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King Nikola`s Museum

 

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KING NIKOLA`S MUSEUM

 

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King Nikola’s Museum was founded in 1926, within the residence of the last Montenegrin ruler Nikola I Petrovic Njegoš, in continuation of the tradition of collecting and carefully preserving the materials on the Montenegrin past. The construction started in 1863 and was completed around 1867. However, it is known for a fact that the original purpose of the building was to accommodate the widow and daughter of Prince Danilo. After Darinka left Montenegro, this residence obtained a new function. Members of the royal family moved from Biljarda to the new “palace”, as Montenegrins used to call it. 

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The plan of the exhibition:

 

                                                                                      1. King's study

                                                                                      2. Room with the fireplace

                                                                                      3, 4, 5 i 6 The library

                                                                                      7. Indonesian sitting room 

                                                                                      8. Venetian sitting room

                                                                                      9. Large dining room                

                                                                                    10. Family dining room

                                                                                    11. King's reception room

                                                                                    12. Representative reception room

                                                                                    13. Queen's reception room

                                                                                    14. King's bedroom

                                                                                    15. Tearoom

                                                                                    16. Queen's bedroom

                                                                                    17. Room of princess Ksenija

                                                                                    18. Room of princess Vjera

                                                                                     19. Music room

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VIRTUAL TOUR

               

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Over time, the royal residence underwent several important reconstructions. The most recent alterations took place on the occasion of celebrating the Golden Jubilee in 1910, when the building obtained its final appearance. The newly established State Museum (current King Nikola’s Museum) gathered the material from the Military Museum and the National Museum, the institutions created in the nineteenth century, as well as the entire preserved inventory from the Montenegrin dynastic residences. Thus, from the very beginning of its work, it gathered in one place the most important museum material on the political, military and cultural history of Montenegro that records the state-building developments in a continuous and complex manner, from the medieval beginnings to 1918, when Montenegro as an independent country disappears from the political map of Europe.. 

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King's study

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The permanent exhibition of the museum is designed as a reconstruction of the royal residence interior, with fragmentary displays of Montenegrin past in the places where the authentic material for reconstruction of the palace ambience (study and odžaklija – the room with the fireplace) was lacking. 

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The fireplace room

The seventh ruler, Nikola I (1860-1918), with his mind and strength of a visionary, left an indelible imprint on the history of Montenegro, writing its most important pages. With his powerful personality, statesman’s wisdom and diplomatic abilities, he managed, over the 58 years he spent on the throne, to modernize the Montenegrin society and state. The time of his rule, marked as the most dynamic and complex, was the time when Montenegro was accorded international recognition (1878) and possessed great reputation among South Slavic and Balkan nations. Nikola I built schools, cultural institutions (theatres, reading-room, library, museum), established telegraph and telephone communication, improved agriculture, trade and handicrafts, built roads, brought learned and able people from abroad, which in turn had a considerable impact on the state of culture and of spiritual life in general. He died in exile, dethroned, deprived of the right to return, at Cap d’Antibe, France, on 1 March, 1921. The remnants of the Montenegrin royal couple and their daughters, princesses Ksenija and Vjera, were transferred from the Russian Orthodox Church in San Remo, after 68 years of resting in a foreign country, and buried at the Court Chapel at Cipur on 1 October, 1989.

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Weapons from the museum collection

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The collections that stand out from among the diverse museum items are those of: weapons (trophies and ceremonial pieces), decorations (Montenegrin and foreign), flags (Montenegrin and Turkish), plaques, coats-of arms, seals, photos, as well as archaeological, numismatic, art, ethnographic and applied art ones. Court library and archives have been preserved as well.

The importance of the collection of royal decorations of King Nikola’s Museum is comparable to that of the most renowned European collections. Furthermore, according to some experts on decorations, it is not inferior to the collections of the Hermitage Museum from Saint Petersburg or the Historical Museum from Vienna.

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      Collection of decorations

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Decorations related to notable Montenegrins are of particular value. These are decorations of the highest order, awarded   by European rulers to members of the Petrovic Njegoš dynasty and numerous persons from the political and cultural history of Montenegro, for different merits and on different occasions. These specially designed decorations made of precious metals and studded with precious stones were made by the best-known European medal and jewellery shops in Vienna, Rome, Paris. The variety of themes, the diversity of shapes and the refined stylistic features confirm they are the work of renowned medal makers and engravers. 

