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Don’t misjudge the Hermitage Museum by its name. Yes, a hermitage is the dwelling place of a hermit, and you are not one, but the building was named so because initially, only a few lucky people were permitted to enter, leading to its solitude and consequently its name.
Are you a lover of art and culture?!
Then don’t miss out on this magnificent museum in Russia- an abode to nearly 3 million priceless items from the time man used flintstones to the present presents.
It continues to grow in its collections and today has over 1,000,000 coins and similar objects, 700,000 archaeological findings, 300,000 artworks, 17,000 paintings, including those of legends like Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Picasso,etc. and 12000 sculptures. However, of these, only some are on permanent display.
Let’s take your mind on a virtual trip to this museum. When it’s over, you won’t think twice to explore this beauty with your own eyes.
Birth of the Hermitage Museum:
The Hermitage museum was built in Saint Petersburg, Russia, along the Neva River’s palace dam in the year 1754. It is the second-largest art museum in the world, occupying 12 acres of land and gardens!
All thanks to the empress Catherine II (Catherine the Great) for setting this off by purchasing a collection of 225 paintings, primarily Dutch and Flemish works, in 1764 from the Berlin merchant Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky. That was hard.
Principal among them were Frans Hal’s Portrait of a Young Man, Jan Steen’s The Idlers, and a couple of 17th century Italian pieces.
The museum was opened for the public only in 1852. It celebrates its birthday on December 7th every year, which is observed as St. Catherine’s day.
The Hermitage Family: What Makes up the Hermitage Museum?
The Hermitage Museum consists of six interconnected buildings, of which only five are opened for you: The New Hermitage, the Winter Palace, Small Hermitage, Old or Great Hermitage, and Hermitage theater from right to left.
They sound cool.
It also owns the General State Building on the Palace Square, Menshikov Palace, and the Museum of Porcelain.
The Seven Buildings: Past Life, Architecture, and Contents:
Dig deep to the roots to understand the Hermitage Museum better!
Hermitage Museum Family Dissection:
1. Winter Palace: (Built bet. 1754-1762)
The Winter Palace is a charming green, gold, and white building. This was where the Russian emperors lived till 1917.
There have been four versions of the Winter Palace, the first one being Peter the Great’s Winter Palace. He soon got bored of this and ordered the second version to be built in 1721.
Queen Catherine, the wife of Peter III, took over the throne after his death. She transformed the Winter Palace according to her taste.
An interesting fact is that it took eight years for over 4000 people, including Russian specialists, to build this enormous structure of 1500 rooms. As you can see, a lot of work and money was spent to mold it into a luxurious building- the First in the Hermitage museum complex.
In 1837, the fourth alteration was destroyed by a fire accident that lasted for three days. Valuable works and the nearby hermitages were managed to be saved.
The Winter Palace was rebuilt, and this model is the one that you see today.
Queen Catherine was equally responsible for the subsequent three palaces, which were built as an extension to accommodate her numerous art collections.
2. Old or Great Hermitage: (built bet. 1771-1787)
Look out for the horizontal and vertical lined three-story building. Yes, that’s the Great Hermitage!
This was built next to the Small Hermitage on the orders of Queen Catherine to harbor her huge library and art collections.
It’s similar to the palace in style and structure, although it is built in a neoclassical style.
Later, a gallery (Raphael Loggias) was built as an extension of the great hermitage to house the copies of the original frescoes in the Vatican. Wow!
3. Hermitage Theater: (built bet. 1783-1787)
The Hermitage Theater replaced the Russian Imperial theater of the Winter Palace. It was officially opened in 1785.
It is semi-circular, and the row of benches are arranged as in the modern cinema theater. The walls are decorated with colored marble. It is surrounded by statues of ancient Greek poets as well as Apollo and the muses.
It could accommodate only 250 spectators who were invited by the Queen during special occasions. The main performances were comedies and operas.
In between, it was turned into an administrative body. But later, it resumed its earlier functions.
