Tsars and Knights, The Romanovs’ Love Affair with the Middle Ages


This catalogue forms a companion to the exhibition Tsars and Knights – The Romanovs’ Love Affair with the Middle Ages, which will be on display at the Hermitage until 9 January 2022.

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Knights and ladies, tournaments and courtly love. Around the beginning of the nineteenth century, a romantic longing for the Middle Ages awakens. There is talk of a revival of blooming knightly romanticism. To the anger of the French, Tsar Alexander III buys a famous art collection in Paris. It forms the basis for the Arsenal in the Hermitage St Petersburg. This exhibition brings the world of tsars and knights to life through objects from the European medieval art collection and the Arsenal of the Hermitage St. Petersburg. Among the many highlights are an illuminated copy of Roman de la Rose, a precious reliquary bust of Saint Thekla and some twenty full armor. A revival of a revival. You can keep falling in love with the specific romanticism of the Middle Ages.

Straight from the State Hermitage’s world-famous medieval art collection and the Arsenal, we present an amazing tale of knights and ladies, of courtly love and of chivalric tournaments. Fascination with the Middle Ages was widespread throughout nineteenth-century Europe and the tsars shared in it to the full. In 1885, Tsar Alexander III snapped up a celebrated art collection including countless medieval objets d’art just as it was to be auctioned off in Paris. The entire French art world was in shock! And Nicholas I, de ‘chivalrous tsar’, created an Arsenal filled with unique suits of armour and antique weapons.

Now, for the first time, top items from these two collections are coming to Western Europe. Star works are Hugo van der Goes’s phenomenal triptych The Adoration of the Magi and a true Garden of Earthly Delights by a follower of Hieronymus Bosch. And a host of outstanding ecclesiastical treasures, including renowned Limoges enamels. Among the real eye-openers is a magnificent, 500-year-old manuscript of the Roman de la Rose, the much-discussed, erotically charged bestseller of the Middle Ages. And, for the knight-errant or romantic medieval damsel in you: a spectacular jousting display featuring superb suits of armour – including one worn by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V!

Binding method



9789078653851, 9789078653868





Publication date

November 2020



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Tsars and Knights - The Romanovs' love affair with the middle agesTsars and Knights, The Romanovs’ Love Affair with the Middle Ages
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