast are the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and in the southwest are the Sandia Mountains – and it also connects the Great Plains and the Río Grande Valley. These features made Galisteo a desirable trade route.The earliest known humans to inhabit Galisteo Basin were the Paleo Indians, who arrived in the area early as early as 7500 to 6000 B.C. As time went on, other ancestral peoples and Spanish explorers also made Galisteo their home. Despite its ideal area, much of the Galisteo Basin remained sparsely populated until around the 12th century.

From the late 1200s to about 1600 A.D., several large pueblos were built approximately 12 miles (19km) from the heart of where the Galisteo Basin Preserve land is today. The largest and most well-known pueblo in Galisteo Basin is the San Cristóbal Pueblo which contained five eight or nine-room blocks that were several storeys in height. It also had five ceremonial plazas, the largest of which had a ceremonial Kiva. It is estimated that the San Cristóbal Pueblo had a population ranging between 500 and 1,000 people.

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When we arrived at Galisteo, we entered via Highway 285 and travelled down Astral Valley Road until we reached the end of Southern Crescent Drive at Candid Crossing.We spent a few hours walking along and off the trails in that area to take photos of the plants. We also found evidence of ‘cowboys’ that had used once use the area – square nails and shards of glass that were patinated in shades of pink and purple. In fact, I found a chunk that had part of a drug company name that I was able to trace back to at least 1910!Later on in the afternoon we moved on to more hiking. We got back in the car and made our way to the Cowboy Shack trail head where we proceeded to trek the Shepherd’s Trail.Coming to a fork in the road at marker 19, we made a left to continue on to Eliza’s Ridge Trail and then Sophie’s Spur. Here we met a nice family and their dog who was very agile and adventurous!When we got to marker 20, we doubled back and made our way the fork where we decided to go along the trail to marker 39 where Liam’s Lark and Cinque’s Spur meet. We went this way to take a look at the valley, which was very lush and green despite the rest the trails being so sparse and rocky. We did see this neat tree along the way though!I loved Galisteo Basin so much and wanted to spend more time there. I just loved looking at all of the beautiful desert flowers and cacti (especially the cacti!), and also searching for signs and a portal back into a time gone by.There’s just something about the vastness of the desert that makes one feel free – when I close my eyes, I can imagine being there, looking out over the vista. It feels like I’m really there. I can’t wait to go back.∆ ∆ ∆

Tsankawi Village Trail, New Mexico

After our visit to Bandelier National Monument, we drove about 12 miles (19km) to Tsankawi (sank-ah-WEE) – a Tewa word meaning “village between two canyons at the clump of sharp, round cacti”. The Tsankawi Village Trail is but a small portion of the protected lands within Bandelier.Tsankawi Sign, New MexicoIn addition to being a part of the National Monument, Tsankawi is also an archaeological site that is culturally significant to the people of San Ildefonso Pueblo, who are descendants of the Ancestral Tewa people who once inhabited Tsankawi several thousand years ago.

When you enter the park, don’t forget to pick up a trail guide!Like the Frey Trail at the main park, Tsankawi Village Trail is self-guided and has various numbered markers along the way that tell you more about what you’re looking at. The loop is 1.5-miles (2.4km) in length.

A large portion of the Tsankawi trail takes hikers through various footpaths and stairways that were cut into the tuff (soft volcanic rock) by the Tewa. These footpaths provided the Tewa with safer and easier access to the mesa-top. As you walk along the routes, you can’t help but imagine what daily life would have been like.Photo by Riaz QureshiImagine walking on these in the rain or during the winter!Footpaths, Tsankawi Village Trail, New MexicoFire stone/artifact at Tsankawi Village Trail, New MexicoOnce you reach the mesa-top there is a spectacular view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the Jemez Mountains and the Río Grande Valley. It’s really a sight to see! I spent a lot of time just taking in the landscape.Tsankawi1Mesa-top, Tsankawi Village Trail, New MexicoMesa-top, Tsankawi Village Trail, New MexicoThe village portion of the trail had about 275 ground-floor rooms, many of which were only one to two storeys high. These rooms were used for everything including sleeping, cooking and storing crops and other supplies.

