The Hermitage Museum: European Masterpieces (part II), St. Petersburg, Russia

Façade of the courtyard entrance to The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Façade of the courtyard entrance to The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

On our second tour of the European Masterpieces wing of the vast Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia [see our earlier blog post], we had a chance to visit different rooms.  This vast collection was given a solid foundation by the collecting of Catherine the Great in the mid-18th century, with many additions over the following 250 years.

 

Many of the larger European paintings rooms are hung “salon style” in order to display a larger number of paintings, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Many of the larger European paintings rooms are hung “salon style” in order to display a larger number of paintings, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Peter Paul Rubens (1577 Germany – 1640 Antwerp) “Roman Charity (Cimon and Pero)”, oil on canvas, acquired in 1768 from the collection of Count C. Cobenzl, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Peter Paul Rubens (1577 Germany – 1640 Antwerp) “Roman Charity (Cimon and Pero)”, oil on canvas, acquired in 1768 from the collection of Count C. Cobenzl, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Peter Paul Rubens “Portrait of a Lady-in-Waiting to the Infanta Isabel (Portrait of Rubens’ Daughter Clara Serena?)”, oil on panel, acquired in 1772 from the Crozat collection, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Peter Paul Rubens “Portrait of a Lady-in-Waiting to the Infanta Isabel (Portrait of Rubens’ Daughter Clara Serena?)”, oil on panel, acquired in 1772 from the Crozat collection, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Entrance hall for visiting dignitaries, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

The view down the length of the European Sculpture Gallery, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

The view down the length of the European Sculpture Gallery, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Here are some facts about the Hermitage’s amazing art collection:

  • officially began in 1764 when Catherine the Great made her first bulk purchase of 225 paintings from a Berlin merchant, including thirteen Rembrandts and eleven Rubens.  Ironically, the collection had originally been intended for Catherine’s adversary, Frederick the Great of Prussia, but poor Frederick was forced to decline as his unsuccessful wars with Russia had resulted in a deficit of funds.

* increased exponentially as Catherine’s diligent agents purchased massive lots of artwork across Europe.  By the time of her death in 1796, she had amassed thousands of items including paintings, books, drawings, jewelry, coins, medals, sculpture, and copies of original Vatican frescoes, and had expanded the complex beyond the Small Hermitage to include the Large (Old) Hermitage and the Hermitage Theatre.

* continued to burgeon, causing Nicholas I to commission the New Hermitage, built between 1842 and 1851, with its Atlas-embellished entrance on Millionaya Street.  This was the only part of the complex that was occasionally opened to the well-heeled public until after the Revolution in 1917.

* greatly benefited from the confiscational mindset of the post-revolutionary period and actually increased threefold as many valuable private collections were expropriated by the state and deposited in the Hermitage.  This influx of, among other things, Matisses, Picassos, and Gaugins helps to compensate somewhat for the artworks secretly sold off for hard currency by Stalin in the 1920s and 1930s. – www.saint-petersburg.com

 

Wall and ceiling paintings in the European Sculpture Gallery, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Wall and ceiling paintings in the European Sculpture Gallery, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Detail of European Sculpture Gallery, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Detail of European Sculpture Gallery, The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606 – 1669 The Netherlands),  “Danaë” (185 cm × 203 cm; 73 in × 80 in), acquired in 1772 for the Hermitage with the Crozat Collection, Paris; The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606 – 1669 The Netherlands), “Danaë” (185 cm × 203 cm; 73 in × 80 in), acquired in 1772 for the Hermitage with the Crozat Collection, Paris; The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

“Danaë is Rembrandt‘s painting from the collection of Pierre Crozat which since the 18th century has resided in the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.  It is a life-sized depiction of the character Danaë from Greek mythology, the mother of Perseus.  She is presumably depicted as welcoming Zeus, who impregnated her in the form of a shower of gold.  Given that this is one of Rembrandt’s most magnificent paintings, it is not out of the question that he cherished it, but it also may have been difficult to sell because of its eight-by-ten-foot size.  Although the artist’s wife Saskia was the original model for Danaë, Rembrandt later changed the figure’s face to that of his mistress Geertje Dircx.” — Wikipedia

 

A winner in the annual students’ art completion, this year depicting one of the 30 cats that live in the basement of the museum – a group of “protectors” to catch the museum mice!; The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

A winner in the annual students’ art completion, this year depicting one of the 30 cats that live in the basement of the museum – a group of “protectors” to catch the museum mice!; The Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

 

 

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