I’ve been wanting to write about St. Petersburg’s wonderful Hermitage museum for a while, but it was hard to know where to start. Should I focus on its incredible history or the fabulous architecture? (I could probably write a post on the ceilings alone.) Or should I simply focus on the art?
I’ve decided to include a little of everything in today’s post. The Hermitage museum is simply one of the most outstanding museums in the world. Only a small percentage of its actual collection is on display because of the enormity of it. Catherine the Great started the art collection that became the basis for the Hermitage, personally collecting thousands of works of art in her lifetime.
The buildings that house the Hermitage are impressive in their own right. The Winter Palace is the best-known, as it was a former residence of the Russian tsars. The walls and ceilings are, in various places, painted, covered in tiles, or gilded. The Hermitage is the only museum I remember visiting where we actually took photos of the floors (beautifully tiled or parqueted).
And the artwork is unbelievable. The Hermitage holds more French artwork than any museum outside of France. The lineup of artists includes da Vinci, Raphael, Rembrandt, el Greco, Titian, Rubens, Michelangelo, Renoir, Picasso, Matisse … and these are just a few of the artists who make up the European painting collection.
|“The Holy Family” by Raphael|
I loved everything about the Hermitage museum, but perhaps most of all I loved hearing about how the people of Russia did everything they could to protect the collection in the second world war. The Germans were advancing in 1941, and a group of dedicated artists and volunteers offered their assistance to the professionals at the Hermitage, to evacuate and/or hide as much of the artwork as possible before the siege on the city.
I’ll let the artist Liudmila Ronchevskaya finish the story in her own words:
“We had to hurry. The enemy was approaching the city. The restorers gave permission to cut paintings from their stretchers. That was quicker. But what does it mean – to cut a picture? The artists wouldn’t do it. They cut down on their rest time and sleep.”
(From Hermitage museum website)
|“Portrait of the Poet Jeremias de Decker” – Rembrandt|