Stories We Tell Ourselves

Well, it’s 2019 and still no flying cars but I can access all the information mankind has ever produced from thin air.  The future is, um, interesting.

Anyway, that’s not what the fireside chat is about this evening (morning, afternoon depending on your time zone).  I spend the part of the holiday hiatus in old New York.  I was going to entitle this entry “sometimes I don’t hate New York, part the second,” but then I couldn’t get a narrative thread around that and the pictures I took so I chose the title up there.

Of course part of my time in New York was spent at the Metropolitan museum.  I’ve always wondered if I actually like going to museums or if it’s just kind of become part of my life.

But the Met is different.  I kind of grew up there and I do love the place.  And whenever I go to the Temple of Dendur, I say “Joan Rivers carved her initials into that when she was a little girl.”  No, that’s not original.  I got that from Chris March on Project Runway.

Anyway, on this visit I went to the Petrie sculpture garden, to see the Faberge eggs and to a Delacroix exhibit.  I know.  It sounds like the itinerary of a louche aristocrat.

First the Faberge eggs.  We’re about to go off on a long tangent about the Romanovs here so keep scrolling if this doesn’t interest you.

So you decided to keep reading.  I’m very happy.  So the Romanovs.  I blame YouTube for this particular obsession.  I watched a documentary about King Christian IX of Denmark.  I know.  A normal sort of thing to do I guess.  He was a Danish King so this was two obsessions of mine united.  Then YouTube decided that I should watch a documentary about the Romanovs.  And then another.  And another.  I had no choice.  YouTube decided for me.

So I had heard about the Romanovs over the years.  Czar Nicolas was first cousins with King George V of England.  Czar Nicolas’s children were related to Prince Philip in some kind of crazy, circuitous manner.  Somehow someone with the colorful name Marchioness of Milford Haven is involved and related here too.

I always wondered why the Russian czar was related to the King of England and at the same time Prince Philip and my favorite royal rascal and First Sea Lord (best job title ever) Louis Mountbatten.

Here’s a picture I’ve always found to be really haunting:


The kings look like twins.  That’s the young Edward VIII, who would leave behind the trappings of monarchy, into a life of exile with Wallis of Baltimore.  And poor tragic little Alexei.

Anyway so off I went into this deep dive into (kind of) contemporary Russian history.  So Czar Nicolas’s mother was Danish (a daughter of Christian IX) and his dad was Russian but really he was German and Prussian and probably a mix of other things.  Czar Nicolas spoke Russian with a German accent and communicated with his (kind of) German wife in English.  How could you have a monarch of a country that didn’t have a drop of the country’s blood in him?

It seemed like Queen Victoria and Christian IX ran a kind of royal intermarriage study abroad system where the various royals were married into the thrones of Europe, interconnecting them.  What could possibly go wrong???

The deeper I got into my investigating, the stranger it all seemed.  Czar Nicolas’s children, about whom much has been written, were the first cousins of all the major thrones of Europe.  There’s even a story of how the great Sea Lord (again, best job title ever) had a school boy crush on Grand Duchess Maria.  Oh how history could have been different if that match had come to pass.  Here they are, Maria forever young and the fresh faced Sea Lord:


Welcome Sea Lord to my blog.  Hope you find your stay welcoming and comfortable.

As everyone knows, the end of the Romanovs story is shocking and incredibly sad.  Again, connected to my new obsession, I’ve been looking at photos of the young family.  They look like 19th century figures trapped in a 20th century world.

Ok ok ok back to the Met.  If you’re here and you avoided the Romanov tangent, there will be photos upcoming.

So at the Met there is a small collection of Faberge eggs.  Peter Faberge produced jewel encrusted eggs and knick knacks for the royal family.  In one, there is a picture of Grand Duchess Tatiana.  What I find to be so remarkable is that these relics of Imperial Russia are just in a corner.  They are on the way to the elevator to the roof garden.  Until my obsession with the Romanovs was in full swing, I must have passed them a million times.

What strikes me as even more remarkable is that my mother, in the midst of my spelunking into the Romanovs told me that my grandfather’s family, her father had had to flee Russia because of the Revolution.  My great grandfather was a customs officer in the Czarist government and when the Czar fell, the family had to flee.  I had never known this and I’m pretty sure I would have spent a lot of time quizzing my grandfather about what life was like under Czarist rule.

I bet Grand Duchess Tatiana never imagined that a person whose grandfather had had to flee Russia because of the abdication of her father would be looking at her picture on a Faberge egg in a corner of a museum in New York, of all places.

new york metropolitan museum of art faberge egg 2new york metropolitan museum of art faberge eggnew york metropolitan museum of art faberge exhibit grand duchess tatiananew york metropolitan museum of art faberge frames

I purposely avoided the bit in the Romanovs’ story about the entanglement with Rasputin.  There was though a picture of Princess Irina Yusupov in a separate jewelry exhibit.  The name Yusupov also figures into the Romanov story as the assassin of  Rasputin was Prince Felix Yusupov.  I wish I had more time to delve into him.  That was a baller before the word baller was even used.  This was a guy whose father gave his mother the tallest peak in Armenia as a birthday gift.  Yusupov went to Cambridge with a retinue of servants and a French couple to cook all of his meals.

What struck me as well was how small and insignificant these two individuals were, how they were footnotes in history.  How very very very sad.

Ok, history lesson over.  This part will be more pictographically centered.

First, Petrie Court and the Greek and Roman statues.  The place where I play this game where I try to find people to “react” to the statues.  Was I successful?  You be the judge:

Then my other favorite game.  The exhibits are full of people and I prefer to focus on them when I photograph the exhibits.  Sure the Delacroix exhibit was lovely and the Armenian exhibit was interesting, but for me, people watching is much better:

And let me throw this last one in there because — THIS GUY IS SO HANDSOME!!!!!!!  Yeah.  We started with a deep dive into Russian history and at the end we’re here gawking at a guy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Well, you made it to the end.  Congratulations, although there will be a history quiz soon!!!!!!!

new york metropolitan museum of art delacroix exhibit 3

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