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Wednesday, 20 December 2017
State Hermitage Museum Exhibits Rare Collection of Imperial Family's Clothes
Topic: State Hermitage Museum

 A view of the new Costume Gallery, located in the Staraya Derevnya Restoration and Storage Centre
This article has been revised and edited from its original by Paul Gilbert, Founder of Royal Russia © 2017

From Peter the Great's doublet to the wedding dress of the last tsar's wife Alexandra, Russia's renowned State Hermitage Museum has put on display highlights from its vast and unique costume collection.

A new Costume Gallery opened this month as a permanent exhibition in Staraya Derevnya Restoration and Storage Centre, a huge modern building, a branch of the State Hermitage Museum situated in northern Saint Petersburg. This museum complex offers the unique opportunity to visit the museum’s storage vaults and see paintings and sculptures from the museum collection, including the vast collection of furniture, carriages and other exhibits, which were previously unavailable for the public.

The new Costume Gallery with panoramic glass cases features 130 mannequins wearing clothes dating from the 18th century, most of which belonged to the Romanov dynasty that ruled until the Bolshevik revolution of 1917.

"The costume department takes up 600 square metres (6,460 square feet). Behind the mannequins that are on show there are cupboards and dressers where we keep our collection of 24,000 pieces," said Nina Tarasova, the display's curator.

"What's on display is just three percent of our collection," she added.

"For example, we have 280 personal items that belonged to Peter the Great -- this is the most important collection of 18th-century men's clothing in the world."

Ruling in the 17th and 18th centuries, the tsar who founded Saint Petersburg was extremely tall for his day at around two metres (6.5 feet) and was known for his simple tastes.

A view of the new Costume Gallery, located in the Staraya Derevnya Restoration and Storage Centre
From peasants to aristocrats 

The exhibition's focus is on the Romanovs, from Peter the Great to the last tsar Nicholas II and his family, who were murdered by the Bolsheviks in July 1918.

But it also gives a broader picture of society, from the traditional clothes worn by peasants in various regions of Russia to the ball gowns donned by aristocrats in Saint Petersburg.

"Thanks to these items, we can learn not only about the fashions of the time but also about what size the Romanov family members were and even what they were like as people," said Tarasova.

A ceremonial robe worn by Emperor Alexander I (who ruled from 1777 to 1825), shows that he was tall and slender, while the plump Alexander III, who ruled from 1845 to 1894 and was reputed to be indifferent to fashion, is represented by a plaid suit.

A simple green wool doublet, a kind of padded fitted jacket, worn by Peter the Great, rubs shoulders with a magnificent blue dress with silver brocade that Catherine the Great, who ruled between 1729 and 1792, used to wear to review the troops.

"It took many months to create some of these dresses," said Tarasova.

This was particularly true of a white lace dress decorated with fine embroidery, created for the wedding of tsar Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra Fyodorovna in 1894, shortly after he took the throne.

Dressmakers and lacemakers spent more than six months creating the dress.

Staraya Derevnya Restoration and Storage Centre, St Petersburg
'They look new, trendy'

"This is very impressive. Most of all because all these dresses and items come from the 18th and 19th centuries, yet they look new and are even sometimes very trendy," said one visitor, Anna Gryaznova, who was photographing Louis Vuitton suitcases from 1902.

To keep the very fragile clothing in perfect condition, there is a strict temperature regime of precisely 21 degrees Celsius (around 70 degrees Fahrenheit) with humidity of 46 percent, and there are no windows to prevent sun damage.

Visitors need to sign up in advance for a guided tour of the restoration centre, with details on the State Hermitage Museum website.

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 20 December, 2017 


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:55 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 20 December 2017 9:17 AM EST
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Friday, 15 December 2017
The Museum of the Russian Guards Opens in St Petersburg
Topic: State Hermitage Museum

This article was originally published by the State Hermitage Museum on 13 December 2017,
and edited by Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia

On 12 and 13 December 2017, as part of the Hermitage Days, events were held devoted to the opening of a new permanent display entitled The Museum of the Russian Guards in the halls of the General Staff Building in St. Petersburg.

