Saint Petersburg, Russia (formerly Leningrad) is deemed to be the culture and arts capital of modern day Russia. This is not to provoke rivalry between Moscow and Saint Petersburg, but so many beautiful architectures, sculptures, exhibitions, shows and so much more are happening in Saint Petersburg.
And one place of interest in the city is the world-renowned State Hermitage Museum, known to be one of the top 5 or 10 museums in the world. Having visited some of them, I would say that the State Hermitage Museum is worthy to be on the list. Maybe joining the ranks of Louvre in Paris, the British Museum in London, the Prado Museum in Madrid, the Ufizzi Gallery in Florence, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and so many other noteworthy museums. Some also would include the Vatican Museums with its jaw- dropping Sistine Chapel, the Tate, Smithsonian Museum and the Musee d’Orsay too in Paris.
The State Hermitage Museum is housed in 5 historical buildings of Saint Petersburg and the main building of the Hermitage is the former Winter Palace of Russian Tsars. Today, the Hermitage Museum boasts over 3 million exhibits, a very far cry from its inception in 1764 when Catherine the Great purchased 255 paintings from Berlin. Experts would tell us that if one invests a minute in front of an exhibit, that would probably take 11 years before one sees everything. Thus, my simple suggestion is to focus on one particular era or area of art after a general overview of the whole museum. Because not only the size of the museum will overwhelm you but the unbelievable collection and beauty will literally take your breath away.
The Western European Art collection of the Hermitage is considered one of the finest in the world. The collection includes numerous works by masters from Italy, Spain, Holland, Germany and France. I was so surprised that the Hermitage has two of the early works of Leonardo da Vinci, some of Raphael and Titian. This is also the place where I fall in love with Rembrandt’s “the Prodigal Son” and so many of his works that made him the master of light and shadows. Of course, the Impressionists collection is definitely one of the best in the world that includes works from masters Renoir, Cezanne, Manet, Monet, Matisse, Gaugin and Van Gogh.
Just my two cents: When visiting museums; please ask first if you could take pictures. Luckily, it is allowed here in the State Hermitage Museum. Another interesting part of this museum is the Gold and Diamond Room. Designed for exclusive events and groups. No pictures were allowed, hence, I have nothing to show. But truly worth the extra cost so please make it a point to see the Gold and Diamond Room. Come early in the morning, like 8am so you could be in the first batch of visitors. It can get really crowded after 10am. Lots of walking and only few elevators. Really lots of stairs and so massive that will wear you out.
Below are some paintings that really move every time I visit the State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg!
“While I thought that I was learning how to live, I was learning how to die” — Leonardo da Vinci
The Master Leonardo da Vinci with the Madonna and Child (photo above) and Madonna Litta (below). Most of his paintings are on
display in Louvre, Paris.
The Holy Family in the eyes of of Rafaello Santi (below). Notice how old Joseph is in this painting.
The Portrait of an Actress Antonia Zarate by the Spanish Master Francisco Goya
One of my personal favorites; The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt. Notice the expressive lighting, the gaze and how poignant the whole
scene is. A beautiful masterpiece!
One of the three versions of the Lute Player by an Italian master Caravaggio. The two versions could be found in the Badminton House in Gloucestershire and Wildenstein Collection. I encourage everyone to see his powerful masterpiece at the St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valetta, Malta.
A Venetian Master called Canaletto famous for his beautiful landscapes and of paintings of Venice.
A beautiful landscape by Vincent Van Gogh entitled Memory of the Garden at Etten ( Ladies of Arles). Just one of his paintings during the so-called Arles Period when he settled in this beautiful city Arles, France in 1888.
Another personal favorite, Henri Matisse’s Dance painting. There so many beautiful paintings of Matisee on display here at the State Hermitage Museum. There is a small Matisse Museum in Nice, France but focuses more on his early works. But this Museum in Saint Petersburg has perhaps the best Matisse’s work on display!
A lady admiring Picasso. And below are two of my personal favorites, The Tale of Two Sisters (The Visit) and the Absinthe (Drinker)– reminiscent of my stay in Barcelona.
” Choose only one Master — NATURE!” — Rembrandt
Ciao for now……..