It is believed that the Tewa made Tsankawi their home sometime during the 1400s, where they built their houses and other structures using volcanic rock and adobe. Like the people living at the Frijoles Canyon, the people of Tsankawi took advantage of building cavates (cave dwellings) into the rock face. Many of the caves had stone buildings built out front, which helped to keep the dwellings warm in winter and cool in summer.Seeking - Tsankawi, New MexicoBecause the area receives only about 15 inches of rain per year, Tsankawi experiences periods of prolonged drought. Despite this, the Tewa found ways to thrive through foraging for native plants and cultivating beans, corn and squash.

Plants, like the Tewa people, also adapted to the dry landscape. The types of plants that can be found along the trail are typical of piñon-juniper woodlands and include piñon, yucca, rabbitbrush, salt brush, juniper and mountain mahogany. The Tewa and other Ancient Pueblo people used these plants for food, medicine, dyes, spices and tools – many of which are still used by the Pueblo people of today.Indian Paintbrush, Tsankawi, New MexicoWhile the Tewa were able to live at Tsankawi for generations at some point around the late 16th century, the Tewa left. Archaeologists believe they relocated due to heavy drought and other factors, such as the soil becoming infertile due to years of farming and the depletion of resources. It is believed the Tewa had to venture out further and further to gather even the most basic of resources including fire wood.

As time went on, the buildings fell into ruin due to the elements – the roofs collapsed, the walls crumbled and washed away. As a result, artifacts such as pottery and tools were washed away and the rubble and sand covering everything. Plants eventually began to grow all over the disturbed ground, further obscuring what was once visible.

Today you can find shards of pottery and other artifacts along the footpaths. In addition to encountering these small pieces of the past, you can also see many petroglyphs carved into the rock face.Pottery Shards at Tsankawi Village Trail, New Mexico Pictographs, Tsankawi Village Trail, New MexicoPictographs2, Tsankawi Village Trail, New MexcoMuch of Tsankawi and nearly 3,000 other archaeological sites at Bandelier remain unexcavated – only a handful have been. This is largely due to the cultural significance of the area to the San Ildefonso Pueblo, but thanks to modern technology much can be learned about the site without ever having to uncover it.Footpaths at Tsankawi Village Trail, New MexicoFor more information on Bandelier National Monument, check out my previous post!

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Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico

Despite its desert connotations, New Mexico has a landscape that ranges from seemingly endless desert to the south and dense forests to the north, to snow-capped mountain peaks and tall mesas. In O’Keeffe Country, the landscape turns to red rock, and at Bandelier National Monument it switches between rocky canyon and lush backcountry.

Its mixed landscape is just one of the reasons why we’ve wanted to go to New Mexico, plus it also provides ample opportunities for hiking – our first of which was to Bandelier.Bandelier National Monument, New MexicoBandelier National Monument visitor centreBandelier is located in Los Alamos and protects more than 33,000 acres of beautiful backcountry and more than 70 per cent of the monument is wilderness. backcountry 2, Bandelier National Monument, New Mexicobackcountry, Bandelier National Monument, New MexicoBecause of its varying elevation, ~5,000ft along the Rio Grande, to more than 10,000ft at the peak of Cerro Grande, Bandelier provides an ideal habitat for a wide range of flora and fauna.sign 2 Bandelier National Monument, New Mexicosign Bandelier National Monument, New Mexicosign 3 Bandelier National Monument, New MexicoFence lizard, Bandelier National Monument, New MexicoOn February 11, 1916, Bandelier was designated as a National Monument by then President Woodrow Wilson. It was named after Adolph Bandelier, a Swiss-American anthropologist who researched the different cultures of the area and was a big supporter of site preservation efforts.In addition to backcountry, the Monument protects Ancestral Pueblo archaeological sites, such as cave dwellings in the soft rock cliffs of the Frijoles Canyon that date back more than 800 years. Evidence of human history in Bandelier stretches back more than 10,000 years.Bohème and Bourbon beside petroglyphsBandelier National Monument, New MexicoToday, you can walk trails through the canyon, see ancient pueblos, climb ladders up into the cave dwellings and down into a Kiva, a ceremonial chamber. Along the trail are also numbered markers that correspond to information in the trail guide that tell you more about what you’re looking at.Cave dwelling, Bandelier National Monument, New MexicoBohème and Bourbon in a cave dwelling, Bandelier National Monument, New MexicoKiva at Bandelier National MonumentA hike around the Main Loop Trail of the Frijoles Canyon can easily be done in an afternoon and is very enjoyable. There is a lot of climbing involved, as the trails are located at elevations of more than 6,000ft, so be prepared with water and proper shoes.

