The Year 1812

English Gold Cufflinks with Russian-Style Cloisonné Enameling

On this day 1882, under a tent in Moscow (next to the construction site of The Cathedral of Christ the Savior), Russian composer-genius Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky premiered his masterpiece The Year 1812—more popularly known as the 1812 Overture.  It had been commissioned by Tsar Alexander II to commemorate Russia’s brave defense of the motherland (and eventual victory) during the 1812 invasion of Napoleon’s Grande Armée, some 70 years before.

The French army was considered invincible.  France was the richest and most-powerful nation at the time.  And Napoleon was its bold (perhaps reckless) emperor.  The French started-off all right; after terrorizing other parts of Europe, Napoleon lead a big push into Russia.  After winning the Battle of Borodino, the French pressed-on towards Moscow, confident of victory. But when Napoleon got to Moscow, he was shocked to find it had been almost deserted—some parts burned to the ground by the Russians themselves.  There were no provisions to give his men—and winter was here!  Eventually, Napoleon was forced to give-up and retreat.  It took three months to get out of Russia.  The Russians attacked them all along the way as did starvation and disease.  Napoleon abandoned his Grande Armée which lost 90% of its men during the (mis)adventure.

The cufflinks above, though technically English, are designed in the Imperial Russian style. Perhaps The Maestro wore a similar-looking pair as he sat in that tent, hearing his wonderful creation performed for the first time.