St Petersburg Hermitage

St Petersburg Hermitage is a state museum located in the old tsarist palace complex on the Neva River. The museum houses a magnificent art collection that includes imperial porcelain, superb Rembrandts, ancient cameos, Madonnas by Da Vinci, marble sculptures by Canova, colourful paintings by Matisse.

Building

The centrepiece of Russia’s Hermitage is the imposing Winter Palace, built in 1762 and designed by Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli for Empress Elisabeth. Two years later Tsarina Catharine the Great added a small pavilion. She called this the Hermitage - later the Small Hermitage.

Shortly after, the Old Hermitage and the Hermitage Theatre were built. In the nineteenth century the complex was extended again: the New Hermitage, designed by Leo von Klenze was added. In 1852, this building was opened as a museum. For the first time, the public was able to visit the finest exhibits in the imperial collection.

History of the collection

Tsar Peter the Great (1672-1725) left Russia in secret in 1697 on a diplomatic mission to Western Europe. There the tsar gave instructions to buy up paintings and commissioned artists to come and work in Russia. It was Peter the Great who laid the basis for the tradition of collecting.

The foundation of the Hermitage dates back to 1764. That was when Tsarina Catharine the Great (1729-1796) bought 225 paintings in Berlin. This was not the end of the story. In fact she purchased some 4,000 paintings, over 10,000 drawings and prints, ancient and modern sculpture, silver, porcelain, furniture and carved stone - her great passion.

And the Hermitage continued to grow. Tsar Nicholas I bought art in Holland in 1850 when the collection assembled by King Willem II came up for sale.

In 1917, the Hermitage was renamed the State Hermitage Museum. In the years following the Russian Revolution, the museum continued to expand as the nationalised art collections found their way to the Hermitage.

Collection departments

St Petersburg Hermitage has several departments:

  • Western European Art.
    This is the principal and largest area of collection, with over twenty paintings by Rembrandt, Impressionist and Postimpressionist works, paintings by Da Vinci, Raphael, Titian, Giorgone and the finest collection of French art outside the Paris Louvre.
  • Oriental Art.
    The cultures of Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Byzantium, Iran, Central Asia, the Caucasus, China, Japan and India. The collection of Sassanid silver is world famous, as are the Coptic textiles and the Persian carpets.
  • Russian Culture.
    Folk art and splendid examples of applied art from the imperial collections, such as porcelain, glass, silver and carpets. Unique items include the steel furniture produced in the late 18th and early 19th century at Tula arms factory.
  • Ancient Art.
    Fine and applied art from the Greek and Roman cultures including key ancient sculptures and Roman portraits. Excavations of Greek settlements on the Black Sea have increased this collection enormously.
  • Eastern and Siberian Archaeology.
    This department collects finds from the Palaeolithic period, the Bronze Age and early Iron Age. Remarkable aspects include the Scythian and Samaritan gold and silver, as well as the collections of textile, fur, woodcarving and decorated human skin found in the high Altai mountains.
  • Coins and Medals.
    Catharine the Great was an avid collector of coins and medals. Her acquisitions form the basis of the present collection. The department has over a million objects.
  • Arsenal.
    Nicholas I was an enthusiastic collector of antique weapons and armour. The Arsenal includes weapons from European, Russian and Eastern cultures.
  • Library.
    Here too the original collection was assembled by Catharine the Great. The library has over 600,000 publications in Russian, Western European and Eastern languages. The collection of early printed works and manuscripts includes around 10,000 objects.

Glimpse into the Collection

Around 65,000 of the more than three million objects at the museum are on show in the Hermitage’s 350 rooms. In addition, items from the enormous collection are also on display in satellite museums, such as Hermitage Amsterdam. Yet the bulk of the collection remains in storage.

This website enables visitors to take a virtual tour of the museum, to look more closely at the exhibits, find out in detail about the art collection. Art that would otherwise remain in the depot can now be viewed on screen.

The information is provided in Russian and English.

http://www.hermitagemuseum.org/

Opening hours

Daily 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Closed on April 26 and December 25

© State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

The Hermitage Amsterdam is located on Amstel 51, Amsterdam

Photo Janiek Dam

More information:
+31 (0)20 530 74 88

More information online ticketing:
+31 (0)20 530 87 55