Saturday, February 22, 2014

Olympic Weekend

To celebrate the end of the Olympics in Sochi, Russia, this weekend the blog will focus on Russian tea traditions and porcelain.  To start us off, I want to share the beauty of Hillwood Estate, Museum, and Garden, located in Washington, D.C. This estate was the home of Marjorie Merriweather Post, who owned the Post Cereal Company, which became General Foods.  Hillwood Estate became Marjorie's showcase for entertaining in the second half of her life.  After she died, she left Hillwood to become a museum and her legacy. 

Marjorie's third husband was an ambassador to the Soviet Union in the 1930s.  While Marjorie was living there with her husband, she fell in love with Russian art and porcelain.  The Hillwood website says that she went on to assemble the largest collection of Russian Imperial Art outside of Russia.  See here for more information on the Russian Collection.

The Hillwood Mansion is magnificent and the grounds, beautiful.

As we start our tour, we enter through this door at the Motor Entrance.  For this blog, I'm focusing on the Russian porcelain displayed inside the house.  One of the first rooms we saw was the dining room, which is set with some of the Russian collection.
  Here is a close up of a place setting:

It was the breakfast room off of the dining room that really caught my fancy, however.  I could imagine having a lovely garden tea party in that room and the table was set and ready to cater to my fantasy:

After looking at the Hillwood website regarding the Russian Collection, I learned that it was very appropriate for the table to be set in this beautiful Russian service.  The chandelier that is at the very top of the picture was once in a palace belonging to Catherine the Great.  The service are pieces from the Orlov Service made by the Imperial Porcelian Factory in St. Petersburg between 1762-1765, which was during Catherine's reign.  I googled the set and found on Christie's website that the service has in the center the Cyrillic monogram 'GGO' of Count Grigorii Grigorievich Orlov.  If you follow the link, it will tell you what one plate from this service sold for in 2010.
As you continue the tour, you will eventually come to what would be one of the most exciting rooms in the house if you love beautiful dishes as much as I do, the Russian Porcelain Room.  
You can see the Russian influence in this beautiful inlay in the center of the floor.  The room was vaguely circular with the inlay the focal point and the porcelain in built in displays all around.

Before we leave the house, I should probably explain that I just touched on a very small few of the rooms and the collection.  I didn't even mention the artwork or the French services on display in other parts of the estate.

As we leave the house and travel the gardens, we soon learn that there are different themes in the gardens itself.  French gardens, walks, rose trellises, a putting green, and maybe even Some Greek or Roman influence at times

And gorgeous Japanese gardens

As you circle the gardens to the back of the house, you are greeted with this vista:

You might even come across a hothouse catering to beautiful orchids.  As you complete your circuit around the estate, you come across this little house

This is a Dacha, a Russian Country house.  Inside, Hillwood holds special exhibits on Russian culture.  During my visit, the house had an exhibit on the Romanovs.  I can just imagine guests to Hillwood during Marjorie's life, which would have been during the Cold War, coming here to see a bit of Russian culture that would otherwise have been a complete mystery.
One last thing, have I mentioned that they serve afternoon tea here on Sundays?  My family took my mother here (or she took us) for Mother's Day last year and we ended our day at the Hillwood Café having tea. 
This was actually the one disappointing thing about the trip.  We each got one of the plate above, but the food was really not that good.  They did serve Harney and Sons teas, however, including Russian country and lapsang souchong, which I did not get, which we will discuss more tomorrow.  Overall, the experience was wonderful and I would definitely recommend it.  You don't visit Hillwood to have tea, the tea is a nice way to end your visit to this beautiful museum.

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