The Hermitage possesses over 3 million items including some of the finest examples of European art and holds the largest collection of paintings in the world. The art collection was founded in 1764 by Empress Catherine, those purchases coming via an art dealer her country of birth, Germany, and much expanded by her successors. It has been open to the public since 1852. There is comparatively little Russian art- that is to be found at the also excellent albeit much smaller Russian museum. European artists dominate the collection of paintings and sculpture, and much of it is French, Italian and Dutch. The excellent collection of Impressionists is in the General Staff Building
There are tons of portraits in the Winter Palace, the majority of them of high quality. You see more of Catherine the Great than any others, it seems, which isn’t surprising given who founded the museum.
Alexander Roslin, Swedish (1718–93) – Portrait of Catherine II (1776–77).
Several that I found of particular interest. This painting was done in the French Rococo style. The woman is wearing a colored silk dress. There are contrasts of colors and strong shadows.
The next painting gets the following write up in the Hermitage site: “Few artists have truly successfully depicted children, but Anthony van Dyck in this portrait of the daughters of Philip, 4th Lord Wharton, produced a genuinely appealing image. It was painted during the late, English period of the artist’s career, and is executed well within the traditions of Western European official portraiture. The girls are shown posing statically against a very roughly indicated, generalised background, with just a hint of a decorative landscape. Dressed and coiffed a la mode, they look like true grown up ladies, the eldest holding herself importantly and with a sense of her own importance, just like a lady at court. The youngest gently holds her sister by the shoulder, frozen in the pose in which she has been stood by the artist. The official majesty of the formal portrait is softened by the little dog, surprised by his mistresses’ immobility, who scratches wonderingly at the eldest girl’s dress with one paw. With its elegant colour scheme, dominated by cold pearly-grey and silver-blue, and the virtuoso skill in conveying the texture of fabrics and jewellery, van Dyck’s painting yet manages to be a very gentle and informal image of two charming girls.” https://www.arthermitage.org/Anthony-van-Dyck/Portrait-of-Elizabeth-and-Philadelphia-Wharton.html
Anthony Van Dyck Portrait of Philadelphia and Elizabeth Wharton
Caravaggio is a master of the light, although this is not the most dramatic of his paintings in this regard. There are three versions of this painting. The version in the Uffizi there is a table-top in front of the player, but in this versions it is marble with a violin and flowers. The notes are so exactly painted that we know who the printer is, the Roman Valerio Dorica.
Lute Player, Caravaggio
The collections are in six historic buildings along the Palace Embankment, that is along the River Neva. The Winter Palace is the largest of the buildings and has the most art – all of these photos are from this building. The museum has several exhibition centers abroad, such as the one in Amsterdam.
Sculptures in the Winter Palace
Sculptures in the Winter Palace
In the basement there is Siberian and Caucus art- one small example:The Roman and Greek collections, as well as the Egyptian, are also in the basement area.
The museum supplies a good map, but it is still a challenge to navigate at times. It took me a while to wind my way to the cafe area in the Winter Palace. There are only two and for whatever reason they are right next to each other. There are some grand spots elsewhere in the Winter Palace where having a coffee would have been quite luxurious!
I’ll remember the Hermitage rather more for the rooms than the art, which while excellent, is to be found elsewhere as well. One could say the same of the palace, but I found it different enough, and it’s general setting as well, to easily justify the costs and challenges of coming to Russia.
The State Hermitage Museum is one of the world’s great treasures, both for its palaces and for its magnificent art collection, the world’s largest. In the next post will be about the art.
The exterior of the Winter Palace, a green and white 3 story building, is full of sculptures, vases and Corinthian columns. When you enter are greeted by this magnificent staircase.
Staircase of the Winter Palace
The palaces were built for various Russian czars and are the rival of Versailles. This Winter Palace has 1786 doors, 1945 windows, 117 staircases and 1057 lavishly decorated rooms.
The Chapel, Hermitage
You make your way around the Winter Palace with the aid of a well designed map, which helps a great deal but you have to bear in mind that the palaces were not built with tourists in mind, so you can still have a hard time finding what you are looking for if you are not skilled at map reading. I found that the guards could get you pointed in the right direction, despite not speaking much if any English, nor I any Russian beyond vodka and nyet.
White and gold room, Hermitage
These gold leaf columns knock you down with their luster.
There are many wonderful of caryatids, many of them in gold leaf.
The Winter Palace throne room
The ceilings are magnificent as well.
The photos in this post come from the Winter Palace. There are 6 others open to the public. They are the Old Hermitage, The New Hermitage, the Small Hermitage, the Hermitage Theater, and the most recent additions, the General Staff Building and the
Winter Palace, Hermitage, St Petersburg Russia
In 1731 Empress Anna Ioannovna commissioned Rastrelli, the court architect, later the famous master of late baroque to build the Winter Palace. He completed it in 1735. Seventeen years later Empress Elizaveta Petrovna hired him to expand the building. However he decided to start over. The new plans were approved in 1754. The building was finished in 1764 under Catherine.
The Winter Palace
Winter Palace at night- which I have not seen at this time yet!
Speaking of over the top, is this not the best example?
The garish former church (now a museum) has a steeple that is 81m (265 ft) high. The bell tower on the left has 144 individual mosaic coats of arms representing provinces, cities and towns of the Russian empire that reflected grief over the murder of Czar Alexander II.
