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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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Tuesday, 18 November 2014
Hermitage to Celebrate 250 Years with Light Show in St. Petersburg
Topic: State Hermitage Museum

Palace Square event to feature 3D projections, classical music and poetry
Copyright Notice: The following article was originally published in the November 18, 2014 edition of Russia Beyond the Headlines / TASS. The author Yekaterina Kalinina, owns the copyright of the work presented below.

St. Petersburg’s Palace Square will serve as the venue for the biggest public event in celebration of the Hermitage Museum’s 250th anniversary on Dec. 6, with a musical light show called “The Ball of History” on the eve of the important date.
According to the event’s organizers, the 3D film will be projected onto the façade of the General Staff Building. The video sequence will be accompanied by excerpts of musical compositions in a variety of styles and from different eras, including works by Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Glinka, Shostakovich, Rameau, Jenkins, Schubert, and Piazzolla.

“Viewers will be taken back to the most significant and most dramatic episodes of Russian history, in which the Hermitage was a direct participant – the reign of Catherine II, the fire during Nicholas I, the construction of the Hermitage buildings and the opening of the first public art museum in Russia, the night of the Provisional Government’s arrest [the 1917 Revolution], and the Siege [of Leningrad],” a member of the project’s press service explained.

The show will feature quotes from the memoirs of famous personalities, as well as from poetry by Akhmatova, Tsvetaeva, and Blok. The organizers have chosen a quote by the museum’s former director Boris Piotrovsky as the epigraph of the evening: “If we don’t save beauty, how can it save the world?”

The creative team for the DANCE OPEN festival, headed by production director Yekaterina Galanova, is developing the concept and staging for “The Ball of History,” creating the audio content, and producing all the aspects of the project.

The 3D show’s graphics are being created and its broadcast prepared by the creative team of French agency Cosmo AV, which helped organize the closing ceremony for the Sochi Olympics and Paralympics.

The musical light show on Palace Square will be free to the public, and sessions will be broadcast every half hour from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. on Dec. 6. Entrance is free, and extra security measures will be in place. 
© Yekaterina Kalinina / RBTH / TASS. 18 November, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:05 AM EST
Updated: Friday, 21 November 2014 7:52 AM EST
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Saturday, 27 September 2014
State Hermitage Museum to Open Branch in Ekaterinburg
Topic: State Hermitage Museum

Photo (from left to right): On September 13th, Sverdlovsk Region Governor Yevgeny Kuyvashev, head of the Union of Russian Museums and General Director of the State Hermitage Museum, Mikhail Piotrovsky and the head of the administration of Ekaterinburg, Alexander Jacob sign the agreement on the establishment of the Hermitage-Ural in Ekaterinburg in 2016.
A branch of Russia’s State Hermitage Museum is set to open in the Ural city of Ekaterinburg in 2016, following an agreement signed by Hermitage director Mikhail Piotrovsky, Sverdlovsk regional governor Yevgeny Kuyvashev and the head of Ekaterinburg’s administration Alexander Yakob earlier this month. The new museum will be the third regional branch of the Hermitage to open in Russia, after those in Kazan and Vyborg.

Details over the future of the Hermitage-Ural centre were discussed at the International Conference of Museums, which was held in St Petersburg and then Ekaterinburg in September.

The plan to create a branch of St Petersburg’s largest museum in Ekaterinburg was inspired by the city’s role in the history of the Hermitage. More than a million artefacts from the Hermitage's museum collection was sent to the Ural capital in 1941, where they remained in safe keeping at the city’s Sverdlovsk Picture Gallery until the end of the Second World War in 1945.

The idea of opening a fourth branch of the Hermitage in the Siberian city of Omsk was also discussed at the conference. 
© St. Petersburg Times. 27 September, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 6:08 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 27 September 2014 6:23 AM EDT
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Friday, 23 May 2014
Military Research Helps Hermitage Protect Museum Treasures
Topic: State Hermitage Museum

 Honour Guards Squadron with banners in the 1812 War Gallery, State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

Pieces of art are being marked for identification by a new pen and spray-mist proving themselves under tests at the State Hermitage Museum in Russia's northern capital, St. Petersburg.

