The exhibition called «Peter the Great, a Tsar in France. 1717» will be on display in the Grand Trianon from 30 May to 24 September 2017. It is dedicated to Tsar Peter the Great’s trip in and around Paris in May and June 1717, and will commemorate the 300th anniversary of this diplomatic visit. The fruit of exceptional collaboration between the Palace of Versailles and the Hermitage Museum, the exhibition will present over 150 works including paintings, sculptures, decorative artworks and tapestries, as well as plans, medallions, scientific instruments, books and manuscripts, two thirds of which belong to the collections of the prestigious museum in Saint Petersburg.
A member of the house of Romanov and son of Tsar Alexis Mikhailovich (1645-1676) and Nataliya Naryshkina (1651 – 1694), Peter I (1672-1725) embarked on a second journey to the West 20 years after the « Grand Embassy » which took him to Europe for the first time in 1697-1698. He arrived in France on 21 April 1717 and remained until 21 June. He stayed at Versailles twice and was accommodated in the Grand Trianon, from 24 to 26 May and from 3 to 11 June 1717. The exhibition visit will lead visitors step by step through the trip which, although official, nonetheless allowed a certain amount of freedom since Peter I, being little accustomed to French Etiquette and with his imposing figure and unpredictability, departed from protocol on multiple occasions. His encounter with Louis XV particularly shocked onlookers when, flouting the ceremonial custom of the court, he spontaneously took the young king, aged 7, in his arms. A number of memorialists, including Saint-Simon, the Marquis de Dangeau and Jean Buvat, left precious testimonies allowing us to retrace the journey.
Although there were political and economic aims to the stay, such as a project for an alliance with France against Sweden and the signature of a trade agreement, the reforming Tsar and founder of modern Russia most particularly wanted to see the finest of France in order to adapt certain models for his own empire. During the two months that Peter the Great spent in Regency Paris, his visits and discussions with French people provided him with food for thought and had an influence on the works he started in 1703 in Saint Petersburg and the surrounding area.
Gwenola Firmin, Curator in charge of 18th-century paintings at the Musée National des Châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon
Thierry Sarmant, Head Curator, Head of the Historical Centre for Archives, Defence Historical Department
George Vilinbakhov, Vice-Director of the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg