The State Russian Museum is home to the world's largest collection of Russian fine art. It was opened on March 7 (19) 1898 by decree of Tsar Nicholas II and was county's first ever state museum of Russian fine art, which was able to represent for the visitors the complete notion about history of it's development. From the early beginning the collection was displaced in the Mikhailovsky Palace, which was built for Mikhail Pavlovich - the son of the Tsar Pavel I.
The nucleus of the Museum collection consist of oil paintings, sculptures, graphics, decorative and applied arts. In the hole it was less then 1500 units, which came chiefly from the Hermitage, the Museum of the Academy of Arts and from royal Palaces, and only to a much lesser extent from privet sources, such as the Prince Lobanov-Rostovsky collection acquired from his heirs. The Russian Museum collection almost doubled in size during the first ten years of its existence. Academy of Arts also transferred its collection of Christians antiques - five thousands units - including Novgorod's icons, wooden sculpture and examples of middle-centuries church art. The presented Lobanov-Rostovsky collection included the 95 portraits of Russian statesman of the 18-19 centuries.
The museum is housed in four palaces located in the historical center of St. Petersburg. Together, these buildings present a retrospective panorama of Russian architecture - Baroque (Stroganov Palace), early and late Neoclassicism (Marble Palace, St. Michael's Palace).
The Mikhailovsky Palace
2, Inzhenernaya st.
The basis of the collection and the central exposition are located in the building known as Michael's Palace, one of the masterpieces of Russian architecture from the classical epoch. Michael's Palace is considered one of the most significant architectural sights of Saint Petersburg. This large and harmonious building is located on Arts Square in the very heart of the city. The Palace was built from 1819 to 1825 according to the design of leading architect Carlo Rossi. For many years it was the residence of Grand Duke Mikhail Pavlovich, the fourth son of Emperor Pavel I. In 1912-1916, in connection with the significant increase in the Museum's collection, an additional adjacent building was assigned to the Russian Museum - the so-called Benois Wing, from the designer-architect L. N. Benois.
The Stroganov Palace
17, Nevsky av.
The Stroganov Palace was built for baron Sergei Stroganov in 1753 by the court architect Francesko Bartolomeo Rastrelly (1700-1771). This was a time when Russian architecture was "trying out" new devices, borrowed from Western Europe and Scandinavian architecture. Foreign architects worked alongside their Russian counterparts on the construction of the capital. The Stroganov Palace - represent the apex of Russian barouque; original,colourful, and distinnct from west European Baroque. The Palace was passed through several generations of Stroganovs,one of Russians oldest and most illustrious families.
The palace decor was designed by the Italian painter Guiseppe Valeriane,who worked alongside numerous other sculptors, carvers, and gilders.Valeriani's plafond Telemachus on Olympus adorns the Large Ballroom to this day. Thanks to the efforts of its first owner, the pallazzo Stroganoff became a haven of the muses, a depository of works of art and the setting and the setting for diplomatic receptions.
The Marble Palace
5, Millionaya st.
The Marble Palace is a vivid memorial to architecture of the early classical period. It was built in 1768-1785 from a design by Antonio Rinaldi. Various types of marble and granite were widely used for details of the facade and decoration of the interior. In the outer court stands the equestrian statue of Alexandre III, created by sculptor Paolo Trubetskoy. Exhibits in the Marble Palace are devoted to expansion of the inter-connections between Russian and Western art. The permanent exhibit "Foreign artists in Russia" presents numerous works by masters of painting and sculpture who influenced the development of Russian art from the 18th to the first half of the 19th centures. A unique complement to this area is "Ludwig Museum in the Russian Museum". The permanent exhibit of a collection donated by Peter and Irene Ludwig includes a large number of works of Western and Russian artists of the post-war period (1949-1990-ies), ranging from Pablo Picasso to masters of the 1990s. Displayed together, they provide a presentation of contemporary Russian art as part of world culture. Interim exhibits of Russian and foreign contemporary artists are held in the halls of the Marble Palace's third floor.
The St. Michael's Castle
2, Sadovaya st.
An original architectural memorial, Michael's (Engineers') Castle was built as the formal residence of Pavel I in 1797-1801. Architects Vasily Bazhenov and Vincenzo Brenna constucted an architectural fantasy on the theme of a Middle Ages castle. Carlo Bartolomew Rastrelli's memorial to Peter I was erected in front of the palace's main facade in 1800. Following the death of Pavel I, the Primary Engineers' College was located here, giving the palace its second name. Currently, a permanent exhibition of formal court portraits is on display in Michael's Castle. This is the first attempt to create a national portrait gallery in Russia. The basis of the exhibit is made up of representative portraits of Russian monarchs from Peter I to Nicholas II and also numerous representatives of the tsars' families. Supplementing this gallery are portraits of leading generals and state figures of Russia. Many of the portraits were done by famous national and foreign masters.
The State Russian museum in St. Petersburg is a treasure-house of world importance, where all the wealth and variety of Russian figurative art is superbly represented. However, it would hardly be an exaggeration to say that visiting public associate this Museum first and foremost with its famous picture gallery. Indeed, it was the picture gallery that formed the core of the Museum during the period of its foundation in 1895-97 and over the next decade or so. Later on the Museum amassed various collections of sculpture, graphics, and objects of decorative and applied art which were just as important, but for all their richness it is still the picture gallery that enjoys the greatest popularity.