Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg
Northwestern Federal District, Russian Federation
The State Hermitage Museum (Russian: Государственный Эрмитаж) in Saint Petersburg, Russia, often simply called Hermitage, is one of the world’s largest and most famous museums of fine art, and applied arts.
Above: the southeastern facade of the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg, the main seat of the Hermitage Museum; photo: James Byrum
History and architecture
The architectural history of the Hermitage museum is deeply linked to that of the Winter Palace, the Imperial residence of the Tzars which, together with four other buildings, accommodates the museum today.
The design of the palace was commissioned in 1754 by Empress Elizabeth of Russia to Italian-born Russian architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli in order to create a sumptuous Baroque-style Royal residence on the site of a smaller palace, overlooking the Neva river, built by Peter the Great about 40 years before.
View of the Neva river in Saint Petersburg with the Winter Palace on the right, etching and watercolor by Grigoriy Kachalov and Yefim Vinogradov from a drawing by Mikhail Makhaev, ca, 1753, source: Wikimedia.
View of the Hermitage complex from the Neva river; photo: Rilaak (CC BY-SA 2.0).
After the death of Elizabeth, the new empress, Catherine II, commissioned a substantial expansion of the palace in Neoclassical forms, as well as the construction of an array of new buildings designed by Russian, Italian, and French architects, including Ivan Starov, Yuri Velten, Giacomo Quarenghi, and Jean-Baptiste Vallin de la Mothe.
Completed around 1795, the new, monumental complex – comprising, together the Winter Palace, two other palaces, and a theater – was called “Hermitage” (from a French word roughly meaning “retreat”).
One of the new palaces, the so-called Great Hermitage, was aimed to create a home for the Empress’ art collection, comprising mostly Flemish, Dutch, and Italian old master’s paintings. The collection was subsequently expanded to include also ancient sculptures, drawings, jewels, coins, and medals. In 1852, Emperor Nicholas I opened the collection to the public (although not to all, but only to selected visitors) thus establishing the first state museum in Russia. In 1917, after the Russian Revolution, the museum and the former Imperial palace were finally opened to the general public.
The Winter Palace southeastern facade today; photo: kuhnmi
The Armorial Hall of the Winter Palace, designed by architect Vasily Stasov; photo: Thibault Chappe (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).
Interior views of the Hermitage; photos: Ron Kikuchi (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).
Collection and most important works on view
The Hermitage museum holds an encyclopedic collection – encompassing fine art, decorative and applied arts, prehistoric artifacts, antiquities, numismatics, furniture, costumes, arms, and armors – which spans a time period of over 300,000 years.
A selection of objects from the collection is displayed in 38 permanent exhibition galleries.
The museum has one of the world’s largest collections of old master’s paintings, which includes works by artists of the Italian Renaissance and Mannerism (with masterpieces by Simone Martini, Fra Angelico, Filippo Lippi, Giorgione, Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Perugino, Andrea del Sarto, Titian, Leonardo da Vinci, Jacopo Pontormo, Angelo Bronzino, Giulio Romano, and Caravaggio, among others); of the Flemish art (such as Peter Paul Rubens, and Anthony van Dyck), of the Dutch Golden Age (including Jan Steen, Gerard Terborch, Paulus Potter, and Rembrandt van Rijn), and from Spain (including El Greco, Jusepe de Ribera, Francisco de Zurbaran, Diego Velazquez, Bartolome Esteban Murillo, and Francisco de Goya).
Other notable pieces on view in the museum include Egyptian, Mesopotamic, Etruscan, Hellenistic, and Roman antique artifacts; two sculptures by Antonio Canova, beautiful works of Japanese art; and various pieces of Russian and Central Asian ancient and medieval art.
The collection of modern art, on view in the General Staff Building in front of the Winter Palace, features masterpieces by Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Auguste Rodin, Wassily Kandinsky, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Jacques Lipchitz, among others.
Program of activities
The Hermitage museum also hosts temporary exhibitions, concerts, theatrical performances, ballets, and educational programs.
The museum’s building complex includes an 800,000-volume academic library, a cafe, and a gift shop.
Leonardo da Vinci, Madonna Benois, 1478-1482, oil on panel; photo: yaili (CC BY-NC 2.0).
Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi), The Lute Player, c. 1596, oil on canvas; photo: Paula Funnell (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).
Antonio Canova, Cupid and Psyche, 1794-1799; photo: Patty (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
View of the General Staff Building which accommodates the modern art collection of the Hermitage Museum; photo: Jonathan (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).
Vincent van Gogh, Thatched Cottages and Houses, 1890, oil on canvas; photo: Jaime Silva (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).
The Picasso Room in the General Staff Building; photo: Gilbert Sopakuwa (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).
Hermitage Museum, the Matisse room in the General Staff Building; photo: Lorenzo Blangiardi (CC BY-ND 2.0).
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copyright Inexhibit 2022 - ISSN: 2283-5474