The Last Tsar: Blood and Revolution at the Science Museum

Our arts contributor Bonnie Buyuklieva gets a sneak peek at the treasures on show at the Science Museum’s latest exhibition, The Last Tsar: Blood and Revolution.

If you’ve came for some royal splendour and one of the greatest murder mysteries of the past century, then the Science Museum’s The Last Tsar: Blood & Revolution is just the ticket. But, while you’re here, why not find out about the science behind the scandal.

Curated by Dr. Natalia Sidlina and assisted by Sasha Smirnova and Lottie Dodwell, the exhibition showcases the private lives, history and forensic science that settled the mysterious disappearance of Russia’s last ruling dynasty. The collection of mostly private artefacts comes with stunning, life-sized oil portraits of the Royals and fanciful Fabergé Easter Eggs that make the Science Museum give the V&A a run for its money.

Henrik Wingstöm (1862-1923) and Vasily Zuev (1870-1942) of Peter Carl Fabergé Steel Easter Egg with “surprise” miniature on an easel. 1916. Courtesy of the Moscow Kremlin State Museums.

The Romanov murder saga is difficult to do justice to because the family and the zeitgeist of the political climate is saturated with content. This exhibition takes the angle of history written by health. Highlights include unpublished images of a fragile Prince Alexei, sole male hair to the throne, being treated for haemophilia; the family’s private medical cabinet, the Tsarina’s maternity dress and an important photo of all the children with shaved heads for their measles treatment in 1917 (which halted the family’s escape plans from Russia). It is therefore understandable, but still unfortunate that the ‘science’ of the exhibition felt underdeveloped. More forensic detail would have been welcome for the impressive 3D facial reconstruction of the skulls, issues surrounding using old and unpreserved remains for profiling and the controversy around contamination of the mitochondrial samples. But maybe that is forgivable – after all, the value of the exhibition is an occasion for curiosity and a privileged view into the difficulties faced by Russia’s last ruling royal family.

The Last Tsar: Blood & Revolution runs until 24 March 2019. For more information and to book free tickets click here.


Bonnie Buyuklieva has a background in architecture from the Bauhaus University in Weimar, Germany, and is currently researching cities for her PhD. She did interviews and was on the editorial team of “HORIZONTE - Journal for Architectural Discourse". Bonnie also writes for London Student’s arts section and contributes to the Global Lab Podcast. Her interests are in STEM, design and dance. For more information, please contact Bonnie via email: boyana.buyuklieva@gmail.com

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