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In 1937, Joseph E. Davies presented his credentials as the second U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union. Two adoring family members—his twenty-year-old daughter, Emlen Knight Davies, and his second wife of two years, Marjorie Post Davies—accompanied him to Moscow. While in the Soviet Union, the Davies created the nucleus of what was to become the largest collection of imperial Russian fine and decorative arts outside of Russia. Their passion for collecting objects with a Russian provenance or influence extended across continents and continued well after they returned to the U.S. in 1939.
For Marjorie Post Davies, who would later found Hillwood Museum in the 1970s, life in the Soviet Union from 1937–38 expanded the scope of her collecting, social and civic endeavors. It was on this trip that she began to acquire Russian decorative and liturgical art, and at Spaso House, the U.S. ambassador’s residence, that she officially entertained as a diplomatic service to her country. Presented here are objects purchased in Moscow in 1937 and 1938 that are now part of Hillwood’s permanent collection, and later acquisitions inspired by this sojourn in the Soviet Union. Many of these pieces of Russian decorative and liturgical art are currently on display in the Hillwood mansion, while others are highlighted exclusively online.