On 12 December, a press conference was given in the TASS press centre by Mikhail Piotrovsky, General Director of the State Hermitage, Georgy Vilinbakhov, Deputy General Director of the State Hermitage and chairman of the Heraldic Council of the President of the Russian Federation, and Vladimir Grekov, chairman of the Association for the Commemoration of His Majesty’s Life-Guards Cossack Regiment. Mikhail Piotrovsky noted the value of the Museum of the Guards for the Hermitage as an important part of Hermitage life and the Hermitage’s policy of openness to the city and to Russia: “For us the history of the Russian Guards is a part of the culture and a very important and colourful part of the history of Russia. And the Hermitage is simultaneously a museum of art, of culture and of the history of Russia, the history of Russian statehood and in particular the history of the Russian army.”

On 13 December, the feast day of the Apostle Andrew the First-Called, the patron saint of the Russian Guards, the new permanent display The Museum of the Russian Guards was inaugurated in the General Staff building. “We are continuing the Hermitage Days that are associated with three days: the feast day of Saint Catherine, the feast day of Saint George and the feast day of Saint Andrew the First-Called. On the feast day of Saint Andrew, we are opening a new display devoted to the Russian Guards. The memory of the Guards is something special for us. We are not only a museum of art, a museum of culture, but also a museum of statehood, of Russian military glory. Our walls retain the memory of Russian military history; our exhibits preserve that memory,” Hermitage Director Mikhail Piotrovsky said at the opening ceremony. He thanked the city government for Palace Square continuing to exist with its familiar appearance and rhythm, and noted that “exhibit number one in the Museum of the Guards is the Alexander Column”.

Georgy Sergeyevich Poltavchenko, Governor of Saint Petersburg, took part in the opening ceremony, saying: “It is very significant that the Guards made an enormous contribution, not just to military victories. Many of them became outstanding statesmen, figures in culture and art. Thanks to the Guards in particular, many majestic buildings appeared here in St Petersburg, the remarkable Guards cathedrals, the public spaces, including Palace Square.”

The Hermitage was also visited by representatives of the Society for the Commemoration of the Imperial Guards (Association du Souvenir de la Garde impériale russe). Prince Alexandre Troubetzkoi, the society’s chairman, said that members of the society from Paris, London, Canada and Spain had come for the opening. “We are the bearers of the memory of the regiments in which our father, grandfathers and great-grandfathers served. The offices of the Imperial Corps of Guards did not live to see the moment when they would have been able to return to Russia, but we are returning their memory to Russia,” he said. Prince Troubetzkoi presented the Hermitage with the sheet music for the March of the Life-Guards Horse Grenadier Regiment, which will become an addition to the exhibits in the Museum of the Guards.

The new permanent display prepared by the “Arsenal” Department (the curator is Vladimir Georgiyevich Danchenko, head of the department’s Sector of Military Heraldry) is arranged on a chronological basis. It occupies seven halls on Floor 3 of the General Staff and contains a great variety of exhibits, including battle, genre and portrait paintings, uniforms, weapons, medals and decorations, and works of applied art. The over-200-year history of the elite units of Russia’s armed forces was exceptionally rich in events that echoed around the whole country, and quite often across the whole of Europe. Guardsmen showed their mettle in various spheres: as courageous soldiers carrying their banners with honour through battles and wars, as competent administrators and officials, as poets and musicians, finally, as men on whose temperament and conduct the fate of the country depended. Furthermore, the fact that units of the Guards were quartered in St Petersburg resulted in the creation of some magnificent buildings that have now become architectural monuments. The Guards’ parades were an important component of the urban culture of spectacles, while the appearance of guardsmen on the city’s streets was routine, an inseparable feature of the St Petersburg landscape, a visual confirmation of its status as capital. Even as émigrés, the guardsmen retained their traditions, attempting to recreate the atmosphere of regimental gatherings, the spirit of the brotherhood of the Guards. A particular element in the activities of the unions of Guards officers abroad was seeking out and preserving commemorative relics – clerical documents from regimental chanceries, badges, items of uniform and kit, and so on. Many of them were donated to the State Hermitage by the descendants of Guards officers and are included in the display.