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In long and fierce battles with the Turks, Montenegrins seized a number of Turkish army flags. From late eighteenth century, the seized flags were brought to Cetinje as precious war trophies. Many of the contemporaries of Bishops Petar I and Petar II provide interesting testimonies as to the respect and treatment these flags were given. The current museum collection, the biggest in the Balkans and one of the biggest in the world, is of a remarkable and manifold importance for the cultural-historical heritage of Montenegro. It includes 44 Turkish war flags (barjak), won on the battlefields, in life-and-death struggle. The flags of all Turkish troops have been preserved, both regular and irregular ones, from all the corners of the then huge Ottoman Empire. From among them, it is necessary to point out the green flags of the Prophet under which the believers gathered when going to the holy war for the defence of Islam (jihad), and the marshal (mushirs’) flags of Turkish army commanders. The museum also has a collection of Montenegrin war flags (battalion - alaj barjak and company colours), the collection of which started only from the battle at Grahovac (1858).

Losing a flag in battle meant a moral defeat, and they were therefore guarded with life. This is best illustrated by the death of several flag-bearers. It is possible to track down the continuity of state symbols of Montenegro based on the preserved samples of royal and national flags. The two-headed eagle or lion, taken over from Byzantium and Venice, are main state symbols.

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Montenegrin and Turkish flags exhibited in the "fireplace room" together with the old Montenegrin currency Perper

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Till 1906, in everyday circulation Montenegro used the currency of the neighbouring Austria-Hungary, as well as the golden currencies of almost all European countries. That way, the state was not only financially and economically, but also politically dependent of the neighbouring empire; therefore the need to introduce its own currency emerged as an imperative. It began as smaller denominations of 1 and 2 paras as part of basic monetary unit Perper.

The Museum exhibition includes also a collection of Montenegrin stamps issued between 1874 and the end of World War I.

  

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Montenegrin stamps

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Court library, founded in late eighteenth century, was systematically and expertly enhanced concluding with 1916. This exceptionally rich collection – more than 10,000 copies – today makes an integral part of the museum exposition. Besides fiction, it includes a broad selection of books on humanities and natural sciences in all global languages. The collection also comprises extremely valuable copies of unique antique books, various publications of European academies, and bibliophile rarities with personal inscriptions by the authors and editors, in rich and luxury special edition bindings. Thus, the Turkish sultan sent to Princess Milena a luxury album of Constantinople in silver (Subsequently Obtained Manuscripts – Dispatched Letters, f. XXXI, doc.no.189, dated 24 September, 1883). 

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Court library: The Eight Voice Octoechos and one of the hand ornate diplomas

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On view are the oldest copies of incunabula from the Crnojevici printing house: Oktoih Osmoglasnik (The Eight Voice Octoechos) printed in Cetinje in 1493 (the first printed book in Southern Slavs) and one page from the illustrated book of Oktoih Petoglasnik (The Five Voice Octoechos) – unfortunately, the whole book was not preserved (this is the first Cyrillic book with illustrations). Montenegrin incunabula are characterized by beautiful and rich decoration, plenty of initials, flags and illustrations, which confirm the refined manufacture and technical perfection of the first state printing house in the world; as a “manufacture of new weapons”, it had a strong influence on Montenegrins’ spirituality in the centuries to come. At the exhibition in Meinz in 1908, devoted to old printed books, The Octoechos was declared jewel of the exhibition and attracted the attention of eminent world experts.  

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Albums exhibited in the court library

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King Nikola’s Museum possesses extremely valuable archival materials (over 100,000 documents, various papers, records and letters. These materials span the period from the beginning of the thirteenth century to the effective termination of existence of independent Montenegrin state (1916). Similar to other museum collections, it was not spared from devastation and diminishing. It was Bishop Petar II that used to say with bitterness: “with the lack of paper, pages of holy books often were used for powder-charge”. The latest devastation of the collection happened during World War I, after the exile of the royal family. At the time of leaving Montenegro, King Nikola I wanted to take these precious materials with him. However, precisely at the time of boarding the cases filled with archives on a boat in Lake Shkodër, enemy planes started bombing and prevented this attempt to take the archives out of the country. The boat drifted on the lake for a few days, until it was spotted by some Albanians, who turned the cases over to Duke Božo, the Governor of Shkodër. When he saw the contents of the cases, Duke Božo dispatched them to Kruševac, to Prince Mirko. After the Prince left for Vienna, the archives were buried in utmost secrecy in the palace garden in Cetinje, where they were exposed to most dire conditions for five years. The ruin of valuable archives represents an irreplaceable loss for the overall picture of Montenegrin history.   

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A medieval charters from the court archives

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The oldest documents are the medieval charters. Around twenty charters were preserved from the archives of Saint Nicolas Monastery at Vranjina – these are vranjicke charters and provide information on the monastery and the medieval Zeta. One of the charters from 1296 contains the first mention of Montenegro

The preserved materials include those from the times of bishops from different tribes (1517-1696), the correspondence between

the bishops and the secular rulers from the Montenegrin dynasty Petrovic Njegoš (1696-1918).

