The Talbot Collection at the Ashmolean Museum comprises more than 1,000 single-leaf prints and several albums and illustrated volumes which record the creation and development of St Petersburg as the Russian imperial capital. The collection was amassed by Gwenoch David Talbot (1883–1974), who bequeathed it to the museum, and is probably the most important holding of such material outside of Russia. The prints date from the 18th and 19th centuries and include panoramas and views of streets, parks and palaces, as well as festivals and the everyday hustle and bustle of the expanding city. Investigating the print collection in detail for the very first time, this project seeks to generate new knowledge of Russian print culture and its impact in Russia and abroad.
Through analysing and interpreting the engravings, etchings and lithographs of the Talbot Collection, the project will seek to answer the following research questions:
- How can the unique focus of the Talbot Collection on St Petersburg, the imperial capital, provide insights into political, economic and social development in 18th- and 19th-century Russia?
- What can the collection tell us about cross-cultural exchange in Russian print culture at this time?
- How did state-sponsored and entrepreneurial innovation in printmaking and print distribution help to shape responses to the new city?
- How does the printed imagery of St Petersburg relate to the wider modernisation of Russia in the period?
- To what extent were views of the city deployed in the construction of narratives of Russian identity?
While the visual culture of 18th- and 19th-century Russia is an area of growing scholarly interest, Russian print culture remains an understudied area and the Talbot Collection is largely unknown. This project will provide valuable new insights into the vitality and range of print culture in Russia at this time and will result in an online resource to make the collection accessible to the public and the wider research community. Through broad consideration of the representation of St Petersburg it has the potential to inform thinking within art and design history, and also across many disciplines including cultural studies and political and social history.
Emily Roy, University of Cambridge
Dr Catherine Whistler, Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford
Dr Rosalind Blakesley, University of Cambridge
Professor Wendy Pullan, University of Cambridge