On the morning of 13 December, on the Feast Day of the Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called, a Festive Liturgy and Service of Thanksgiving was held in St Andrew’s Cathedral.

In the evening following the opening of the Museum of the Russian Guards, a traditional banquet was held in the Menshikov Palace.

© State Hermitage Museum / Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 15 December, 2017 


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:22 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 19 December 2017 7:26 PM EST
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Thursday, 8 December 2016
From the Dinner-Service Storerooms. Decorating the Russian Imperial Table in the 18th to Early 20th Centuries
Topic: State Hermitage Museum

This exhibition presents historic exhibits from the State Hermitage Museum, the State Russian Museum, Pavlovsk State Museum Reserve, Peterhof State Museum Reserve and the Moscow Kremlin Museums, alongside contemporary pieces by craftsmen of the joint-stock company Imperial Porcelain Manufactory. Most of the 1,200 objects were made for the adornment of tables at receptions held in imperial residences and grand-ducal palaces. They would not have been used for everyday dining but between ceremonial occasions were packed away in cupboards, crates and boxes in special storerooms set up specifically for such services. These service storerooms housed not only magnificent porcelain services but objects of earthenware and glass, silver and bronze and much more, as well as small sculptures to adorn the table. Helping us to recreate the appearance of imperial dining at the Russian court from the eighteenth to early twentieth centuries are examples of servants’ livery, furniture, tablecloths and napkins, as well as prints and watercolours, books and photographs.
The exhibition runs from 8 December 2016 to 20 March 2017 in the Nicholas Hall of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg

© State Hermitage Museum. 8 December, 2016


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:04 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 10 December 2016 8:12 AM EST
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Thursday, 21 April 2016
State Hermitage to Open Fashion Museum in 2018
Topic: State Hermitage Museum

Ceremonial court dress of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. From the collection of the State Hermitage Museum
This article was written by Paul Gilbert, Founder of Royal Russia © 2016
The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg have announced plans to open a fashion museum in 2018. The new museum will present costumes of the Russian Imperial family dating from the 18th to early 20th centuries, which include dresses and gowns, uniforms, children’s clothes, and accessories from the vast collections of the Hermitage, as well as from private collections.

The creation of a fashion museum to be created in St. Petersburg is based on the success of two splendid exhibitions held at the State Hermitage Museum in the spring of 2014. At the Russian Imperial Court featured more than 250 costumes of members of the Russian Imperial family displayed in five halls. This exquisite exhibit was further enhanced by Servants of the Imperial Court, which showcased for the first time some 250 pieces of attire and accessories from the unique Hermitage collection of the livery wear of the Russian Court in the late 19th to early 20th centuries.

The permanent exhibition at the new fashion museum will be further supplemented with temporary exhibits showcasing the work of contemporary Russian designers, such as Tatiana Parfenov Lilies Kisselenko, Stas Lopatkin, among many others.

The creation of the Fashion Museum is Nina Tarasova, Head of the Sector of Applied Arts Department of the Russian Culture of the State Hermitage Museum. The location of the new museum has yet to be announced.
The former Imperial palace-museums at Tsarskoye Selo, Peterhof and Pavlovsk each retain magnificent examples of gowns, uniforms and other personal items of the Romanov emperors and empresses, beautifully preserved in their respective collections. Pavlovsk opened a Costume Museum several years back. It is located in the north wing of the palace, and features a rich collection of gowns, fans and purses belonging to the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna.
For more information on the costume exhibits held in 2014 at the State Hermitage Museum, please refer to the following links:

