According to the photographer Robert Capa, museums were the churches of the Soviet Union, where he spent a month in 1946 with John Steinbeck. Here they traipse around the royal museum weighing up the regal bling, wonderfully described as the ‘claptrap of monarchy’, and the conclusion this elicits about taste among royalty.

Apologies to all aristos.

‘And we saw the museum where the armor, the plate, the weapons, the china services, the costumes, and the royal gifts for five hundred years were stored. There were huge crowns covered with diamonds and emeralds, there was the big sledge of Catherine the Great. We saw the fur garments and the fantastic armor of the old boyars. There were the gifts sent by other royal houses to the czars – a great silver dog sent by Queen Elizabeth, presents of German silver and china from Frederick the Great to Catherine, the swords of honor, the incredible claptrap of monarchy.

 

It became apparent, after looking at the royal museum, that bad taste, far from being undesirable in royalty, is an absolute necessity.’

 

Source: John Steinbeck, A Russian Journal, with photographs by Robert Capa (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1999 (1948)), pp. 204-05

Photo credit: pixel2013 at pixabay

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