Poetry and Spleen. The Victorian Female Image and Fashion from Alexandre Vassiliev’s Collection 02/07/2016 – 30/10/2016

Kumu Art Museum
Adult: Kumu Art Museum
  • Family: Kumu Art Museum
  • Discount: Kumu Art Museum
  • Adult ticket with donation: Art Museum of Estonia
Pidulik kostüüm. 19. sajand. Aleksandr Vassiljevi Fond

Poetry and Spleen. The Victorian Female Image and Fashion from Alexandre Vassiliev’s Collection

Location: 2nd floor, Great Hall

This exhibition was made possible thanks to the cooperation of Alexandre Vassiliev, a well-known fashion historian, stage designer, collector and tireless fashion promoter of Russian origin, and the foundation under his name.

Alexandre Vassiliev has created stage designs and costumes for several world-famous operas, ballets, plays and films, he has written about 40 books on the history of fashion, and he has produced documentaries, given lectures and worked on a number of fashion-related projects. He also hosts a popular style show on the Russian TV channel Ostankino. The Alexandre Vassiliev Foundation owns nearly 10,000 historical costumes from the 18th to the 20th centuries, and new items are constantly added to it. A selection of the Victorian fashion from his collection has previously been on display in Riga, Vilnius, Brussels, Paris, Sydney, Hong Kong, Tōkyō, İstanbul and Moscow.

This exhibition consists of nearly 50 costumes and more than 150 accessories, along with carefully selected colour fashion plates and photos, which convey the atmosphere of the era. The Kumu exhibition is supplemented by works of art from the collections of the Art Museum of Estonia, including a set of 19th-century fashion plates from women’s magazines published in 1845–1867 in France and Belgium; there are also photos of Baltic Germans from the photo collection of the Estonian Historical Archives.

In the history of fashion, we cannot ignore the conflict between the supporters of the French and the English, although the reign of the English queen Victoria (1837–1901) has become the universally acknowledged symbol of that 60-year period in the 19th century. Even though most haute couture was created in Paris, it spread all over the world. The evolution of a uniform fashion scene was helped by the spread of fashion plates, the invention of the Singer sewing machine, developments in the industrial mass production of clothes, and the establishment of international chains of department stores.

The Victorian era has become a symbol of romanticism, the rule of conservatism and false morality, and the lower social position of women in the 19th century. The dark side of 19th-century romantic fashion was the prevalent corset trend and uncomfortable metal frames supporting crinolines. The 19th century also witnessed the first rapid developments in fashion trends, primarily in the changes in the structures supporting skirts and the shapes of corsets. The dominant emotion was melancholy, and the poet Charles Baudelaire described this continuous feeling of melancholy by using the term spleen.

Curators: Marion Laev, Eha Komissarov
Exhibition Designer: Ursula Sõber
Graphic Designer: Kätlin Tischler
Translators: Evelina Vedom, Kadi Sutter

An exhibition in collaboration with:
Aleksandre Vassiliev Foundation

Tallinna Kaubamaja, Akzo Nobel, HP Trepp, Shishi

We thank:
Tartu Kunstimuuseum, Rahvusarhiiv, ARTE France, Mare Pedanik, Mati Schönberg, Valmar Pappel