4.Small Hermitage: (built bet. 1764-1775)
As a person craving entertainment, wouldn’t you like a relaxing zone of your own? Queen Catherine surely did. Small hermitage (indulging in trifles) was where queen Catherine had her part of the fun with friends and games.
This is a two-story building, which is a mixture of the baroque and neoclassical style. It has a touch of privacy. A hanging garden connects the northern and southern pavilion of this building.
This smallest member of the Hermitage museum takes pride in being the queen’s favorite and also in being the first to hold her first art purchases.
5. Menshikov Palace: (Built between 1710-1727)
The Menshikov Palace was one of the earliest buildings in St. Petersburg. In fact, it is its first stone building.
This palace is named after Alexander Menshikov, who was the first governor of St. Petersburg because the plot was gifted by Peter the Great to Menshikov. He kept his art and literary collections here.
It took nearly 20 years to build this three-story structure. The surrounding gardens are marked by statues and fountains.
The palace is simple yet beautifully crafted. The exterior walls are lined by pillars and the roof with pompous crowns.
It was opened as a public museum only in 1981.
You can broaden your knowledge of the Russian culture from the display of unique 17th and 18th centuries artworks in addition to Menshikov’s personal belongings and home accessories.
6. General Staff Building: (Built between 1820-1830)
The General Staff Building, a model of Empire-style architecture, was erected in front of the Winter Palace as a memorial to Russia’s victory over France in the Patriotic war of 1812. Hence, it is one of the notable buildings in St. Petersburg.
It comprises two separate 4-story buildings (western and eastern wing) connected by a gigantic arch going up to the fourth floor. The arch is a symbol of Russia’s military strength and success.
As the name suggests, it remained the headquarters of the general staff, foreign and finance ministry until Petersburg was replaced by Moscow as the capital in 1988.
It was later reconstructed from 2008 to 2014.
Now you can locate the headquarters of the Western Military District in the western wing and exhibitions and art collections in the eastern wing as this wing was rebuilt as an extension of the Hermitage Museum.
The second floor displays the gifts sent to the tsars and conducts exhibitions based on the Russian finance ministry.
The third floor houses the Post restoration (19th and 20th centuries) paintings, sculptures, decorative art, costumes of Europe and Russia, and the museum of 18th-century Russian guards.
You can find impressive impressionist and post-impressionist art collections on the fourth floor of the Hermitage museum.
7. New Hermitage: (built-in 1842-1851)
Opened in 1852, it is Russia’s first-ever building to store the collections of the Hermitage museum.
It is strict and lofty in style. Leo von Klenze was responsible for designing this.
You can come across Atlanta’s figures in gray granite in the entrance.
Inside, it is beautifully dressed with statues of famous artists, architects, and sculptors. Classical, Renaissance, and Baroque ornaments are a feast for your eyes.
A fascinating fact about this new museum is the rooms were designed according to the displays it contain, such as the room containing antiques was built in a classical style and the one with paintings in skylit halls.
Today, the Hermitage Museum has several branches across the world, including one in Amsterdam and in Guggenheim, Las Vegas.
Priceless Possessions of the Hermitage Museum:
The Hermitage museum has been a treasure trove of European paintings, sculptures, and applied art belonging to over seven centuries. These can be found in the four main buildings in 1000 different rooms neatly grouped according to the culture, place, and age.
It also includes drawings and prints, but you can see them only in exhibitions which are conducted in and around St. Petersburg and abroad. The present director of the museum is Mikhail Piotrovsky.
You would fall asleep if I list out all of them. So here is a small sample of all sorts of rare stuff right from coins and antiques to paintings and ancient texts to quirk you up!
Coins and Armor:
Are you an ardent coin collector? Then the knight hall’s for you! A wide array of coins and also western European arms can be spotted in the Eastern part of the New Hermitage. It would be wonderful to witness the war equipment of the heroes of old.
