Situated in the centre of Saint- Petersburg the State Hermitage Museum is housed in five magnificent buildings created by celebrated architects of the 18th to 19th century. The Winter Palace, formerly the residence of Russian Emperors, which was constructed between 1754 and 1762 after a design of Bartolomeo Rastrelli, occupies an important place amongst the other constructions of the overall Museum ensemble.
Put together throughout two centuries and a half, the Hermitage collections of works of art (over 3,000,000 items) present the development of the world culture and art from the Stone Age to the 20th century. Today the Museum is creating its digital self-portrait to be displayed around the world. Computer technologies enable the State Hermitage Museum to provide people from all over the world with wider access to information about the Museum and its treasures.
The State Hermitage is one of the largest world museums. With over three million pieces of artwork representing many times and peoples, the State Hermitage has captured the essence of world culture.
In 1764 Russian Empress Catherine the Great purchased a considerable collection of Western European Paintings.
- Prehistoric art
The Hermitage possesses over two million ancient and early medieval items, the largest and most remarkable such collection in Russia, including objects dating from the Palaeolithic to the Iron Ages, from the period of man's first development to the period when countries began to be formed. The items were discovered on Russian territory between the 18th century and the present.
This department has 106,000 items representing the art and culture of Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, and Italy, and ancient settlements on the Northern Black Sea coast. The earliest pieces date back to 2000 BC, the latest - to the 4th century AD. The large collection of Greek and Italian painted vases (15,000 pieces) and Etruscan art are famous far outside Russia. The beautiful collection of antique gems (engraved stones) consists of 10,000 items.
- Western European Art
The collection of Western European art is regarded as one of the finest in the world, and forms the nucleus of the Hermitage display. It occupies 120 rooms in the four museum buildings, and reflects all the stages in the development of art from the Middle Ages to the present day. The collection includes numerous works by outstanding masters from Italy, Spain, Holland, Flanders, France, England, Germany, and other Western European countries. Great numbers of various items of applied art are presented side by side with paintings and sculptures. Due to their great fragility, prints and drawings are displayed only in temporary exhibitions according to international practice.
- The Arsenal
The Hermitage Arsenal collection consists of over 15,000 items of Russian, Western European and Oriental arms and armour and gives a comprehensive idea of the development of arms and armour from the early Middle Ages to the early 20th century. It is the biggest in Russia and better collection in the world.
- Oriental Art
Over 180,000 items including paintings, sculptures and examples of applied art (jewellery, domestic and cult objects), give an idea of a remarkable cultural heritage of the Orient from the time of the ancient civilizations emergence to the present. The exhibitions occupying 50 museum rooms contain the collections of items from Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Central Asia, Byzantium, countries of the Near and Far East.
- Russian culture
The collection of the Department of Russian Culture consists of over 300,000 items and reflects a thousand-year Russian history. Icons and articles of artistic handicraft represent the inner world and way of life of ancient Rus. The items of Peter the Great's time illustrate the epoch of important transformations.
In terms of the number of items the Numismatics Accounts for more than a third of the entire stocks of the museum. The Hermitage numismatics collection has long been famed as one of the largest in the country. The bulk of the collection consists of coins: Ancient (some 120,000), Eastern (over 220,000), Russian (300,000) and Western (360,000). The collection also includes commemorative medals (some 75,000), orders and medals, badges (about 50,000) and a variety of sphragistic material (connected with seals).
- The Golden rooms
It has taken over two centuries to assemble the unique collection of gold, silverware and gems fashioned into fascinating pieces of jewelry by Russian, European and Oriental artists and craftsmen.
- The Palace of Peter I
The Winter Palace of Peter I was opened as a part of the Hermitage in 1992, this unique 18th-century architectural monument having been only recently uncovered.
- The Menshikov Palace
The palace of Prince Alexander Menshikov, first governor - general of St Petersburg, was founded on Vasilevsky Island in 1710. It is one of the oldest surviving buildings in the city, and once combined both residential and administrative functions.
- The General Staff Building
In 1993 the East wing of the General Staff Building was given to the State Hermitage to house new exhibitions of the Museum.
- The Hermitage rooms in Somerset House in London
French Drawings and Paintings from the Hermitage: Poussin to Picasso.
The new exhibition shows 75 drawings and 8 paintings of French masters from the 16th-20th centuries provided by the State Hermitage Museum.
The Hermitage frequently accepts exhibitions from other museums of the world, and sends the masterpieces for exhibiting in the different countries.
The State Hermitage Museum not only keeps and studies the cultural heritage of mankind, but also develops directions of its art creativity.
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