The State Hermitage Museum
St. Petersburg, Dvortsovaya pl., 2
Phones: +7 (812) 710-90-79
Web site: www.hermitagemuseum.org
The Winter Palace is the former royal palace. Nowadays it is a part of the main museum complex of the Hermitage
The collection of the State Hermitage includes more than three million works of art and artefacts of the world culture
The State Hermitage Museum is one of the largest artistic and cultural and historical museums in Russia and one of the largest in the world.The museum starts its history from collections of works of art which were gained by Russian empress Catherine II in private capacity.
The main expositions of the State Hermitage are placed in the Main Museum Complex, which is situated in the historical centre of Saint Petersburg. It is represented by the Winter Palace, which is a former emperor's residence, Small Hermitage, Old Hermitage and New Hermitage, and also Hermitage Theatre.
In the Main Museum Complex of the State Hermitage are presented the monuments of culture and arts of the ancient world, Europe, Russia, the East, archaeological and numismatic collections. In the Hermitage collection there are two paintings by Leonardo da Vinci and sculpture by Michelangelo, which can be found nowhere else in Russia, as well as the largest collection of Rembrandt's paintings outside Netherlands.
The expositions of the State Hermitage Museum are also located in the General Staff, the Winter Palace of Peter I, Menshikov Palace, the Museum of the Imperial Porcelain Factory, Staraya Derevnya Restoration and Storage Centre.
The monumental and elegant Winter Palace built by order of the Empress Elizabeth Petrovna by the architect Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli in 1754-1762, is a striking monument of the Baroque style. The palace is a brilliant example of a synthesis of architecture and decorative plastic art. All the facades are embellished by a two-tier colonnade. Forming a complex rhythm of verticals, the columns soar upwards, and this motion embraces the numerous statues and vases on the roof. The abundance of stucco decoration - fanciful surbases and window architraves, mascarons, cartouches, rocailles, and a variety of pediments - creates an extremely rich play of light and shade that invest the building's appearance with magnificence.
Developing upon one and the same architectural motif, Rastrelli gave each of the four facades of the palace a different structural rhythm. The southern facade, overlooking the square, has a formal grandeur. Here the architect pierced the building with three arches to create a grand entrance into the courtyard and accentuated it with the vertical elements of paired columns. The majestic northern facade, giving the impression of an endless colonnade, faces the broad expanse of the Neva. The western facade, across from the Admiralty, is reminiscent of the composition of a countryside palace with a small courtyard. The monumental eastern facade with its massive side blocks forming a large courtyard is turned to Millionnaya Street, where the mansions of the nobility were located.
For 150 years the palace served as an imperial residence. In November 1917 it was declared a museum. The exhibition placed in the palace includes grand halls and chambers, collections of the antiquities of Eurasia and the East, as well as collections of European and Eastern paintings, sculptures, and decorative art works.