The history of the Russian State Museum in Sankt Petersburg

Russian State Museum

Russian State Museum ©dobrych/Flick

The Russian State Museum in Sankt Petersburg was founded in the late 19th century by Emperor Nicholas II as the first museum of Russian art. Much of his impressive collection is exhibited in the Mikhailovsky Palace.

We would like to present the history of the Russian State Museum in Sankt Petersburg starting from the foundation, the growth of the art collections until today.

Then we will shortly describe the Mikhailovsky palace that holds the largest part of the collections of the Russian State Museum.

The history of the Russian State Museum started in 1895, when Tsar Nicholas noticed the need of a public art exhibition to show the people of the empire the masterpieces of the local artists. After the Mikhailovsky Palace was designated to house the museum, the Tsar started to gather a variety of masterpieces of all kinds to exhibit as oil paintings, sculptures, graphic art, decorative and applied art. The original collection included 445 pieces, mostly from the Hermitage Museum, the royal palaces and the Museum of the Academy of Arts.

Russian State Museum

Russian State Museum ©dobrych/Flick

The growth of the art collections

The collection of the museum continued to enrich through acquisitions from the Academy of Art and after the revolution many important pieces of the palaces and private collections were moved to the Russian State Museum. Today, the collection includes over 400,000 works of art in the permanent collection, pieces that cover the entire history of Russian fine arts. The museum currently serves as the coordinating center for all art museums in Russia and was expanded in three palaces in Sankt Petersburg: Stroganov Palace, Marble Palace and Saint Michael’s Castle.

Stroganov Palace in Sankt Petersburg

Stroganov Palace in Sankt Petersburg ©Alexxx1979/Flick

The Mikhailovsky Palace

The Mikhailovsky Palace hosts much of the collection of the Russian State Museum. The Mikhailovsky Palace was built for Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich, younger brother of Tsar Alexander I. It was made after the design of Carlo Rossi between 1819 and 1825 and it is considered to be a masterpiece of Russian neoclassical architecture. The palace was bought by royalty in 1895 and was renovated inside to accommodate the Russian State Museum.

Much of the exterior of the palace was almost intact. The entry is completed by a very large scale flanked by statues of lions and eight Corinthian style columns that dominates the façade of the building. The interior has suffered drastic changes, only the main stairs and the White Hall kept the original design of Rossi. The White Hall still has the intact original furniture.

Marble Palace in Sankt Petersburg

Marble Palace in Sankt Petersburg ©roger4336/Flick

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