The State Hermitage Museum
The State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg is Russia's premier art museum. It began life as the private art collection of the imperial family and was nationalised and greatly expanded after the Revolution. The Museum is housed in the buildings of the former imperial palace in the centre of St Petersburg. They comprise the Baroque Winter Palace built by Bartolemeo Rastrelli for the Empress Elizabeth, the Neoclassical Small Hermitage, Old Hermitage and Hermitage Theatre built by Vallin de la Mothe, Yuri Velten and Giacomo Quarenghi respectively for Catherine the Great and the Historicist New Hermitage built by Leo von Klenze for Nicholas I. The latter was built as a museum where the cream of the imperial collection could be shown to the public. It opened its doors in 1852 and was known as the Imperial Hermitage Museum up to 1917.
The foundation of the State Hermitage Museum is generally dated to 1764, the year when Catherine the Great bought a collection of 200 Old Master paintings from Berlin. Catherine, who reigned from 1762 to 1796, was a keen collector and her purchases are still among the most distinguished exhibits in the Museum. She bought 4,000 Old Master paintings, tens of thousands of drawings and engravings, a large collection of antique and modern sculpture and 10,000 engraved gems - her special collecting passion. She also purchased and commissioned furniture, silver, porcelain and other decorative arts on an imperial scale. The famous silver dinner service that she ordered from Roettiers in Paris for her lover Count Grigori Orlov originally comprised over 3,000 pieces.
Catherine was not the first imperial collector. Peter the Great (168...
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Permanent Collection Highlights (40)
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The main departments of the Museum are as follows:
The Department of Western European Art
This has been the largest and most important section of the Hermitage collection from the time of Catherine the Great's first purchases onwards. It acquired its present name after the fine and decorative arts collections were combined in 1930 and curates 7,869 paintings, 2,100 sculptures, more than 525,000 prints and drawings, and 60,000 examples of the decorative arts, including silver, porcelain and furniture. Among the most famous features of the department are the Rembrandts (more than 20 works) and the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist pictures - including Picasso and Matisse - from the former Shchukin and Morosov collections. There are also paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Titian and Giorgione among other Italian masters, a superb collection of 17th century Dutch and Flemish paintings and the best collection of French art outside the Louvre.
The Oriental Department
The first new department to be created after the Revolution, it was established in 1920, under the direction of the future Museum director, Iosif Orbeli. Exhibits were gathered from institutions all over Russia representing the cultures of Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Byzantium, Iran, Central Asia, the Caucasus, China, Japan and India. The Sassanian silver collection is world famous, as are the collections of Coptic textiles and Persian carpets. The scholarly publications of the department have won it a world wide reputation.
The Department of Russian Culture
Opened in 1941, this department curates Russian works of art from the 6th to the 20th centuries. It has portrait paintings and views a...+ [ Read all ]
The Museum owns one of the world's greatest collections of Old Master paintings, important Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works, Classical antiquities, European and Russian applied arts, Oriental art and items excavated by archaeologists throughout the former Soviet Union. Since 1981 the Museum has also had charge of the Menshikov Palace on Vassilevski Island where the curators have mounted an exhibition devoted to Russian life in the first third of the 18th century.
A new storage facility at Staraya Derevnya, on the outskirts of the city, was opened in 2003. The Porcelain Museum in the Lomonosov Porcelain Factory is another branch of the Hermitage, as are the Museums of Heraldry and of Awards and Decorations in the Constantine Palace. The Hermitage was also allocated the East wing of the General Staff Building on Palace Square in the 1980s and intends to create a new museum of 19th and 20th century art there.
Today the Museum's collection runs to some three million items, compared to one million in 1917. The State Hermitage Museum has ten curatorial departments including a large, and very active, education department which runs courses for school children, as well as tours and lectures for adults. The director of the museum, Prof Mikhail B. Piotrovsky, has seven deputies, each in charge of a different sector of the Museum's activities. The staff of the Museum totals some 1,500, including 150 specialist curators and 120 guides.
Museum internal and external photos (16)
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The Research Library
The library began with an accumulation of books acquired by Catherine the Great, a voracious reader, and now contains more than 600,000 volumes in Russian as well as in other European and Oriental languages. In addition to the best art reference library in the country there is a Rare Books and Manuscripts Room, containing some 10,000 items, including a collection of book bindings and many rare periodicals.
All aspects of the Hermitage's activity are documented in the archives. There are documents relating to the imperial Hermitage from 1767 onwards as well as State Hermitage papers from 1917 to the present day. There are over 24,000 items relating to acquisitions, staff appointments, restoration work and archaeological digs.
The Education Department
This department was founded in 1925 and has close links to the St Petersburg school system. The School Centre runs a drawing workshop for 5 to 10 year olds, 46 study groups and 2 clubs - the Young Archaeologists' Club and the Art Lovers' Club. Children can join the Hermitage archaeological digs and take part in their own annual exhibition, 'We draw in the Hermitage'. The department runs evening classes for adults and university students which are attended by more than 6,000 people a year, as well as organising a three-year university course in the history of fine art. The staff conduct between 24,000 and 26,000 guided tours of the Hermitage every year and give some 800 lectures, some in the Hermitage itself and some in lecture halls in other parts of the city. The department writes its own guidebooks and brochures, as well as preparing audio guides, videos and CD Roms.+ [ Read all ]