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Attributed to Franz Krüger (Germany 1797 – 1857), Nicholas I, Emperor of Russia (1796 – 1855), c.1832, Russia, oil on canvas© The David Roche Foundation, Adelaide, South Australia.

ADELAIDE.- A new exhibition, Triumph & Tragedy: Catherine, the Romanovs & Fabergé, showcases 150 pieces of some of Russia’s most opulent pieces of decorative art from the 18th and 19th Centuries, many of which have never been seen before. 

David Roche first visited Russia in the early 1990s and was enchanted by the country, its people and its art. He spent the last two decades of his life – with the assistance of Martyn Cook – assembling a collection of nearly 100 pieces of the best Russian art. 

This collection remains the most significant collection of its type in Australia said Robert Reason, Museum Director of The David Roche Foundation House Museum

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Attributed to Johann Baptist Lampi the Elder (Austria 1751-1830), Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia (1729-1796), c. 1791, Russia, oil on canvas© The David Roche Foundation, Adelaide, South Australia.

For the first time, David’s items are on display together alongside some of the finest Russian pieces from other Australian collections, private and public. The exhibition covers the period from Catherine the Great through to the fall of the Romanov dynasty in 1917, and the tragic end of the Imperial family. 

David was particularly captivated with Catherine the Great; famed for her expansion of the Russian Empire, her attempts to Westernise Russia, and her enthusiastic collecting of art. 

David Roche first travelled to Russia in 1994 and was overwhelmed by the opulent art and palaces of St Petersburg said Robert Reason. This subsequently turned to a passion for collecting Russian art, and in almost 20 years he amassed a singularly unique collection in Australia. 

 

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Attributed to Giacomo Quarenghi (Italy 1744 – 1817), designer, Pair of 'Hercules' armchairs, c.1795, Russia, gilt wood, silk upholstery© The David Roche Foundation, Adelaide, South Australia.

This is one of the most significant exhibitions the Foundation has staged. People will have the opportunity to view not just imperial portraits, exquisite porcelain and objects that once furnished the palaces of Catherine the Great, the Romanovs and Russia’s elite but see the work of Fabergé from the finest private collections in Australia. 

Official portraits of Catherine the Great and Emperor Nicholas I reside alongside the personal hand seal of Emperor Alexander I and porcelain especially commissioned for the Hermitage and Pavlovsk Palace. 

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Malachite vase and cover, c. 1890, Russia, malachite. © The David Roche Foundation, Adelaide, South Australia.

Highlights from the exhibition include precious objects in malachite, glass and gilt-bronze from the Romanov period which highlights the internationalism of 19th century Russia. The final decades of the Russian Empire are remembered for the work of Fabergé. 

Robert Reason said David Roche’s Fabergé parasol handle from the collection of Queen Anne of Romania, the Fabergé miniature eggs and precious vases and plates from the Imperial Porcelain Factory are some of the most magnificent works in this exhibition. One of the works in the exhibition is a masterpiece which David Roche considered himself privileged to have in his collection. It is the magnificent ormolu mounted glass vase on pedestal with delicately cut edges trimmed by frosted neoclassical garlands, and a base said to imitate flowing water. He saw it as one of his greatest acquisitions.

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Carl Fabergé  (Russia 1846-1920), Henrik Wigstrom (Russia 1862-1923), Workmaster. Royal parasol handle, 1903-1917, Russia, bowenite, gold, enamel, diamond and karelian birch© The David Roche Foundation, Adelaide, South Australia.

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Carl Fabergé (Russia 1846-1920), Edward W. Schramm (Russia active 19th century), Workmaster, Samorodok (cigarette case), c. 1890, Russia, gold, diamond, enamel© The David Roche Foundation, Adelaide, South Australia.

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Fabergé Imperial Kovsh, c. 1907. On loan from a private collection© The David Roche Foundation, Adelaide, South Australia.