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St. Petersburg´s Jewel: The Hermitage Museum

The Hermitage Museum is a great complex of buildings related to the Russia royalty. This museum has a sublime exhibition and It’s a reference for Russian culture. If we want to understand this place we need to dig into the history of the Palace, there is more to see than meets the eye.

The Hermitage Museum is along the the Neva River, in St. Petersburg city. It is one of the largest artistic, cultural and historical museums in Russia and one of the largest in the world. The main building and the most recognizable is the Winter Palace, this fabulously large green, white and gold structure was built by the architect Rastrelli on the orders of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna in 1754. It was considered the new residence of the Empress, the construction took eight years and a lot of money. Elizabeth was not able to enjoy her creation but Empress Catherine acquired the building and she was an admirer of the new architectural fashion, Neoclassicism so she seek new designers and architects to carry out her plan.

 

Catherine at that time wasn´t the Empress we know now. On 1762 with some Guards who supported her cause dethroned her husband the Emperor Peter III and stole the crown. She was the Empress for more than 34 years, her internal and foreign policy gained great authority around the world. She commissioned the Small and Large Hermitage to be built, this two buildings were finished between 1765 and 1766.

The basis of the collection of the museum was settled by her. Several acquisitions were made for example Catherine II’s acquired the Gotzkowsky collection with  engravings, drawings and paintings by Western European masters. The Bruhl collection was later on and contained Dutch, Flemish, French, Italian and German paintings. This are the firsts collections to be part of the Hermitage complex, years after that another collections were added to the family.

 

The St George Hall or the Throne hall is one of the finest examples of Russian Neoclassical state interiors. Today what we see is the restoration of the room which was destroyed by the fire on December 1837. This fire raged for three days, devastated the interior decoration of the Imperial residence. If I continue with the Hermitage history, I need to talk about Nicholas I, he wanted to create a new concept called “public museum” and he firmly believed in it. Nicholas I was a conservative person and he reflected this on his politics, this unchained into a revolt known as the Decembrists, they didn´t succeed so he became stricter with the people. The New Hermitage was the first building in Russia to house the museum art collections and the ceremonial opening of the Imperial Hermitage Museum took place on February 1852.

The next in line was Nicholas II, he was crowned in 1896. The world context was difficult, the political and the social situation became really hard to handle for the new Zar. In addition to this facts Nicholas II went more and more into his family, the result was a coup in February 1917, leading this into the revolution of October in 1917. The reign of Nicholas II went down in history as the last in the Russian Empire. During the period of 1915 till 1917, the Winter Palace building were transformed into a hospital due to WWI. The collection was sent to Moscow to be protected. Even with this major events the Museum was firmly there for the people.

 

The Soviet Government who was in charge after the dethrone of the Zar, decided as a political movement to create inside another museum called “Museum of the October Revolution” trying to show to the nation how the royalty lived against the poverty of the people, they send a message in opposition to the Empire. In mid-1930s was closed occasioned by the WWII. They also promoted a restoration of the Hermitage complex and acquired another pieces to add to the collection.

One of the modern aspects they introduced was the inclusion of remarkable paintings by such celebrated late 19th- and early 20th-century artists as Monet, Renoir, Cezanne, Gauguin, Marquet, Bonnard, Matisse and Picasso. The total number of pieces kept by the museum gets to somewhere around 3 million and increasing.

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In 1991, the Hermitage was included in the Peoples of Russia Heritage List by a decree of Russian President Boris Yeltsin. Today, they are reinventing themselves so now includes a luxurious hotel to offer a better experience during the visit. This Museum still being the star of St. Petersburg city tour so if you plan a visit to this wonderful city do not miss it!.