The library displays the international agreements of Montenegro regarding delimitation of frontiers with Austria and Turkey, the Concordat with the Vatican (1886), passports and legal papers – Stega (1796) and The Code of Danilo (1855).

 

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Copies of the Prince's literary works have been preserved as well (Balkanska carica -The Balkan Empress, Knjaz Arvanit - Prince Arvanit,Hajdana), translated to a dozen European languages, even to Dutch, with a circulation of 50 copies. The first copy of The Balkan Empress is displayed – this play was performed on many stages in Europe (Novi Sad, Belgrade, Berlin, Petersburg, London), printed in Cetinje in 1886. The album entitled The Petrovic Njegoš Dynasty, printed in 1910, made especially for the ruler of Montenegro, is displayed as well.  “A copy of this album, delivered by the committee to His Royal Highness Prince Nikola I, was printed on Japanese paper and bound in deluxe covers of saffian and enamel designed by prof. Bela Ssikos-Sessia in Zagreb; the enamel work for the covers was done by Ivan Bauer in Zagreb, and the silver plaque with the potraits of His Royal Highness Prince Nikola I and Princess Milena was done by Mr. Rudolf Valdec in Zagreb... The printed decorations and initials were drawn after the themes from old church manuscripts of Cetinje Monastery; the coats-of-arms were drawn after the original designs of prof. Milo Kovacevic from Cetinje.”  

     

The music books and the photocomposed edition of Ostromir’s Gospel 

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Photocomposed edition of Ostromir’s Gospel, the oldest monument of Russian literacy in Old Slavonic dating from 1056, was given as a present to Prince Nikola (Glas Crnogorca, 10th issue, 5 March, 1893).

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Indonesian and Venetian room

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The furniture collection consists of several sets possessing pure stylistic features (Louis XV, Louis XVI, secession, second empire) and a large number of individual pieces (writing-desks, armchairs, chests of drawers etc). Due to scarce information, it is not possible to determine the precise place, mode and time of their purchase. Some of the bills, however, contain such information, for example, accompanying the price of 85.90 florins for “some gold objects that arrived from Trieste for the hall to the Holy Court”, or that of 800 florins “for the payment of furniture made in Trieste for the Prince’s Palace” (National Museum, Library and Archives Department, Senate Papers, 1868, doc. no. 209, dated 15 September and 24 October). The luxury of the ambience is intensified by the gilt Venetian mirrors with pedestals, decorative screens, big armchairs (savanarola, bergere), writing-desks, billiard-table with props, card tables, easels, chests with dynastic heraldry painted or carved etc.

Precious pieces of palace furniture have been preserved (the Indonesian hall and an incomplete dining-room set with six sgabello chairs), inherited from the old palace of Prince Danilo

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Dining rooms

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The rich ethnographic-historical collection, alongside the national costumes of the Montenegrin royal couple and members of their immediate family, contains extremely valuable items from numerous notable people of the time. The beauty and picturesque of the Montenegrin costume fascinated many travel writers and artists; compared to it, they rightfully stated, no richer or more luxurious existed. Dressed in the national costume, in the country or abroad, Nikola I attracted attention wherever he went: “the Viennese cannot stop admiring the rich Montenegrin costume and even more the heroic Montenegrin pride” (Pancevac, issue 39, 17 May 1873). The collection includes also the uniforms of King Nikola and his sons Danilo, Mirko and Petar, as well as those of Montenegrin diplomats.

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The rich court inventory includes dishes and textiles (table and bed linen). These objects give the most detailed picture of the culture and the manner of court life in Cetinje, revealing refined taste and careful selection made by the Petrovic Njegoš family. Several different styles are evidently present, as well as the effort to combine them with the traditional Montenegrin elements, which gives particular charm and distinction to the interior. The furniture in the family dining room is baroque

and the cabinets contain precious German porcelain sets.

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The art collection includes paintings, prints, drawings and watercolours, and a small number of icons and sculptures. Just a glance on the collection shows a richness of themes, diversity of techniques, and presence of numerous foreign and domestic artists. This range of diverse approaches, inspirations and artistic vocations may be modest on the European scale. However, by both the number and power of artistic vocations, in Montenegrin terms it is impressive, and the authors represented are famous artists (Johannes Bes, Josef Blitz, Jaroslav Cermak, Ferdo Kikerec, Ivan Rendic, Vlaho Bukovac, Celestin Mato Medovic, Aksentije Marodic, Paja Jovanovic, Giovanni Fattori, Giuseppe Pastina, Kiprian Cej, Domenico Failutti, Frantisek Jelinek etc). .

