The Hermitage – Russia

Back in May, I travelled through the Baltic, taking in the amazing sights that this trail offers. I’m going to start with St. Petersburg and then sneak a few blogs in here and there about the things I saw during this great holiday.

The Hermitage… this is made up of 5 buildings, the main one being the Winter Palace, then surrounding this the small Hermitage, the old Hermitage, the new Hermitage (I know, they were original with names), and the general staff building.

The Winter palace was Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli’s masterpiece. Build for Peter’s daughter, Elizabeth, between 1756-62.

It’s iconic with its green and white exterior, and due to the building techniques used has stood the test of time, through harsh weather, wars and civil unrest.

The Hermitage did not become a museum until Catherine II, when she decided to transfer her art collection from the secret rooms within the palace to the newly built pavilion, this collection now spreads over 350 halls within this vast structure. As the collection grew so did the building, and it is now the biggest art museum, housing almost 15000 paintings, 12000 sculptures and 600000 works of graphic art. Within the walls there are collections of the greats, ranging from Matisse, to Da Vinci, to Rembrandt.

There is no way to see everything housed in this beautiful place in a day, but I gave it a good go to work through as much of the palace and buildings as possible.

On entering the Hermitage, you’re met with an impressive stair case (well, once you have gotten through Russian security….I do love feeling like I’ve done something wrong just by turning up).

This is positively understated compared to the rest of the palace, but the start white really stands out with gold light fittings and sculptures adorning the walls.

Moving up the stair case you’re quickly met with more sculptures and and ornate ceiling (see feature image). It can feel a little foreboding, if I was wondering around the place in my own, but as it stands even at 8am there were approximately 5000 people in here with me (just take a moment to appreciate who hard it was to get photos that didn’t look like a tourist shot please).

Ushered through in to the throne room, there are beautiful floors and ceilings and an overwhelming red throne and canopy. A lot of the thrones throughout Russia have been destroyed, but this is one of 350 which remain.

Through the body of this building the walls are lined with religious art work, stain glass windows and bizarre sculptures. They are impressive and sometimes a little difficult to interpret.

It would be foolish of me to think that I could talk you through the whole Hermitage. So now I’ll just show you some of the key things I loved.

Firstly, while the walls are lined with art and sculptures are scattered everywhere, if you ever visit this amazing palace, look up. The ceilings are stunning.

In the pavilion, the main feature is a large mechanical clock. This features life size birds…a peacock, a cockerel and an owl. It was created by James Cox in the second half of the 18th century, it was acquired for Catherine the great during 1781.

This is a really impressive work of mechanical genius, and while I have been to the Hermitage twice now, I have not had the joy of seeing it working, but you can see the video of it in all its glory here

The Hermitage boosts the largest permanent collection of Da Vinci art work. It holds 2….now this doesn’t seem a lot but previously it had been thought it only had 1, until it was realised that the second was also a Da Vinci. A lot of the art work is held behind screens now after an acid attack on one of the Rembrandts, so it’s fairly hard to get photos which truly show how beautiful the works are, but I did give it a go.

There is a whole hall dedicated to the works of Rembrandt, and the art is stunning, but the place is so crowded that it is hard to take the time to appreciate it all.

This is the work which suffered the acid attack. You can see in the bottom right corner that the paintings colour seems a little different, and while the restoration work has done wonders to fix the damage done, you can sadly still pick out the oddity that it has caused.

The post, in no way shows you everything that there is to see at this amazing place, but it hopefully gives you an insight in to the splendour that is on show. I hope that it might inspire a few of you to take advantage of what this place has to offer and you might decide to save up and take a break in this intriguing city.

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