A nice feature of this trail is that is has numbered markers along various points. If you pick up a trail guide for yourself, or borrow one from the visitor centre, you can follow along and learn more about the history of the Frijoles Canyon and Frey Trail.

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The Land of Enchantment

It’s been a little while since I’ve blogged because my boyfriend and I were away on a wonderful week-long trip to the Land of Enchantment – aka: New Mexico, USA.New Mexico True/Guest Life Magazines 2017We flew in to Albuquerque and made out way to a beautiful house in the countryside just outside of Santa Fe.

When you travel around New Mexico, you’ll be immediately impressed with its varying landscape, mesas and deeply rooted culture. It’s easy to see how the 47th state got it’s moniker. Native art, Madrid, New Mexico Native art, Madrid, New MexicoNew Mexico has Native American, Hispanic and Anglo heritage. It joined the Union on January 6, 1912. It has 33 counties. Santa Fe is the nation’s highest state capital at 7,000 feet above sea level. New Mexico is 121,589 square miles, making it the fifth largest state!Scenery, New MexicoSanta Fean Harry P. Mera designed the state flag in 1920 to highlight New Mexico’s Native American Pueblo and Nuevo México Hispano roots. It features the ancient sun symbol of the Zia people in red, in the centre of a field of yellow.The New Mexico state flag flies under the national flag of the United States From its centre, the sun symbol has four rays pointing out from the circle in four different directions. The number four is sacred to the Zia and symbolized the four points of the compass, the four seasons, the four stages of life and the four times of day.

The circle binds these elements together. The flag’s colours evoke the red and yellow of old Spain: the flags of Habsburg (the Cross of Burgundy) and the Crown of Aragon brought by the conquistadors. The flag was officially introduced in 1925 and has been used ever since.

New Mexico at a glance:
Capital: Santa Fe, founded 1610
Largest City: Albuquerque, founded 1706
State Animal: Black bear
State Bird: Roadrunner
State Flower: Yucca
State Tree: Piñon
State Vegetable: Chile and Pinto Beans (Frijoles)
State Fossil: Coelophysis
State Gem: Turquoise
State Nickname: Land of Enchantment

I’m looking forward to sharing my New Mexico adventure with you – stay tuned for more!

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Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore

The next stop on our adventure was the Johns Hopkins Homewood campus, where we walked around taking in the architecture and green spaces before heading over the Baltimore Museum of Art.Merrick Barn at Johns Hopkins UniversityJohns Hopkins University Homewood CampusJohns Hopkins University was founded in 1876, with its main campus originally located on Howard Street. Over the next few decades, the school began to outgrow its buildings and its trustees began the search for a new place for the school to call home.

A group of prominent locals came up with a solution by acquiring Homewood, the north Baltimore estate of Charles Carroll, the son of the oldest surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence. On February 22, 1902, this land was formally transferred to the university.Johns Hopkins Homewood CampusAfter some time, we found our way to the museum. I was surprised by how big it was, considering it is located on campus.Baltimore Museum of ArtSome surprising facts about the museum is that is internationally renowned for its collection of 19th-century modern and contemporary art, and that it has more than 1,000 works by Henri Matisse – the largest public holding of his works in the world! I also didn’t realize how many artists and art collectors were from Baltimore.

I love museums and art galleries, and I think the Baltimore Museum of Art is now one of my favourites. Here are some of my favourite pieces from its collection:

Green Grapes, 1877 (left) and Red Grapes, 1876
Andrew John Henry Way Luxembourg Gardens, c. 1885
Abbott Fuller GravesLady with a Fan, 1911
Thomas Wilmer DewingPaysage (A Winter Day in Brittany), 1881
William Lamb PicknellStill Life with Pitcher and Plate, 1887
Félix VallottonFrenchwoman: Portrait of a Lady from Honfleur, 1923
Leon Kroll   The Three Graces, n.d.
Dirk de Quade van RavesteynStill Life with Oranges, 1880s
Victor VignonLittle Gypsy, c. 1850
Edme-Alexis-Alfred DehodencqMy most favourite piece was La Vachère, 1888 (left) and its preceding study titled In the Grove, both by Theodore Robinson. Here I am looking at the two pieces side-by-side.

Have you been to the Baltimore Museum of Art? If so, what are some of your favourite pieces of art in its collection?