A beginner’s guide to the Hermitage Museum
In true imperial style, Russia’s most exquisite art gallery can be quite intimidating. Housing over three million items dating from the Stone Age to the present day, it’s wise to arrive with a plan of action.
The Hermitage saw the dawn of light in 1764, when Catherine the Great bought a collection of over 200 paintings from a visiting merchant. During her reign she collected 4,000 works of art and her followers inherited her passion for art. Now it is a modern collection that fills 1,000 rooms. Make your way around this art extravaganza with our beginner’s guide.
The masters of both old and new
Paris may have its Mona Lisa, but St Petersburg has its fair share of Da Vinci masterpieces, including two celebrated depictions of Madonna and Child. The museum also has an impressive collection of Rembrandt paintings, including Return of the Prodigal Son and The Adoration of the Magi, as well as pieces by Raphael and Michelangelo.
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If you’re interested in modern and impressionist art, seek out the museum’s extensive Matisse exhibition. The highlights have to be Musicand Dance; groundbreaking works commissioned by a Moscow philanthropist at the turn of the 20th century. The museum also boasts a fantastic selection of Picasso paintings, covering the artist’s early work as well as his famous ‘Blue’ period.
Nothing like the classics
Once you’ve had your fill of big names and bigger canvases, turn to the art of Ancient Greece, including tombs with bas reliefs and painted ceramics. Moving directly forwards through history, the Ancient Rome collection showcases pieces from the Republic to the late days of the Empire. Look out for the marble sculptures of Roman Emperors and other notables.
In the Armourer’s Art of the Middle East collection, spanning the 15th-19th centuries, you’ll find intricate weapons and armour from Arabia, the Ottoman Empire, North Africa and Iran. Some were presented as gifts; others are spoils of war.
Not to be outdone, the Hermitage architecture regularly rivals its art. The Pavilion Hall features mosaic floors, 23 sparkling chandeliers and an 18th-century clock with gilded peacocks and a cockerel which crows the hour. The astonishing Jordan Staircase of the Winter Palace has an 18th-century ceiling depicting Greek Gods at Olympus.
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The granite Statues of Atlantes, which stand outside the New Hermitage building, represent famous artists, scientists and philosophers. Other rooms offer insight into the life of Russia’s royalty, such as Peter’s Room (with throne and footstool used by Peter the Great) and the Private Rooms of Empress Maria Alexandrovna in the Winter Palace.
If you don’t trust your instincts to lead you straight to the Hermitage’s treasures, the museum tour ensures you’ll see all of the key pieces without getting lost. You won’t be able to truly experience it all in just a day, but at just 20 minutes’ drive from the museum complex, our Park Inn by Radisson Pribaltiyskaya St. Petersburg makes it easy to keep coming back for more. Centrally located in St. Petersburg you will also find the Park Inn by Radisson Nevsky St. Petersburg Hotel.