Russian-made technology is being used to mark pieces of art leaving the famous museum's walls for temporary loan to other exhibitions, and to confirm authenticity of the treasures on their return.

The processes will be put to work later on the three million exhibits in the Hermitage collection, Vladimir Kuzmin, associate at a Russian Defense Ministry research institute, told ITAR-TASS.

Military specialists and a private Russian manufacturer have developed the marking process, working its magic via a trace visible under ultraviolet light. Museum staff will use this new technology for "friend-or-foe" recognition and for a new cutting-edge catalogue.

The system could spread to other Russian museums and has applications for the military, police and customs service, said Kuzmin.

For precious items that cannot be touched, the scientists have produced a unique chemical mist impossible to replicate and applied in a spray. Traces have a lifespan of no less than 50 years. The concentration is harmless for paintings, porcelain, glass and ceramics, the expert says. Technology is also being developed for metal objects such as coins, difficult to mark.

Marking detectors require no laboratory conditions or special skills, reading the coded information according to the "friend-or-foe" principle. When the device recognizes the object, it makes a sound signal and a green light comes on. A red light means the object is unmarked, or has an alien mark.

Marking can be read without disturbing an item and removing it from its location. The device will identify even burnt objects as the mark persists at a temperature of 2,000°C.

Protection comes relatively cheap from the developers. One mark costs 30 rubles ($0.86). Detecting devices cost between 50,000 rubles and 150,000 rubles (about $1,400-$4,300) depending on size. 
© ITAR-TASS. 23 May, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 11:57 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 23 May 2014 12:03 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 23 April 2014
Old St. Petersburg Stock Exchange Transferred to State Hermitage Museum
Topic: State Hermitage Museum

The Old Stock Exchange on the spit of Vasilievsky Island with one of the Rostral columns in the foreground
The city handed the keys to the historic Old Stock Exchange building located on the Spit of Vasilievsky Island, to the State Hermitage Museum on Apr. 18.

Director of the Hermitage Mikhail Piotrovsky said the museum would open a space dedicated to state symbolism and awards in the building in two years time. It will present the history of the Russian state heralds and an exhibition of the flags and state awards that are currently located at the Headquarters of the General Staff on Palace Square. The building will also be used for state ceremonies, the Itar-Tass news agency reported.

It is expected that the new museum will feature not only exhibits from the Hermitage but also objects from the Naval Museum, which was formerly housed in the same building. A number of rarely-seen exhibits from state archives will also be put on display.

The building may also host St. Petersburg’s International Legal Forum next year, Piotrovsky said.

The Old Stock Exchange, also known as the Bourse, has housed many organizations since 2003 when the Naval Museum that had been located there since 1939 moved. The decision to hand the building over to the Hermitage was announced by the city governor Georgy Poltavchenko last year.

The building dates from the early 19th century and originally provided an exchange for visiting merchants. After the trading port was transferred to a different location at the beginning of the 20th century, from the Spit of Vasilievsky Island, the building held different industrial exhibitions. The Naval Museum which completed its move to new facilities near Ploshchad Truda and New Holland Island this year. 
© St. Petersburg Times. 23 April, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 12:23 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 23 April 2014 12:27 PM EDT
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Friday, 24 January 2014
The Peacock Clock, State Hermitage Museum
Now Playing: Language: Russian. Duration: 3 minutes, 41 seconds
Topic: State Hermitage Museum

The Peacock Clock is large automaton featuring three life-sized mechanical birds. It was manufactured by the entrepreneur James Cox in the 2nd half of the 18th century and through the influence of Grigory Potemkin it was acquired by Catherine the Great in 1781. Today it is a prominent exhibit in the collections of the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg.
Click on the to read a full length article about the history, construction and maintenance of Catherine the Great's elaborate clock in the Winter Palace.