At the Russian Imperial Court + VIDEO & 20 Colour Photos

Servants of the Imperial Court + VIDEO & 12 Colour Photos

© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 21 April, 2016


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:12 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 30 April 2016 1:08 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 17 February 2016
On This Day [17 February]: New Hermitage, Russia's First Public Art Museum Opens
Topic: State Hermitage Museum

View of the New Hermitage from Millionnaya Ulitsa (Street), 1861. Watercolour by Luigi Premazzi
Note: this article has been edited from its original by Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia
On 17 February ( O.S. 5 February), 1852 the grand opening of the New Hermitage took place in St. Petersburg. It was the first public art museum in Russia. For the first time in the nation's history a special building had been constructed for preservation and display of works of art.

The origin of the Hermitage collections started in 1764 when the Empress Catherine II acquired 255 pictures mostly of the Dutch and Flemish schools. Up to the middle of the 19th century these collections could be accessed only by a limited circle.  

Following the example of European states, Emperor Nicholas I decided to create a new museum, accessible to the general public. The building was constructed from 1840 to 1851 according to the design of a Bavarian architect Leo von Klenze, and named the New Hermitage. It adjoined the buildings of Grand and Small Hermitage.

The New Hermitage was the first museum in Russia professionally designed with special exhibit facilities for certain collections which had been systemized according to scientific principles. For the masterpieces of ancient art, and for each national school of art: Italian, French, Dutch, Spanish, Flemish and Russian, separate halls were assigned.

Klenze, master of museum ensemble, scientist, archaeologist, painter, developed a project of the museum based on the experience of European museum building of 19th century. According to the project, the first floor was designed to accommodate antique collections, ancient and modern sculptures, the exhibition of drawings and engravings, as well as libraries. Designing the first floor halls Klenze used the techniques of ancient architecture: granite and marble colonnades, ornamental painting. Second-floor halls were assigned for display of paintings and decorative arts.

In 1851 were developed the "Guidelines on management of the museum”, which dealt with all aspects of the Hermitage activity: it defined staff list, methods of exposure, procedure for admission of visitors. In 1863, new staff members were approved, a director was appointed to head the museum. The first director of the Hermitage was S. L. Gedeonov; one of his decisions was the abolition of entrance tickets in 1866. Since then, the popularity of the museum had grown, so that by 1880 its attendance reached 50,000 people per year.

© Presidential Library / Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 17 February, 2016


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:07 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 17 February 2016 8:17 AM EST
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Friday, 18 December 2015
Experts Meet in St. Petersburg to Discuss New Museum of Heraldry
Topic: State Hermitage Museum

The former Stock Exchange Building in St. Petersburg will house the new Museum of Heraldry
On 15 December 2015, as part of the 4th St Petersburg International Cultural Forum, a round table discussion was held in the State Hermitage on Heraldry as a Means of Communication. The Concept of a State Hermitage Museum of Heraldry in the Building of the Exchange. The moderators were Georgy Vadimovich Vilinbakhov, Deputy General Director of the State Hermitage for Research Work and State Herald Master, and Michel Popoff, President of the International Academy of Heraldry.

“Heraldry is a traditional field for the Hermitage. People studied heraldry here in the 19th century and in the 20th. The museum’s exhibition activities also have connections with heraldry,” Georgy Vilinbakhov said, opening the discussion. He stressed that the State Hermitage is “a centre of heraldic science”. Over the course of two centuries, the Hermitage has been a major centre of heraldic studies. In the mid-19th century, Bernhard Karl von Köhne, the author of Russia's heraldic reform of 1857, worked here. Sergei Nikolayevich Troinitsky (Director of the Hermitage 1918–27) was the publisher of the periodical Gerboved (Scholar of Arms) and on the commission for the state coat-of-arms and flag under the Provisional Government.

For over 30 years, the State Hermitage has hosted sessions of the heraldic seminar, an annual scholarly conference “Heraldry in Russia" and many other events. In recent years the Hermitage has held a whole number of exhibitions devoted to heraldry.

