Russian Art in Washington D.C.

Marjorie Merriweather Post (1887-1973), heir to the Post cereal fortune, was the founder of Hillwood Museum and Gardens – her former twenty-five acre estate in Washington, DC. This is one of my favorite works of art that is housed in her former home.


This large painting depicts one of the most important social and political events of old Russia, a wedding uniting two families of the powerful boyar class that dominated Muscovite politics in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The artist has singled out that moment during the wedding feast when the guests toast the bridal couple with the traditional chant of “gor’ko, gor’ko,” meaning “bitter, bitter,” a reference to the wine, which has supposedly turned bitter. The newlywed couple must kiss to make the wine sweet again. The toast occurs towards the end of the feast when a roasted swan is brought in, the last dish presented before the couple retires.

For the rest of these photos I zoomed in on the painting above to get more of the detail to share…


The sumptuously attired guests at this lavish wedding feast fete the newlyweds in a candlelit dining hall replete with gleaming silver and gold and richly embroidered linens. Konstantin Makovskii painted this work in 1883, two hundred years after such an event would have occurred. The Russian revival style was quite popular at the time, as Russians were nostalgic for the traditions predating Peter the Great’s efforts to westernize the country.


Mrs. Post acquired the painting in the 1960’s. It was among her final major acquisitions as she and her curator, Marvin Ross, prepared to open her home as a museum.



On her death in 1973, Mrs. Post’s final and most important philanthropic gesture became reality when Hillwood, her last estate in Washington, DC, was bequeathed to the public as a museum. Her magnificent French and Russian collections remain on view at Hillwood Museum and Gardens, where her legacy of opulent beauty and gracious elegance continues to thrive.


I saw this next painting at the National Portrait Gallery. I was drawn to it again because of it’s Russian origin. The Samovar on the table suggests that it was a tea gathering. My parents and relatives were from the Peasant class so they never dressed up like this or had such a luxurious tea…



Many times at our Russian wedding receptions in the States the tradition of tapping our tea glasses with silverware to alert the newly wed couple that our tea was not sweet was performed. This was to inform the newlyweds they needed to stand and kiss each other to sweeten our tea.  The Russian receptions that I attended did not serve alcohol so the “tea not being sweet” replaced the “wine is bitter” Chai nye slotky is one phonetic way to pronounce “the tea is not sweet”…

Despite myself I’ve had a productive week so far. I mowed the lawn, got some laundry done, cooked some new dishes, ran errands, payed bills, picked up books at the library, and did some shopping. I’m getting ready to take a few days off to have some fun with a bloggy friend flying into town. The main event we’ll be enjoying is the Sequim Lavender Festival on Friday. Of course you’ll be seeing what we did and where we went because neither of us will be forgetting our cameras…

Have a great Wednesday! I’ll be watching the U.S. Women play France in a World Cup semi-final.

HT: Hillwood Estate Museum & Gardens Tour Guide.

About Ellen am a wife, mother, baba (grandmother) and a loyal friend. Jesus is my King and my hope is in my future with Him.

13 thoughts on “Russian Art in Washington D.C.

  1. You do such a great job educating us. I look at that first painting and wonder how long it took to paint….the detail is amazing. Have fun with your friend!

  2. These paintings tell a lot about how people dressed and their lifestyle. Without these painters we wouldn’t know all that, they were the photographers when no cameras existed.

  3. What? You come from peasant stock? Wonder if it is too late to get a refund on my plane ticket…

    If you happen to serve a bitter beverage do you think it would sweeten if Katie and Andrew share a kiss via skype?

    Worth a try, right?

  4. Reading your blog is like getting a touch of art history and Russian history all in one. Thanks for sharing these beautiful paintings.

  5. Ellen, what beautiful art. I love the color and those headdresses the people are wearing…and the gorgeous robes in the first painting. And….I shall be eagerly awaiting the appearance of the lavender festival adventure here on your blog….and on your visitor’s blog too!

  6. Post also owned some Fabrege pieces. Travel 60 miles south to Richmond, Va and view its large, permanent and on-loan Fabrege pieces. It’s more than just eggs.
    Thanks for sharing this artwork.

    • Gail, I have a couple posts on Post’s collections at Hillwood including many Fabrege pieces. I didn’t realize some of her collection was on loan permanently in Richmond…

  7. I have inherited a painting called the “Russian wedding feast” It has P512 on the back of it. It is in really good shape for it’s age. Does this have any value?

  8. I am writting for Vassa Kolmogroff who is interested in some of your Art. She has no computer so would some one contact her by telephone. Her number is 503-951-9030.

    • Well I’m sorry to say this is not my art but it belongs to the Hllwood Museum and Gardens Estate. You could possibly go on their website and purchase prints of some of these…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s