The exhibition begins with archaeological material of the twelfth to seventeenth century found on excavation sites in Moscow. The fifteenth and sixteenth centuries are represented in the Hermitage by a limited number of items, reflecting but a few of the aspects of the cultural development of Muscovite Russia, a strong centralized state which had unified the: various’ lands of Russia.
Particularly deserving of attention are the fifteenth century icons Scenes from the Life of St Nicholas of Zaralsk, Scenes from the Life of St Demetrius the Warrior, The Last Judgement, a sixteenth century icon, and some details of architectural decoration and fragments of ornamented stone slabs. Among the examples of craft work are some specimens of sixteenth century silversmiths’ art notable for the great skill with which they were made. Two works, The Apostle and The Bible, by the first Russian printer, Ivan Fio-dorov, indicate the development of printing in Russia (horizontal case near the window). The adjacent case contains hand-written and printed books dating from the seventeenth century – an alphabet book by Karion Istomin and a grammar by Melety Smotritsky, in which the traditional Church Slavonic texts are rendered less formal by the introduction of colloquial Russian forms. The visitor’s attention will be aroused by the hand-written book, Tltullarnlk (a book of titles), which is decorated with water-colour portraits of Russian grand princes, tsars, and also Western European monarchs. The Tltullarnik was commissioned by tsar Alexey Mikhailovich for the young Peter.
One of the most outstanding items in the exhibition is the map of Siberia, painted on cloth in 1698 by the scholar and geographer Remezov, who adhered to the system of Oriental cartographers and placed the south uppermost, the north at the bottom, the west on the right and the east on the left. The map amply conveys the peculiar features of this distant region, indicates the towns of Tobolsk, Irkutsk and Krasnoyarsk, and the settlements and nomad encampments of the Yakuts, Evenks and Chukchi.
The exhibition ends with a display of late seventeenth century art, in which of particular interest is the icon St John the Winged Precursor painted in 1689 by Tikhon Filatyev, a fine painter of the Moscow school.