Georgy Vilinbakhov stressed that the actual idea of creating a unique museum complex – a Museum of Heraldry and Decorations – in the Exchange building is well founded: the Hermitage can present the history of the evolution of heraldic symbols across a very broad historical and geographical range. The display will include paintings, works of graphic art, porcelain, silver, numismatic items, books, banners, flags and uniforms – all the things that can illustrate heraldry in operation.

Ilya Yermolayev, a researcher with the State Hermitage’s “Arsenal” Department, acquainted the participants in the round table with the draft concept for the Museum of Heraldry and Decorations in the Exchange building in greater detail.

It is proposed to devote the first floor of the building to Russian heraldry. The southern suite of rooms on the second floor will be entirely devoted to the museum of decorations – the history of the development of the Russian system of state awards. The northern suite on the second floor will take the form of an excursus into the history of the development of heraldry worldwide. The northern suite on the third floor will be set aside for temporary exhibitions. The third floor will also contain a conference hall and library. The main space of the central hall will not be occupied by the display and this will provide one further unique possibility – to make use of it as a setting for ceremonies marking the Day of the Guards, the Day of the State Flag and Russia Day, for the formal presentation of state awards, and also for conferences, symposia, concerts and showings of films.

Participants in the discussion that arose in the course of the meeting were leading Russian specialists on heraldry as well as their colleagues from France (Pasturo Michel, Corresponding Member of the Academy of Inscriptions and Letters (2006), Member of the International Academy of Heraldry, Vice President of the French Society of Heraldry), Denmark (Niels Bartholdy, Member of the Bureau of the International Academy of Heraldry), Sweden (Stephen Rosen, Vice-Chancellor of the Chapter of the Royal Orders of Chivalry, Member of the Royal Academy), Canada (Robert Watt, Royal Society of Canada Heraldry, Bureau Member of the International Academy of Heraldry) and Belgium (Yuri Ostashkov, International Academy of Genealogy). They stressed the particular significance and importance of creating a museum of heraldry. 

For more information on the Museum of Heraldry, please refer to the following articles:

State Hermitage Museum Confirms Plans for Museum of Heraldry in St. Petersburg

Old St. Petersburg Stock Exchange Transferred to State Hermitage Museum

© State Hermitage Museum / Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 18 December, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:26 AM EST
Updated: Friday, 18 December 2015 9:44 AM EST
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Saturday, 21 November 2015
State Hermitage Museum Confirms Plans for Museum of Heraldry in St. Petersburg
Topic: State Hermitage Museum

The Museum of Heraldry will be housed in the former Stock Exchange Building on Vasilievsky Island in St. Petersburg by 2019
Specialists of the State Hermitage Museum have developed the concept of a new Museum of Heraldry, which is to be located in the former Stock Exchange Building on Vasilievsky Island in St. Petersburg. Preparations for the restoration and repair of the former Stock Exchange Building is expected to begin in December. George V. Vilinbakhov, Chairman of the Heraldic Council of the President of the Russian Federation announced at a press conference this week that the museum is scheduled to open in late 2018 or early 2019.

In December 2013 a decision was taken to make the Stock Exchange Building designed by Thomas de Thomon in 1805-1810 a part of the State Hermitage Museum. On April 18, 2014 this outstanding architectural monument of St. Petersburg was officially handed over to the Hermitage. To mark it a special ceremony was held which signalled the start of the new project for the creation of the new museum complex of the State Hermitage, the Museum of Heraldry.

The Stock Exchange Building, a part of the architectural ensemble of the Spit of Vasilievsky Island, housed the Central Naval Museum from 1939 until 2010. When the museum had moved into the Kryukov Naval Barracks, the question of the possibility for the historical building to preserve its function as a museum came up.

