Thursday's Child: The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Thursday, March 7, 2013

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).
Parquet flooring
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



17 comments:

Jemi Fraser said...

It almost doesn't look real - more like a movie set! The gilding is incredible!

Belinda said...

Great to have the history, but you're right - the photos alone are stunning!

Natalie Aguirre said...

So interesting how they saved the art. And the pictures are amazing.

Barbara said...

Exquisite, Beth. I've always wanted to go. There's nothing like being there in person, but photos are a good substitute when that isn't possible.

yummychunklet said...

Oh, I've wanted to go to Russia for awhile. This looks like a wonderful place!

Valerie said...

I think I saw this museum on an episode of The Amazing Race - it's breathtaking! Hooray for the heroic artists!!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

*jumps up and down* I've been there. I've been there. :D

I was frustrated that we were rushed through it by our guide and that we didn't to see everything. Not that it would have been possible.

Rebecca Subbiah said...

wow looks amazing one of my neighbors is from that city :-)

Guru Uru said...

Ooooh this looks absolutely lookbeautiful - we are studying Russia so it is even more interesting!

Cheers
CCU

Jess said...

"da Vinci, Raphael, Rembrandt, el Greco, Titian, Rubens, Michelangelo, Renoir, Picasso, Matisse..." Wow, Beth. How very special! Thank you for sharing :)

Gina Stanley said...

I might have been stuck just staring at the ceiling. How lucky to have had such an up close and personal experience with history. Hoping you have a great weekend.
-Gina-

Kathy said...

Such a lovely post, Beth!! That ceiling is amazing! How wonderful that you got to see this first hand…photos never seem to do these works of art justice!

Monet said...

It is always so moving to hear how people protect art and culture during times of chaos. It goes to show how valuable these things are to the human soul. Thank you for sharing, as always, sweet friend!

bakewithjill.com said...

So beautiful! I'd love to see the building, and the art would be the icing on the cake.

Andrea_TheKitchenLioness said...

Beth, what an incredible museum this is and what a lucky person you are to have been able to visit this unique museum which certainly counts as one of the most important museums in the world.
Have a good Sunday!

Cindy said...

My daughter spent a year in Russia teaching English in Primary Schools. She lived with a Russian Family. she had amazing experiences there. I remember her telling me about this wonderful Museum.
Thanks so much for sharing your travels, due to health problems this is the only way I will see some places, and I do thank you.

backroadjournal said...

The Hermitage is one place that I hope I will have the opportunity to visit someday.

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