The Hermitage is housed in the former Winter Palace on the Neva embankment in the very heart of the city.
The Hermitage, as it name suggests, is a place of seclusion. It is the name that Russia’s Empress Catherine the Great bestowed on the part of her palace where she kept unique art treasures. Historians consider this museum to have been founded in the year of 1764, when a collection of 225 paintings purchased in Berlin was first deposited in the Winter Palace. A mere ten years later, in 1774, the collection already boasted 2080 paintings, as well as drawings, cameos, sculptures and diverse objects of virtu. All these objects were stored in rooms to which only the empress and her court had access. Catherine wrote of her possessions in the Hermitage that “all this is only for the mice and myself to admire!”.
The October Revolution of 1917 gave the public at large access to this treasure-house of art an culture. Today the Hermitage’s collection comprise about 3 million items, including paintings, sculptures, graphics, various objects of applied art, coins, medals and diverse insignia, arms and armor, archeological artefacts and other treasures from all over the world dating from hoary antiquity to the present.
Perhaps only the British Museum and the Louvre can rival the Hermitage in scale and importance. The largest ancient Greek, Roman and Oriental collections, as well as unique examples of applied art, are kept at the Hermitage.
“This is a giant among the world’s museums in which one inadvertently forgets that outside is the end of the 20th century. The works of the great masters captivate our every feeling, thought, and desire.”
Hellen Treilen, French Ballet Master
A complete picture of its outstanding collections can only be gained after many visits to the Hermitage.