The idea to create the Museum of Heraldry in the Stock Exchange Building is easy to justify, since the Hermitage can present the history of blazonry from an all-embracing historical and geographical perspective. The new museum will feature objects from the vast collections of the State Hermitage Museum, many previously unseen due to a lack of exhibition space. The museum will be further complimented with objects from the permanent exhibition of the Hermitage. 

Rooms located in the two side enfilades of the museum will house both permanent and temporary exhibits. Highlights of the Museum of Heraldry will feature Far Eastern, Japanese, Chinese, Islamic, Turkish, European and Russian heraldry. The museum display will include all kinds of exhibits that can illustrate the history of heraldry: paintings, graphic art, porcelain, silver, numismatics, books, banners, flags and uniforms.

Furthermore, the Stock Exchange Building will provide a unique opportunity to host official city and state ceremonies. The Main Hall of the Stock Exchange will be used for conferences, as well as the venue for holding official ceremonies to celebrate the Day of the National Guard, National Flag Day, Russia Day, state awards ceremonies and oath-taking ceremonies. 
© Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia. 21 November, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 3:10 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 21 November 2015 3:15 AM EST
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Tuesday, 14 April 2015
Exhibition: Gifts from East and West to the Imperial Court Over 300 Years
Topic: State Hermitage Museum

The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg is currently hosting the exhibition Gifts from East and West to the Imperial Court over 300 Years. The exhibit is currently on display East Wing of the General Staff Building, situated on Palace Square.

The exhibit represents more than 400 works of fine and decorative arts, weapons, books and numismatic valuables presented to the Russian rulers starting from Peter I and ending with Nicholas II. 

The gifts were presented during diplomatic visits and meetings; they commemorated military victories and conclusions of peace; they were given at coronations which were carried out especially solemnly. There was a custom of giving silver or porcelain sets for weddings. Sometimes the offerings were private, they were transferred during travelling. The imperial courts often exchanged gifts for family and calendar holidays, such as Christmas or Easter. Some things embodied additional semantic implication.

Donation snuff boxes can serve as an interesting example of the diplomacy language of the XVIII century; they were particularly valued, often not less than an Order. Those decorated with a monogram or a portrait of the emperor were especially valued. The popularity of snuff boxes at the Russian court is largely due to the commitment of Peter I to the European style of behaviour. 

Much attention was paid to recording and storage of gifts. This was part of the duties of the Cameral Department of the Ministry of the Imperial Court, that was in charge of the room of the imperial regalia and crown diamonds in the Winter Palace, of the storage room of precious things, stones and wardrobe of the highest noblemen, as well as of the storage room of stone products supplied by Ekaterinburg and Kolyvan factories.

Among the gifts to the Russian imperial court kept in the State Hermitage Museum, four tapestries of the “Seasons” series became the last; they were presented by Raymond Poincaré, the French President, to the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna during his visit to St. Petersburg on 20-23 July 1914. Female characters personifying seasons were inspired by graphic figures of Jules Cheret based on the sketches from which they were created.


Unfortunately, not all the gifts have lasted. Thus, a golden goblet decorated with diamonds that was presented to Nicholas I by the Serbian Prince Milos Obrenovic was withdrawn from the Hermitage collection in 1922 for sale. Then a golden snuffbox with 60 diamonds from 4 to 1.2 carats given by Mahmoud II to Nicholas I in honor of the conclusion of Adrianople peace and a golden star decorated with tafelstein (flat-face gemstone) and 8 diamonds also disappeared.

Artefacts that are most typical for the art of the giving countries, the artistic merits of which are not inferior to their historical value, are displayed at the exhibition. With their gifts the foreign countries showed, on the one hand, a deep respect for Russia, on the other hand – an interest in the development of relations with it. They all retain traces of historical events and are reified evidence of Russian history.

The Hermitage collection includes gifts of Western and Eastern nations relating to the period when the state capital was moved to St. Petersburg. Many of these works have been exhibited several times at various exhibitions in the museum and abroad. Presented for the first time together, they serve as valuable evidence of the development of relations between Russia, the West and the East from the XVIII to the early XX centuries.