The Peacock Clock, State Hermitage Museum + VIDEO 

© State Hermitage Museum. 24 January, 2014


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:13 AM EST
Updated: Friday, 24 January 2014 8:54 AM EST
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Thursday, 26 December 2013
Creating Replica of Alexander Nevsky Tomb will Cost 330 Million Rubles
Topic: State Hermitage Museum

The massive silver sarcophagus of St. Alexander Nevsky was relocated during Soviet times to the State Hermitage Museum where it remains (without the relics) today. The silver sarcophagus has become a matter of debate, since some believers demand to return the sepulcher to Alexander Nevsky Lavra.
The State Hermitage Museum needs 330 million rubles for creating the copy of Alexander Nevsky’s tomb.

This was announced by the museum director Mikhail Piotrovsky at the press conference on December 24. He hopes for patrons of art to donate the funds.

The copy of the tomb is planned to be transferred to Alexander Nevsky Lavra, whereas the original will stay in the Hermitage. The original sepulcher of Alexander Nevsky is presently exposed to restoration which costs 16.5 million rubles.  The works are expected to be completed by 2014, and then the Hermitage will be ready to start making the copy production, but the funds are not available yet. 

The sepulcher complex, which includes a sarcophagus, a gravestone, candlesticks and military trophies, is monument of Russian arts and crafts of the 18th century. After its creation in 1753 the tomb was located in the Alexander Nevsky Lavra, but in 1922 it was moved to the Hermitage. In the Post-Soviet period the tomb became a matter of debate, since some believers demand to return the sepulcher to Alexander Nevsky Lavra, while art critics insist on keeping it in the museum. 

© 26 December, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:55 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, 26 December 2013 9:20 AM EST
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Monday, 9 December 2013
State Hermitage Museum Marks 249th Birthday
Topic: State Hermitage Museum

The birthday of the State Hermitage is marked each year on December 7. The museum, Russia’s largest and also one of the largest in the world, first began to develop in 1764 as the private art collection of Empress Catherine II with the purchase of Johann Ernest Gotzkowski’s collection. In 1852, after the collection had grown to an enormous size and taken on a distinct style, it was decided to open the Imperial Hermitage to visitors.
Immediately after the Revolution of 1917 the Imperial Hermitage and Winter Palace, former Imperial residence, were proclaimed state museums and eventually merged. The range of the Hermitage's exhibits was further expanded when private art collections from several palaces of the Russian Tsars and numerous private mansions were nationalized and redistributed among major Soviet state museums. Particularly notable was the influx of old masters from the Catherine Palace, the Alexander Palace, the Stroganov Palace and the Yusupov Palace as well as from other palaces of Saint Petersburg and suburbs.
However, in the 1930s the museum fell on hard times as the Soviet authorities saw the museum’s treasures as a means to filling state coffers. The Soviet sale of Hermitage paintings resulted in the departure of some of the most valuable paintings from the collection to Western museums. Several of the paintings had been in the Hermitage Collection since its creation by Empress Catherine the Great. In total 2880 paintings were sold, including about 350 major works of art, such as masterpieces by Jan van Eyck, Titian, Rembrandt, Rubens, Raphael, and other important artists. Andrew Mellon donated the 21 paintings he purchased from the Hermitage to the United States Government in 1937. They became the nucleus of the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.
Today the museum boasts a collection of approximately 3 million works of art, from the Stone Age to the 20th century. In 2014 the Hermitage will be celebrating its 250th jubilee, and the festivities will be linked to the III International Cultural Forum, which will take place in St. Petersburg during the first week of December next year. 
© Russkiy Mir. 09 December, 2013


Posted by Paul Gilbert at 8:37 AM EST
Updated: Monday, 9 December 2013 8:41 AM EST
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