The State Hermitage, also known as the Federal Cultural Institution “State Hermitage,” is one of the greatest museam complex in Russia. The institution took form back in the 18th century (1764) when the Empress of Russia, Catherine the Great, purchased from Berlin an impressive number of paintings from Eastern Europe (225 paintings of Flemish and Dutch origin).
In time, the musem expanded and increased the number of works of arts it possessed. At present, the complex consists of various buildings spread throughout Sankt Petersburg. From the 10 edifices which form the State Hermitage, 7 date from the 18th and 19th century and are cultural monuments. The Winter Palace, the Menshikov Palace, the Small Hermitage, the Old Hermitage, the New Hermitage, the Restoration and Storage Center, The Museum of the Imperial Porcelain Factory are but a few of the edifices under the patronage of the State Hermitage.
The Main Museum Complex, as it is obvious from the name it bears, consists of the most important and largest collections of art works. The exhibitions are held in 6 different buildings, all located in the historical center of Sankt Petersburg. The pieces on display belong to the following categories: archeology, numismatics, and various works of art (scluptures, paintings, monuments) from Western Europe, countries in the Orient, Russia, as well as pieces dating from Antiquity.
In order to comprehed the magnitute of the collections, you should know that the museum complex holds within its walls approximately 3 million items. With such a collection it is no wonder that more than 2.5 million visitors, both from Russia and from abroad had come to the State Hermitage.
If you are not yet convinced whether or not you should visit the museum, maybe a short presentation of some of the works of art that exist here might help you make the right decision. The State Hermitage has a Military Gallery, which dates from 1826, and which Carlo Rossi (the man behind the project) had dedicated to the acts of bravery of the Russian soldiers that had fought in the Napoleonic Wars (1812). The Gallery contains 332 portraits of the generals who took part in the aforementioned wars, painted by George Dawe, of British origin, in collaboration with the Russian painters Alexander Polyakov and Wilhelm Golike.
The gallery was inaugurated on the 25th of October 1826, the exact same date (but different year, naturally) when the Napoleon’s army was expulsed from Russia.
A valuable painting found here is Leonardo da Vinci’s Madonna and Child, which was purchased in 1865 from Count Litta, owner of a gallery in Milan. The Count wanted to sell a considerable collection of paintings, 44 in number, but the director of the State Hermitage selected just four from the list presented to him. The total price for the works of art reached 100,000 francs and while all of the paintings are valuable, the Litta Madonna, as it became known, was the most important of them all.
The Madonna and Child (Conestabile Madonna), painted by Raphael, was added to the museum collection in 1870. The Madonna with a Flower, by Leonardo da Vinci, is on display since 1914, when the Russian population engaged in a fund-raising to gather enough money to buy the masterpiece from Maria Benois. The painting was finally acquired for the sum of 150,000 roubles – the owner, having been moved by the Russians’ detemination to add the painting to the Collection of the State Hermitage, decided to sell it at a smaller price.
But the works of art on display are numerous and all of them carry an immense value. Not only connoisseurs, but also novices in the field of fine arts will recognize their worth.