The ancient custom of gifts in our time is also perceived as the norm of good neighbourly relations between the countries. These silent witnesses of “fragile diplomacy” quite clearly characterize the importance of this kind of communication.

The exhibition exhibition Gifts from East and West to the Imperial Court over 300 Years runs until 10th January, 2016 in the East Wing of the General Staff Building, St. Petersburg. 
© State Hermitage Museum. 14 April, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 9:03 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 14 April 2015 9:15 AM EDT
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Saturday, 11 April 2015
Exhibition: The History of the Hermitage Reflected in its Showcases
Topic: State Hermitage Museum

The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg is currently hosting the exhibition The Hermitage Reflected in its Showcases. The exhibit is on display in the halls of the former Imperial Manege, introducing showcases as exhibits for the first time in the museum's history.

More than fifty showcases, as well as photos and drawings from the collection of one of the oldest museums in Europe, the State Hermitage Museum, demonstrate the evolution from Catherine the Great’s time to the beginning of the XXI century. 

The idea to arrange an exhibition on the basis of the museum showcases was suggested by Rem Koolhaas, a famous Dutch architect who founded OMA. The exhibition was developed by the Hermitage Museum in collaboration with AMO, the think tank of OMA. The exceptional Hermitage collection allowed the curators of the exhibition to turn it into reality in the form of a large-scale panorama of the museum’s life throughout its long history.

One of the main themes of the exhibition is the museum space as a special artistic and historical phenomenon reflecting important social and cultural ideas. The key trends in European culture and the whims of Russian political life are reflected in the forms, materials, design and decoration of the showcases. The showcases have always been an important component of the museum’s space concept.

The exhibition emphasizes the artistic value of a showcase: it demonstrates the showcase as an important landmark in the world of art not limited to functional purpose. In contrast to the modern exhibition equipment, the first cabinets manufactured by furniture makers and cabinetmakers were the works of applied art themselves.

The earliest and the rarest showcases presented at the exhibition date from the time of Catherine II and Alexander I. They were created by Christian Meyer and Heinrich Gambs, the best furniture makers of St. Petersburg and the main executors of the Imperial Court orders. The works of C. Meyer were as impressive as the collections of the enlightened Empress. His “table-like cabinets” made in the tradition of the museum furniture of the cabinets of curiosities of the XVII century were especially highlighted. In 1811, an unusual type of showcases in the form of a triangular pyramid appeared in the workshop of H. Gambs; it was later repeated several times during the creation of the Hermitage showcases.

Leo von Klenze, as  an architect, included in the architectural project of the New Hermitage executed under the order of Nicholas I an unprecedented number of museum equipment, through which was emphasised the idea of harmony between the exhibits and the surrounding space. Klenze implemented his plan most completely in the interiors of the ground floor which housed a collection of sculptures and monuments of antiquity. A set of showcases reminiscent of ancient Greek furniture in shapes and decor was included in the project “Hall of Graeco-Etruscan vases” (now the Hall of Twenty Columns). Nowadays, the interior of this room has acquired a special value: it is a rare and exceptional example of museum space of the mid- XIX century, where the whole interior ensemble has been completely preserved.

The modest appearance of the museum of the late XIX - early XX centuries witnessed to the increased role of the exhibition in comparison with the museum space and means of exposure. In the search for rational forms, museum showcases became more adapted  to perform the main function, that is, to serve as the most convenient overview of the collection. This trend continued during the Soviet period, when the museum equipment used stylistic features of constructivism, decorative minimalism and accentuated functionality allowing  the attention of visitors to be directed to the perception of the exhibits.

