The history of the Hermitage Museum in Sankt Petersburg

The Hermitage Museum in Sankt Petersburg

The Hermitage Museum in Sankt Petersburg ©archer10 (Dennis)/Flick

The Hermitage State Museum is one of the largest and oldest museums in the world and certainly is a sight that must be on the list of every tourist that arrives in Sankt Petersburg.

The museum was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great the Empress of Russia and open to the public in 1852.

Beside that owns one of the most important art collections in the world, the Hermitage is worth visiting even only for its beautiful and sumptuous interiors.

The Winter Palace in particular is really wonderful, with its splendid staircase and the magnificent state rooms.

 

The Hermitage Museum Complex: Hermitage Theatre, Old Hermitage, Small Hermitage and the Winter Palace

The Hermitage Museum: Hermitage Theatre, Old Hermitage, Small Hermitage and the Winter Palace ©Alexxx1979

Everything begins with the art collection of Catherine the Great

The art collection of Empress Catherine II led to the founding of the Hermitage Museum in Sankt Petersburg. The Collection of Empress Catherine the Great of Russia was formed with the acquisition of over 200 paintings from Berliner art dealer named Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky. The original collection consisted of an abundance of masterpieces from artists such as Rembrandt, Rubens, Van Dyck, Raphael, Holbein, Titian and many others. Historians say that during her lifetime Catherine the Great purchased over 4000 paintings of the “old masters”, 38,000 books, 10,000 engraved jewels, 10,000 drawings, 16,000 coins and medals and a natural history collection that occupies two galleries.

Inside of the Hermitage

Inside of the Hermitage ©greenacre8/Flick

By assembling this impressive collection, Catherine the Great sought to increase the international prestige of the Russian imperial court and used it at the same time as an evidence of the power and richness of her Empire, sending an important political message to the rival empires in the rest of Europe.

The Hermitage in the Winter Palace in Sankt Petersburg

The Hermitage in the Winter Palace in Sankt Petersburg ©archer10 (Dennis)/Flick

The growth of the art collections

Over the years, the collection continued to grow through the acquisitions of other Tsars of Russia and donations made by various individuals. Some works were bought from the Papal Government, and others were added when some palaces and private residences of Russian nobility were nationalized. Works of art obtained that way were redeployed in several museums of the Soviet Union.

Statues in the Hermitage Museum

Statues in the Hermitage Museum ©colros/Flick

The buildings of the Hermitage Museum in Sankt Petersburg

The Winter Palace of Catherine has continuously extended to host the growing art collection. Initially, the collection was housed in the Winter Palace, but between 1771 and 1787, Catherine ordered the construction of the Little Hermitage for her collection. Shortly thereafter, the Grand Hermitage was built at east from the Little Hermitage and finally, the New Hermitage was also built between the years of 1839-1851. The New and the Grand Hermitage were opened for the public in 1852 by Tsar Nicholas I. After the Russian Revolution in 1917 the Winter Palace was added to the Hermitage Museum. After the Second World War the museum continued to expand not only by increasing the collection but also by adding new buildings to the museum complex.

The New Hermitage

The New Hermitage ©ixtlan/Flick

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