Monday, October 5, 2015

Royal Origins: The Hermitage Museum

Without a doubt, the Hermitage Museum is one of the most famous museums in the world. Housed in the Winter Palace, the museum contains a nearly unrivaled collection of art; in fact, the museum has become so large, they have launched many "dependent museums" across Russia and other parts of Europe, with several more due to open late next year. However, the Hermitage was not always as prominent as it is today.
The Hermitage is currently housed in the Winter Palace Complex, Saint Petersburg.

The Hermitage began as Екатерина Алексеевна's (Catherine II, Empress and Autocrat of all the Russias) private collection. It was assembled originally for Frederick II of Prussia by Johann Gotzkowsky, but after Frederick refused to purchase the collection, Catherine, a patroness of the arts, jumped to purchase the collection in 1764. In fact, many of the original pieces from Catherine's collection are still in residence at the Hermitage today, such as Rembrandt's Danae and Portrait of A Young Man Holding A Glove by Franz Hals. Over the next ten years, Catherine commissioned architects Yury Felten and Jean-Baptist Vallin de la Mothe to build the Small Hermitage, later called the Hermitage Complex, as an extension of the Winter Palace.

The collection soon outgrew the building complex it was housed in, leading to its placement in another building, now called the Old Hermitage, in 1787. Following the October Revolution by the Bolshevik Party in 1917, the Imperial Hermitage and the Winter Palace were merged, leading to the placement of the vast collection in the Winter Palace. In the last century the museum has continued to grow, as is evidenced by the launching of dependencies and the many traveling Hermitage exhibits across the world.
An interior view of a portion of the Hermitage today.

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