      

  King Nikola's reception room and the diplomatic audience room

 

A number of these works of art resulted from state and political activity, such as the portraits of European rulers, or from the relations with European royalties (Savoia, Romanoff, Karadjordjevic, Batenberg, Mecklenburg-Strelitz), were obtained as presents from artists staying in Montenegro or purchased for the purpose of decorating the palace (landscapes, still-lifes, genre scenes).

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The most numerous, according to the theme, are portraits of European rulers, members of the Petrovic Njegoš dynasty and of notable Montenegrins. The collection includes a large number of landscapes, not just from Montenegro, as well as seascapes, still-lifes, historical compositions and genre scenes. After World War II, many icons that belonged to the Montenegrin court were placed in safekeeping with the church museum in Cetinje, which considerably diminished the museum collection. In the queen’s reception hall, among other things, there is a portrait of Queen Elena di Savoia, work of the Italian mosaic masters. 

  Queen's reception room 

The plaque collection, interesting for its theme, forms, stylistic features and authors, illustrates various celebrations of dynastic, state, military, political, economic and cultural nature in Montenegro. Created by famous European medal makers, originating from the period between 1893 and 1916, these plaques provide valuable information. The designers are mainly Viennese medal makers, whose rich experience in the craft of jewellery and knowledge of heraldic principles secured them plenty of work. Some items from the collection are representative. Their artistic characteristics, though, depended to a considerable extent on the wishes, needs and capacities of their clients. Portraits of Nikola I and Milena Petrovic, done by Josef Blitz and Jaroslav Cermak, are displayed in the King’s bedroom.

It is possible to talk about the court icons today based on the available information from the publications of the time, and partly from the archives. “The icon of the Kazan Mother of God in silver gilt clothing”, displayed in Queen Milena’s bedroom, was a gift from the Slavic Society (Glas Crnogorca, issue 25, 21 June 1881). Most of the collection is related to the person and rule of Nikola I Petrovic Njegoš.

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There are also many objects from the applied art collection: jewellery and decorative objects (vases), curtains and carpets.

 

 

      

The bedrooms of the princesses

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The collection of photographs, with the number of its items (includes around 11,000) and diversity of themes (historical figures, cultural events and manifestations related to the dynasty, landscapes, war scenes), possesses exceptional documentary and historical value. Visits and activities of numerous photographers from many countries, on different occasions (Edoardo Orlandini, T. Burato, Josif Singer, Rudolf Mosinger, Anton Pericevic, Rudolf Smodlaka, Eugen Pirou, Luca Comerio, Edward Bailey, Josef Wünsch, Walter Gircke etc) were recorded by the meticulous Montenegrin chronicler. Thus, the efforts of the Croatian photographer D. Šimic are recorded - he photographed all the “major scenes from 'The Balkan Empress' and sent a set of these photos to His Royal Highness the King and Master, author of the play. The photos are very nicely done and make a whole album. His Royal Highness the King and Master was so kind as to award this photographer with a gold medal” (Cetinjski vjesnik, issue 98, 11 December, 1910). That they were welcome and their work appreciated confirm the permits “allowing Mr. Henry Miliner Himphrys, Mackney Bott, English subjects, to photograph certain places that they like, during their trip from Cetinje to Rijeka, Vir and back, and it is therefore recommended to the administrative authorities not to disturb them in any way (State Archive, Ministry of Interior, 1911, f. 117, doc no. 3631 from 25 August, 1911). 

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 The stairway

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During the existence of the Montenegrin court, the art collection was enlarged by the works of the first generation of Montenegrin artists who studied at art-academies (Pero Pocek, Milo Vrbica, Ilija Šobajic, Anastas Bocaric, Marko Gregovic etc). The King’s role of the patron to young talented artists is well known - he sent them to major European art centres and allocated generous funds from the modest state budget for their scholarships. Famous European and South Slavic artists, whose coming to Montenegro and Cetinje was the sole merit of Nikola I, had a strong influence on the development of art in Montenegro.

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to the top 

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Vladin dom - National Museum of Montenegro

Historical Museum, Art Museum & Archaeology Museum in Vladin Dom

King Nikola`s Palace

King Nikola`s Museum

 

Biljarda

Njegoš`s Museum Biljarda

 

Ethnographic Museum

Ethnographic Museum

 

Gallery Dado

Montenegrin Gallery of Arts Miodrag Dado Đuric

 

Chipur church

Court church Cipur

 

Mausoleum on Lovcen

Njegoš`s Mausoleum on Lovcen

 

Orlov krs

Mausoleum of Bishop Danilo (Orlov krs)

 

Lapidarium

 

.Map of Montenegro

Map of Montegro

 

Birthhouse of Petar II Petrovic Njegos

Njegoš`s birthhouse

 

 

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