1. Fine Art:
The first floor of the New hermitage is home to Italian and Spanish canvases and fine art. The former belonging to the 16th-18th century is mainly those of Veronese, Murillo, etc. The latter to the 15-17 centuries consists of Michelangelo’s Crouching Boy and paintings by Alonso Cano, El Greco, etc.
These occupy a glorious place among red walls in brilliantly illuminated rooms.
2. Rich Collection of Western European Art:
Flemish, renaissance Italian (13th-16th centuries), French (15th-18th centuries), Roman, German, and Baroque Dutch paintings:
3. Bruhl Collection of 1769:
This collection comprises over 600 paintings among a multitude of drawings. Count von Bruhl made sure that the valuable works went into it.
Some of them were Rembrandt’s Portrait of an older man, Nicolas Poussin’s The Descent from the Cross, the Birth of Venus, etc.
4.Baron Pierre Crozat’s Collection:
It was rich in the French works of the 17th and 18th centuries.
The most famous works of this collection are Raphael’s Holy Family, Paolo Veronese’s Pietà, Titian’s Danae, etc.
5. German Renaissance Art Collection: (15th-18th ce.)
It consists of paintings by Lucas Cranach, Angelica Kauffman, Antoine Pesne. Portrait paintings include those of Johann Friedrich and Anton Graff.
6. Eastern Art Collection:
Get a taste of the Orient. If you are keen on Egyptian art, you can head straight to the first floor of the Eastern part of the Winter Palace. It has about 7,500 precious items ranging from coins to literary texts belonging to important periods in Egyptian history.
Over 180,000 unique items of ancient civilizations rest in 50 different rooms.
It includes works of ancient Mesopotamia, Babylon, India, China, Byzantium, and other countries of the east. Remarkable among these is its collection of Central Asian art.
Situated in Russia, the Hermitage museum has a good representation of Russian art, including decorative items, textiles, glassware, rare pieces of Russian porcelain, and furniture used in the 18th century. You can also have a glimpse of the tsars’ study and bedroom.
7. Antique Objects:
The State Hermitage Museum is also docked with a wide variety of vases (Black-figure, red-figure vases) from different places and ages (Greece, Cyprus, Bronze Age), Roman pottery, ancient jewelry, antique glass, Bronzes, Terracotta, silverware, epigraphic artifacts among others.
Eye-catching objects are the gold and silver vessels found in the burial mound of a nomadic chief dating around the three-century BC- the metal age.
You wouldn’t like to miss these relics of ancient culture, would you?
Why Should you Visit it?
The Hermitage Museum is the 8th most visited art museum in the world. Why are people keen on touring a museum which is supposed to be “boring”?
Well, the Hermitage Museum gives you a deep flavor of the culture, history, art, costumes, and the traditions of old and also the modern lifestyle of the west and the east. A visit to such centers of culture is always worth the time. It will make you wise.
Moreover, the elegance of the architecture will leave you awe-struck.
Think you cannot handle this on your own? Guides to your rescue! You can opt for the 3-4 hours private walking tour!
This could be your last opportunity to witness the ancient wonders and modern masterpieces so pay attention to the architecture and the exhibits as the guide takes you through the palaces, interior decoration, rooms, galleries, etc.
Use your phone to note down valuable information and click pictures of precious pieces!
It is the guard’s duty to give priority to your time and interest! You can stop when you wish to and ask what you want because you are the guest!
All About the Visit:
The Hermitage museum welcomes visitors on all days except Mondays. If you are a foreign visitor (not a Russian or Belarusian citizen), you will have to pay extra. Thursday is the lucky day! No one is charged on this day.
Children and students are excused from paying and can visit the Hermitage Museum for free any day!
If you are unwilling to stand in line and book tickets, you can book online via trustworthy websites. The best part of online booking is that you can cancel them within a day. Give in the number of travelers and the date of visit; pay, and here you go!
The wide range of objects from different parts of the world, each preserving their own stories and secrets, brought under one gigantic roof is a breath-taking realm indeed!
Did you get to visit the Hermitage Museum?! Then do share your experience with us in the comments section below!