In addition to specialised museum showcases, the exhibition demonstrates showcases from private collections that were brought to the Hermitage basically after the nationalisation of the 1920’s-1930’s. They were used to store personal collections, minerals, jewellery and ornaments; they were distinguished by more lavish décor and were made using a variety of techniques and expensive materials. The showcases manufactured by Christian Meyer are of much interest, for instance, a travel showcase that belonged to Paul I and “mineral boxes” for small mineral collections that belonged to the daughters of Paul I.

This exhibition, the focal point of which is the history of the Hermitage museum space where the only authentic exhibits are the historical showcases, for the first time draws the audience’s attention to one of the most important aspects of the life of museums – to the preservation of their unique artistic environment.

Curator of the exhibition: Tatiana B. Semenova, Ph.D. in Art History, researcher in the Department of Western European Applied Art at the State Hermitage Museum. A special illustrated scientific catalogue preceded by an introduction by Mikhail B. Piotrovsky, Director of the State Hermitage Museum, was prepared for the exhibition by the State Hermitage Publishing House in 2014.
The exhibition The Hermitage Reflected in its Showcases runs until 24th May, 2015 in the Manege of the Small Hermitage, (State Hermitage Museum), St. Petersburg. 
© State Hermitage Museum. 11 April, 2015


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 11:22 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 11 April 2015 11:42 AM EDT
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Monday, 29 December 2014
Hermitage Exhibition Opens in Vladivostock
Topic: State Hermitage Museum

The exhibition Unknown Hermitage. To the 250th anniversary of the State Hermitage Museum has opened at the Primorye State Picture Gallery in Vladivostok.

The exhibition presents works from the collections of Far Eastern Art Museum (Khabarovsk) and the Maritime State Art Gallery (Vladivostok), derived from the Hermitage collection of Western art of the XIII – XX centuries. More than 60 paintings and 20 works of graphic art, first shown to the public, were transferred in 1930s from the Hermitage museum in the Far Eastern Museums. 

Visitors can see the works of Italian, Dutch, French, German craftsmen of the XVI-XX centuries. Among them – "Apollo and Marsyas" by Peter Paul Rubens, "The Holy Family" by Annibale Carracci, landscape ruins by Giovanni Paolo Pannini, famous schedule by Jacques Callot.
The exhibition runs from December 24, 2014 to March 1, 2015.

Russia’s largest museum, the State Hermitage in St. Petersburg, plans to open another branch in Vladivostok, on Russia’s Pacific coast. The new affiliate is to be housed in a historic department store building and will feature pieces from the St. Petersburg museum alongside work by local artists.

Architects promise to have a design ready by next summer to rebuild the former Kunst & Albers department store building in Vladivostok, which is to be turned into a branch of the illustrious museum, according to the Primorsky Territory administration press service.

Governor of the Primorsky Territory Vladimir Miklushevsky secured the approval of Hermitage Director Mikhail Piotrovsky to open a branch in Vladivostok during a meeting in June 2013. “We are interested in opening a branch of the museum in Primorye. After all, it is the Russian gateway to Asia,” Piotrovsky said at the time.

The new exhibition center will feature expositions both from Russia’s most famous museum and from local artists.
A contract on the design estimates for reconstruction should be signed on Jan. 26.

“We’ll work out the details for modern facilities and the building’s interior, utilities, fire safety, and ventilation in the design,” head of the regional urban development department Yevgeny Dobrynin said. “The premises will be completely ready for construction after that. We need to restore the original appearance of this architectural monument.”

Tatyana Zabolotnaya, deputy governor of the Primorsky Territory said the museum was “an important factor in developing the territory’s cultural life,” explaining that for this reason “we’re all interested in commissioning the facility in a timely manner.”

The Hermitage opened its first Russian branch in Kazan (600 miles east of Moscow) in 2005, and it opened another in Vyborg (on the Finnish border, west of St. Petersburg) in 2010. The museum also has foreign branches, with an exhibition center in Amsterdam and a new branch slated to open in Barcelona in 2015. 
© Russkiy Mir and Russia Beyond the Headlines. 29 December, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 4:36 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 30 December 2014 4:40 AM EST
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