Catherine Oxenberg and Treasures of Russia
Fourteen Picture Photo Spread
Photographs By Laura Deni
FAMILY LEGACY. At the age of 4, Princess Elizabeth (Catherine's
mother), the youngest of three children, was exiled to Kenya with her parents - the late Prince
Paul and Princess Olga of Yugoslavia - following the 1941 coup in Yugoslavia. Catherine's
mother met her father, businessman Howard Oxenberg on the ski slopes of Austria, eloping with
him at the age of 23. Following Elizabeth's divorce from Oxenberg, Catherine, who was born Sept.
22, 1961 in New York City, and her sister and mother moved to London. Oxenberg played
Amanda on Dynasty, a show which she says her mother's second counsin, Prince Charles
of England "absolutely loves." Catherine told me that, in viewing the Treasures of Russia, marked
the first time she had ever seen the treasures which had once belonged to her family.
CHANTICLEER EGG. Among only 44 existing Faberge eggs in the
world, this monumental egg in the French neo-classic style is, after the Uspensky cathedral Egg
of 1904, the largest Faberge Easter egg known today. All Faberge eggs contain surprises. The
surprise contained beneath a gold grille atop the egg, is a naturalistically enameled Chanticleer
(rooster). which emerges automatically, bobbing its head and flapping its wings to crow the hour.
Presented by Czar Nicholas II to his mother, Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna on Easter
1903. It is made from two-color gold, enamel, diamonds and pearls. The height is 12 5/8 inches
when open. The key is the origional. While most of the treasures shown in the exhibit are
borrowed from the Palace of Peterhof, the Chanticlear egg is on loan from the prestigious Forbes
Magazine Collection in New York.
CATHERINE'S daughter, India, points to the Chanticleer Egg while
she is held up to the viewing window by Los Angeles based Jeffrey Kowalczyk, vice president of
promotions and developmentt for Year 2 K Communications, which has the Rio hotel as a client.
Catherine gives her daughter a history of their family.
While walking from one priceless treasure to the next, India played with
plastic Marti Gras beads.The Rio Hotel features Masquerade Parades in which customers along
with 36 costumed performers, ride fantasy floats as they glide above the casino crowd in five
different themed parades.. Plastic beads are thrown to bystanders, who tend to treasure them as if
they were priceless. India and her mother enjoyed that before coming to the exhibit. Catherine
told me that her most prized treasure is her daughter, confessing; "I'd like to have
another baby right away."
CORONATION THRONES of Peter the Great (1682-1725) which has
never been seen outside of Russia, Empress Maira Alexandrovna and Nicholas II (1894-1917).
The exhibit also includes; The Coronation Book of Empress Alexander 111 (1881-94) and
Empress Maria Alexandrovna, never before exhibited; The Potsdam Goblet; The nightshirt Paul 1
(1796-1801) was wearing the night he was murdered. Never seen outside of Russia, the garment
still has blood stains.
THE EXHIBIT gives a comprehensive look at the legacy of the
200-year Romanov dynasty, featuring collections of paintings, porcelains, tapestries, furniture,
jewerly, gowns and religious artifacts. Paintings on displays include those of Grand Princess
Alexandra and Maria which have never been seen in America
AWE-STRUCK - Catherine Oxenberg provided a fascinating commentary
on her family's history. Catherine the Great was actually born in Poland and left to marry Czar
Peter 111, who was later killed in an overthrow at her command. She was then crowned Empress
of All Russia. "I was named for her," said Oxenberg, "so I've always had an affinity for her." As
she viewed the various exhibits she's say -- "Oh, I remember reading about that in my
grandmother's diary!" When we passed the recreation of the Train Car of the Abdication of
Nicholas 11, Catherine told her daughter an interesting account of how the her female ancesters
survived. "She was determined. She'd sewn her jewels in the hems of her clothes." Jeffrey
Kowalczyk quipped, "Do you do that Catherine?" The actress waved her left hand to show off
the hugh diamond she was wearing and replied, "I like to flaunt mine!"
THE FULL DRESS UNIFORM of Peter the Great is on display as well
as magnificent costumes of Emperors Peter 1, Peter 111, Alexander 1, Nicolas 11 as well as other
members of the royal family. During this time period the Russian Orthodox Church viewed hair
as a gift from God, not to be cut. Contrary to this, Peter the Great forced his subjects to shave
their beards and in fact levied heavily taxes for such "beard-wearing." Likewise, he forced his
courtiers to smoke tobacco -a very European custom at the time.
THE WHITE BANQUETING HALL features the largest display of
porcelain, including table settings from The Imperial Porcelain Factory; the "Husk Service," the
royal dining setting commissioned by Catherine the Great from the famous English ceramist Josiah
Wedgwood. With more than 350 pieces of porcelain, the display includes the Guryev Service,
the most magnificant of Russian porcelain; The Ropsha Service; and The Batenin Service.
INDIA is a charming, well behaved 7-year-old, who spent two hours with
her mother viewing all of the exhibits. She gazed with interest and listened thoughtfully as her
mother described the history of the artifacts they were both viewing for the first time. "I hope
she's not too young to remember this," worried Catherine. "I'm going to keep reminding her of
CATHERINE told me that her ancestors had purchased two castles
with their own money - the palaces confiscated by the government. There was even a diamond
mine. "I would love to have that back,"she exclaimed. "My mother still has some of the most
gorgeous dinnerware, it's solid gold and some sauce pots which are white with gold leaves." As
for herself, Catherine said her own dinnerware is from Italy.
GRACING the gallery's entrance, an exquisite black coral sculpture of
Peter the Great was created by Bernard K. Passman. Worth over $1 million, the figure's head and
hands are crafted in 24 k gold, and the body and armor is accented with rare black coral,
platinum, diamonds, pearls, pink gold and rubies. Passman told me there are 1,400 pieces in the
creation which took four months to complete. His works have been on display worldwide,
including such prestigious private art collections as the Pope and Prince Charles.
ARTIST Bernard K. Passman, now a resident of New Orleans, is a
great admirer of Peter the Great. "The ruler was nearly seven feet tall at a time when the average
height for a man was 5 feet,. 6 inches. He was a wonderful man. He was passionate about
Western culture. He not only visited the West, but worked there. Traveling incognito, he spent
several months laboring in Dutch and English dockyards. He's the person responsible for the
wedding kiss. He raised women's standing by declaring that they did not have to remain in
seclusion and permitted them to be present with the men at dinners and special occasions. He also
changed the "wielding whip" cermony at weddings, and replacing it with a kiss. Prior to that, the
groom was presented with a whip - for him to use to beat his wife should she forget to "obey."
NINA VEMOVA, the attractive vice director of the State Museum
Reserve-Peterhof in Russia, was instrumental in setting up the Treasures of Russia
displays. She graciously showed Catherine many of the priceless items. Tickets to attend this
once-in-a-lifetime exhibition at the Rio Hotel, Las Vegas can be purchased over the Internet. The
Hotel reports that responses have been received from Germany, England, France, Russia and the
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