Photos of the interior are below the text. The walls and ceilings are covered with mosaic paintings. some 8000 square yards in all, with nary an inch left un-decorated. The interior of the church has multi-colored marble from Italy and colored stone from different regions of Russia including Ural jasper, porphyry, violet gray Altai jasper, dark red, pink and green marble.
The building commemorates the assassination of Czar Alexander II in 1881. It was built from 1883 to 1907 under Nicolas II. There is a canopy erected over the spot of the assassination. Not baroque like so much of St Petersburg, this style has its origins in medieval Russian architecture. It is similar to 17th-century churches in Yaroslav, northeast of Moscow and a World Heritage site, as well as St Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. The spheres atop the spires stand out against any sky and are as far out as anything you might see at Familia Sagrada, for example, if even more demanding of attention.
This is where people with less money go to buy and sell, quite the contrast from the high street just a few minutes away. It is next to some very fancy areas and is slated for massive development, so this folksy shopping will be moved to the city’s edges. The area is about 35 acres of streets and buildings in rough shape.
We bought umbrellas from one of the vendors. He spoke English fairly well and as it turned out he was born in Pakistan. He complained that the Russians are adverse to learning any languages. While we were there a couple came by to ask the price of another umbrella. He attended them briefly and then came back to say they are from one of the stans. How could he tell, Peg asked. From their accent? No, from their appearance. The distinction escaped us.
The goods could be from almost anywhere, except some of the very Russian winter hats with the fur ear flaps and a few other things. There is a wide and fascinating variety of facial features, however, and in a few cases the dress is not typically western. I’ll be looking to get photos as we go along. I’ve seen some that would make very interesting paintings.
Gostinvy Dvor shopping center, just around the corner
On our first full day in St. Petersburg, after an effortless 3.5 hour train ride from Helsinki, we took trolley 3 from the Metro Pushkinskaya area to Lenin Square. This trolley takes you through some of the most attractive areas of St Petersburg. Being on the trolley makes photography difficult as many of the interesting structures go by quickly or are too far away. I got a couple of snaps from my phone, though, to give you some sense of what it’s like. You’ll notice they seem to love golden domes and spires.
The River Neva
Being on the tram did not make people watching difficult at all, although you could be almost anywhere in the US or Europe judging by appearance and dress. I’ve seen several women with striking long black hair, faces as white as snow and dressed for a night on the town. Otherwise it’s very much like what you see in the photo, which I grabbed off the public domain to avoid taking photos of people on the tram.
Typical dress and architecture
Other than the domes the architecture is generally pretty similar. The vehicles include many of the same brands you see anywhere in the US or Europe. The city is often described as being the most European of Russia’s cities, entirely justified as far as I can tell so far.
We stopped for lunch at a kind of bakery that made pies- meat, chicken, fish, mushroom, berry. Very good and very Russian.
Russian salmon pie
Language is a barrier for us. In the central part of the city most menus are translated. This was not the case in the pie place but a waitress spoke English fairly well and served up everything with shy charm. On our first night we ate at a posh place recommended as being very traditional by our friendly landlady. The translations were just so so but we did get what we ordered. In my case it was a shrimp dish with dill (everywhere here), parsley and a small portion of some cooked greens that I could not identify but enjoyed greatly. They had Russian wine on the menu, which is almost always sweet, so we ordered some red from Spain. It was decent and not too expensive (in Helsinki there’s nothing less than $35). We saw also found Spanish wines in the grocery stores, not the best Spain has to offer but acceptable.
I am enthused about being here. This is a fabulous city known especially for the Hermitage, one of the world’s best museums= in fact it is a collection of museums in palaces built by a series of czars starting with Peter. More to come!
Robert Mueller is the Special Prosecutor in charge of investigating the Russian interference in the 2016 election. He’s pursuing Flint, Manafort, probably going after Trump and others close to Trump. I ran across the photo I used for this graphite drawing and was intrigued by Mueller’s expression. I would not want to be on the other end of that gaze. It’s analytical, piercing, no hatred but if he figures out you’ve violated the law and he can meet the relevant standards of proof, you are dead meat.
Robert Mueller, A4, 8.25 x 11.5″, graphite on paper
Herculaneum (Ercolano in Italian) is an archaeological site on the Italian coast a bit south of Rome. The town, inhabited since the 6th century BCE, was destroyed in 79 CE, by the same eruption of Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii. Herculaneum was buried in pyroclastic rock and ash – 15- 20 meters/65 feet – and was struck by extremely high temperatures, killing all the remaining residents instantly. As a result the site offers a far greater insight into the life and death of the residents of populations destroyed by the eruption than Pompeii, and because of its greater state of preservation, is a more interesting place to visit.
Where in Pompeii there were no skeletons, just the area hollowed out in the ash by the skeleton (filled in with plaster of Paris), in Herculaneum they found some 300 intact skeletons. Analysis showed us their occupation, health, diet – we can even distinguish those who ate meat from those who did not. Some had lead poisoning, perhaps from lead pipes Romans sometimes used.
These individuals died from exposure to intense heat, in the range of 500C, close 1,000F. They were in structures built to protect inhabitants from falling debris, as the area was highly prone to earthquakes. Those in the shelter were women and children. Just outside the arched shelters on the beach – which as a result of the eruption is now some 400 meters/yards further west – they found the skeletons of a few men. A boat was nearby, so they were planning an escape.
The archaeologists found food intact, e.g. olives and flour, as well as furniture and fabrics. The relatively light weight of the fallout meant that roofs remain intact, as do other wooden elements such as doors, lintels and trim. They found wooden furniture, sculptures and frescoes with bright colors.