CYCLE ARTICLES ABOUT SAINT-PETERSBURG
The Hermitage is rightfully considered to be the main sightseeing attraction of Saint-Petersburg. Long ago this huge museum became world-famous and took its place along with Metropolitan, Louvre and the British Museum.
Halls of the Hermitage host the richest collection of exhibits and nowadays it is the most frequently attended museum in the whole world. The collection counts more than 3 000 000 exhibits, including sculptures, paintings, drawings, engravings, and numismatic collections, antique valuables, books and medals, carved precious stones, articles of decorative and applied arts, and many other works of art of various epochs and styles. In order to see all the expositions, you have to walk 20 km, and if you watch each exhibit for a minute, it will take you 8 years to watch the whole collection.
The Hermitage Museum consists of five beautiful buildings, which are the Winter Palace (architect B.F.Rastrelli), the Small Hermitage (architect Zh.B.M.Vallen-delamot), the New Hermitage (architect L.von Klenze), the Big Hermitage (architect Y.M.Felten) and the Hermitage Theater (architect J.Kvarengi).
The Hermitage collection includes expositions of East Department, Antique World Department, and Department of primitive culture, Western European Department, Department of Russian culture history (that includes palace interiors, the Winter Palace and Palace of Menshikov), Department of Numismatics, “Golden Storehouse”.
The History of Hermitage Creation
In translation from French «ermitage» means “Solitary place”. In one of the Small Hermitage rooms there was a room organized especially for Ekaterina II. When laid, these tables raised from the ground floor. Thus, the empress could have lunch on her own, without servers’ help.
The huge Winter Palace seemed to Ekaterina II uncomfortable and she gave an order to build a “small private place”. Rather soon a new building was constructed close to the Winter Yard. Here, there were located show rooms where the empress received her guests. The Southern part of the building was favorites’ apartments, so it was called “Favorites’ Building”. This building was decorated with hanging gardens which is why it was called the Orchard-house. A bit later the construction was finished with the Northern Pavilion. The Orchard-house façade was decorated with columns, sculptures, bass-reliefs, performed in the style of Ekaterina’s classicism. Construction of this palace lasted for 11 years.
The Empress loved to spend time here. In the evenings guests played games, conversed, organized performances. Ekaterina II called them “small hermitage gatherings” which gave the name to the palace – the Small Hermitage.
In 1764German merchant Gontsovskiy presented the Empress with a collection of his paintings (that included 225 exhibits) as a return of his debt.These paintings were placed in the halls of the Small Hermitage which laid the beginning to the museum collection. Ekaterina II was a true devotee of art. Originally, she stored a huge collection of paintings and books in the Small Hermitage, and having received the present of the German merchant, the Empress gave an order to buy up all the valuable works of art in foreign auctions. One of the oldest exhibits of the Small Hermitage is a mechanic clock “Peacock” which is a present from count Grigoriy Orlov to Ekaterina II. Rather soon the premises of the Small Hermitage were not enough to place all the exhibits. That caused an idea to build the Old and the Big Hermitages.
It took 17 years to construct the Old Hermitage. It is a huge and beautiful building whose ground floor was aimed to host the Council of Ministers and the State Council. Walls of the big mezzanine hall are decorated with portraits of famous Russian commanders. A lot of premises in the Old Hermitage are adorned with marble columns and pilasters with gilded and bronze ornament, fire-places decorated with azure stone, and six doors of the palace are made of the elements of turtle carapaces. The only collection of Leonardo da Vinci works represented in Russia is located in the halls of the Old Hermitage.
Later on, the museum collection was accomplished with paintings by Rubens and Van Dyke. Apart from these, wonderful sculptures were brought from England. They adorned Tsarskoye Selo and the Hermitage. Due to Russian ambassador in France D.Golitsyn, such genius works as “Vakha” by Rubens, “Yudif” by Gorgon, “The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Rembrandt and many others appeared in the Hermitage.
Ekaterina II gathered more than 4000 paintings that were located in country palaces and in the Hermitage. New exhibits were added to the collection by Alexander I and Nicolay I who opened the Military Gallery in 1812 in order to honor heroes of the Patriotic War of 1812.
The museum survived a fire that caught a part of the Palace in December 1837. Unfortunately, some exhibits of the museum were lost. After the revolution, the collection of works of art in the Hermitage increased four times. Other premises were given to the museum, namely the Hermitage Theater, the Old and the Small Hermitages, the Winter Palace that used to be the residency of Tsar Family. During the Great Patriotic War the whole collection was evacuated to the city of Sverdlovsk.
The Museum Complex has been still developing and its annual number of visitors amounts to more than three million.
Unique Atmosphere of the Hermitage Halls
Internal finery of the halls and galleries of the museum represent various epochs of painting and architectural appearance creating a unique atmosphere in each corner of the Hermitage.
Majestic entrance halls are decorated with columns and a harmoniously designed Jordanian staircase which has barely changed its original appearance. This stairs received its name in honor of water blessing ceremony in the Neva. Ascents of this staircase lead to the Big Hall whose size is 1103 sq.m. This hall consists of three rooms located along the Neva-river. From here you can come to the majestic Concert Hall. From the side passage of the Jordanian staircase you can enter the Field-Marshal’s Hall. This hall received its name due to the fact that portraits of Russian field-marshals used to adorn its niches. The next hall in the route is the Petrovsky Hall, where the Tsar silver throne made in England is located. Emblems of all the Russian governments decorate the chandeliers of the governments’ hall.
White, Malachite, Big Throne or Georgiy, Alexander Halls, Golden parlor… each hall, each room… all they distinguish with incredible luxury and splendor, accomplished with carved gilded furniture, vases, stand lamps, tabletops of semiprecious stones. The peculiarity of all the Hermitage halls is special refinement and pageantry.
Nowadays, the Hermitage is a huge Palace-museum having magnificent and luxurious interiors, and unique exhibits; it is historically significant and valuable monument of museum culture of the world level. For everyone coming to Saint-Petersburg a visit to the Hermitage is a must.