The Hermitage (Государственный Эрмитаж) is one of the oldest and largest museums in the world. The origins of the Hermitage can be traced back to the private art collection of Tsar Peter the Great, who purchased a large variety of works during his travels to Europe. Founded in 1764 by Tsarina Catherine the Great, it has been open to the public since 1852.
In 1917, after the October Revolution the museum closed. Bolsheviks confiscated numerous works from many private collections, including works of Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh and Picasso. It reopened in 1919 and slowly more and more galleries were open to public viewing. It was forced to close again from 1925-1930, during which time the collections passed to the “Museum fund”. Over the next few years, many of these paintings were sold to the public, however, thankfully the Great Depression put a stop to these purchase while no one had disposable income for Russian art anymore. From September 8, 1941 until January 27,
1944, the city of Leningrad was under siege by the German army and the Hermitage was out of commission. Because of this 900 day long siege, the Hermitage workers were forced to move most of the collections out of the Hermitage />in order to protect them during the war. Some of the paintings were sent by train to Sverdlovsk and some were kept in the basement of the Hermitage itself, which was transformed into a bomb shelter for their protection. The Hermitage was reopened on November 8, 1944, when the collections protected in the basement were put once again on display. By November 4, 1945, sixty-eight rooms were opened to the public and were fully restored to their original beauty and were also completely refilled with their former collections.
It has a collection of nearly three million items, however, only a small portion of these are on permanent display. That being said, the Hermitage art collection is the largest collection of paintings in the world. The collections are kept in a complex of six historic buildings which are located along the Palace Embankment. Out of these six buildings, four of which (namely the Winter Palace, Small Hermitage, Old Hermitage and the new Hermitage) are “partially” open to the public.
The ticket price for entrance to the museum is notably steeper for foreign tourists when compared with cost for the Russian citizenry. That being said, the entrance is free on the first Thursday of every month for all visitors and daily for students and children. The museum is closed on Mondays.
The museum includes a large contingent of Italian Renaissance and French Impressionist paintings, in addition to possessing outstanding collections of works by Rembrandt, Picasso and Matisse. There is also an excellent Greek and Roman antiquities collection, as well as large exhibits on Siberian and Central Asian art.
Question for discussion:
Does the Hermitage have more cultural significance for European cultural tradition than the Louvre (which contains a mere 35,000 art objects)? Why?
By Pete Giannino and Kristine Mosuela