Showtime: Raleigh

The Romanovs at North Carolina Museum of History


The Charlotte Observer

In 1918, amid the ruins of the Russian state, the Soviets moved their new nation’s capital back to Moscow after an absence of two centuries. In the interval, the focus of the Orthodox empire was St. Petersburg — Russia’s “Window on the West,” where the Romanov tsars and tsarinas in their Winter Palace ruled the largest realm in history.

The Romanovs’ Russia was a contradiction in many ways: a backwards and impoverished state ruled by an elite that clung to tradition, yet whose fascination with Western Europe created a hybrid overlay culture of arts and crafts.

See for yourself in Raleigh, N.C..

Through March 5, the North Carolina Museum of History has twin exhibitions that focus on the splendor of imperial Russia: The Tsars’ Cabinet: Two Hundred Years of Russian Decorative Arts Under the Romanovs and Windows into Heaven: Russian Icons from the Lilly and Francis Robicsek Collection of Religious Art.

The former is a nationally touring show that points up the Russian dynasty’s taste for opulence. There’s hand-painted porcelain from the Imperial Porcelain Factory, including figurines depicting different people of different ethnic groups within the empire, pieces of imperial table service, a gem-encrusted jewel casket and a gilded silver and shaded cloisonne enamel cigar case made by the famed Russian jeweler Faberge. There are more than 230 decorative objects, spanning reigns from Peter the Great to final tsar Nicholas II.

Windows into Heaven profiles a different Russian artistry, the fascination that members of the Russian Orthodox faith had for religious icons during the Romanov centuries. The Russian faith is an offshoot of Byzantine Christianity, which formally parted ways with Roman Catholicism in 1054. Icons — whether painted or carved — are religious images created for veneration. As a focus for prayers and meditation, they serve as “windows into heaven” for believers.

They were traditionally crafted by monks and nuns and are stylized and rich with religious symbolism.

The 36 on display in Raleigh are from the 18th and 19th century Romanov heyday and are from the private collection of Dr. Francis Robiscek, the eminent, now-retired Charlotte heart surgeon, and his wife, Lilly.

The shows are adjacent on the Raleigh museum’s third floor.

The pairing of The Tsars’ Cabinet and Windows into Heaven — baubles and religious art — points up Russian artistry as well as cultural contradictions.

•  The Tsars’ Cabinet and Windows into Heaven, through March 4 at the North Carolina Museum of History, 5 E. Edenton St., Raleigh. Museum admission is free, but there’s a fee ($7; $5 for ages 7-17, 60 and older) for those exhibits. Details:

Read more Travel stories from the Miami Herald

  • The travel troubleshooter

    I was charged an extra $134 for my car because I was an hour late

    Q: I have a complaint about my recent car rental experience at Indianapolis International Airport. I’ve called Hertz and Hotwire, the online travel agency I booked this through, and didn’t get answers that make sense.

European cab drivers, like this happy one in Turkey, only expect you to round up your fare when you give them a tip.


    Tips on tipping in Europe

    Here’s a tip: Don’t stress over tipping.

The living room restaurant Caro Kookt, run by Caro van der Meulen, in the Jordaan district of Amsterdam. 2014.


    Enjoying a home-cooked meal in a stranger’s home

    The square wooden table fits just beneath the windows of the townhouse near the Anne Frank House. Tourists and locals both stroll along the stone street outside, heading toward the busy cafes of Amsterdam’s Jordan district. The dozen dinner guests inside are oblivious, sipping a lusty local wine and swapping get-to-know-you stories.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category