Hermitage (Winter Palace)
The Hermitage is the most magnificent and beloved museum of St. Petersburg, Russia’s largest museum and one of the greatest museums in the world, standing alongside the Louvre and the British Museum. Visiting the Hermitage allows everyone to get an insight into the history and admire masterpieces – from the ancient to the most modern ones. The museum has about 3 million artifacts of history and culture, seeing even the part of which allows you to imagine and compare development of different cultures worldwide.
History of creation
Construction of the Winter Palace was started by architect Rastrelli in the mid-18th century following the order of Empress Elizabeth, daughter of the famous founder of the city, Peter I. Conceived as a grand residence of Russian emperors and meant to obscure European monarchs’ palaces, The Hermitage was built during the reign of Empress Elizabeth, Emperor Peter III and Catherine II. It was Catherine II to start acquiring works of art for her remarkable private collection, which defined the future of the Hermitage as a museum. The Small and Large Hermitage, as well as the Hermitage Theatre were built during her reign. Collection’s been constantly replenished throughout the history of the museum. Emperor Nicholas I opened the museum for public in 1852.
One can’t see everything in a go at the museum that was created over several centuries. It may be a good idea to start with visiting the main complex in the Palace Square, which includes the Winter Palace – the former grand residence of Russian emperors, the buildings of the Small, Old and New Hermitage, the Hermitage Theatre and the Reserve house.
The Winter Palace was built in Baroque style. The decor was updated in line with architectural trends under supervision of such renowned architects as Montferrand, Quarenghi, Carlo Rossi.
Later on the interiors were updated by famous Russian architects V.P.Stasov and A.P. Briullov. One would appreciate special pomp and grandeur of Jordan Staircase, St George’s, Stamp and Peter’s Halls, Malachite and Golden Living Rooms, Crimson Room, Gallery of 1812.
The Small Hermitage was supposed to be a private area of the imperial family. The Northern Hall was designed and created by Jean-Baptiste Vallin de la Mothe, the Southern Hall – by J.M. Felten, in the late 18th century. In the mid-19th century the second floor was rebuilt by A.I. Stakenschneider and got one of the most popular halls of the Hermitage – the Pavilion. There’s a famous Hanging Garden on the second floor of the central part of the Small Hermitage.
The Old Hermitage was built by Y.M. Felten in 1771-1787 and partially rebuilt after construction of the New Hermitage. The Old Hermitage hosts masterpieces of the Western European art.
The New Hermitage was built in 1839-1852 to become the 1st Imperial Public Museum. The palace designed by Leo von Klenze was built by V.P. Stasov and N.E. Efimov. The Loggia of Raphael in the New Hermitage is a copy of Raphael’s Loggia in the Vatican. The main staircase entrance to the Imperial Public Museum is guarded by granite sculptures of 10 Atlantis created by the famous Russian sculptor A.I. Terebenev.
The Hermitage Theatre was built in antique style by Dzh.Kvarengi during the reign of Catherine II – to replace the former Winter Palace of Peter I. Nowadays it is used both as a lecture hall of the Hermitage and a theater popular among residents of St.Petersburg.
The Arch over the Winter Canal, which connects the Hermitage Theatre with the Old Hermitage, is a popular place to take a photo in St.Petersburg.
Apart from the main complex the State Hermitage Museum includes several exposition centers:
The Winter Palace of Peter I, the Dvortsovaya emb. 32
Menshikov Palace, Universitetskaya emb. 15
The Museum of the Imperial Porcelain Factory, Obukhovskoi Oborony prospekt, 151
The General Staff.
The variety of artistic and historical collections of the Hermitage makes St. Petersburg one of the most popular destinations of cultural tourism.
The Hermitage collection of Western European art is one of the most significant in the world and includes masterpieces of outstanding artists of Italy, Spain, Flanders, Holland, France, England and Germany – Leonardo da Vinci (“Madonna with a Flower” and “Madonna Litta”), Raphael Sanzio (“Conestabile Madonna”, “Holy Family”), Titian (“Penitent Magdalene” and “St. Sebastian”), Rembrandt (“Flora,” “Danae,” “Holy Family”), Frans Hals (“Portrait of a young man with a glove in his hand”.) Flemish art is represented by works of Paul Rubens, Anthony Van Dyck, Frans Snyders. The French collection of the late XIX – XX centuries is one of the most famous in the world and includes works by Claude Monet (“Waterloo Bridge), V. Van Gogh, Renoir, Pissarro, Degas, Cezanne, Gauguin, Matisse (“Red Room”, “Dance” and “Music”), earlier works by Picasso (“The Absinthe Drinker”, “Rendezvous”, “Dance of the Veils”, “Woman with a Fan”).
A collection of monuments represents ancient and early medieval culture and is made up of archaeological findings discovered in Russia starting from XVIII century – Scythian antiquities, household items of the tribes from the Altai Mountains, an Ancient Russia collection.
The Antique Collection includes pieces of art from ancient Greece, Rome and the Black Sea area.
An extensive collection of Russian, Western European and Oriental weapons reflects the history of weapons.
Collection of Eastern art includes Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Caucasus, Byzantium, India and occupies 50 halls.
Collection of Russian history and a unique numismatic collection of ancient, Eastern, Western and Russian coins, medals, orders.
Treasure Gallery is made up of 2 parts – the Gold and Diamond halls, where you can see jewelry created starting from VII century BC up to the early XX century.
The Hermitage hosts temporary exhibitions from other museums. For more details, please, visit museum official web-site where you can see famous collections and interiors in a virtual mode and look through the exhibitions description.
The museum is open
Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday:
The ticket office closes one hour before the end of the working hours.
To the main museum complex – 600 rubles.
For citizens of Russia and Belarus – 400 rubles.
Free for kids, students, retired and some other categories.
Permission to take photo and record video – 200 rubles.
Every first Thursday of the month – free to all
Visits to the Gold and Diamond Hermitage storerooms – only as guided tours (available in Russian and European languages). Please, inquire, as additional fees may apply.
Address: Dvortsovaya emb. 2. Entrance from Palace Square.
Phone: (+7 812) 571-34-20 | www.hermitagemuseum.org
Transport: metro station “Nevsky Prospect”, buses 7, 10, 24.191, trolleybus 1, 7, 10, 11, bus 187.
You can buy souvenirs, albums and books in the museum shop in Winter Palace building of the Hermitage.
Translation by Svetlana Serebryakova