The Hermitage Museum is by far the biggest museum I have ever been in and it is easy to get lost in it. Most of the rooms of the palace, which construction began in 1754 by order of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna, are dominated by the shining gildings, especially those used for the official ceremonies. The Hermitage actually consists of several buildings – The Winter Palace, The Old Hermitage, The New Hermitage, The Small Hermitage, The Hermitage Theatre, The General Staff Building and The Menshikov Palace. I only managed to see some of them.
The buildings did suffer significant damage during World War II and the repair began right after the war. According to the audio guide, prior to the attack by the Nazi, most of the collections had been evacuated and shipped outside St. Petersburg (Leningrad at that time) for safekeeping (to Sverdlovsk according to what I read).
I’m glad I chose to use an audio guide as it gave me a brief overview on what I was looking at. It didn’t give sufficient information, imo, but without it, I would have probably gotten completely lost (not that I would’ve minded!).
On the second floor, the journey began…
The brochure provided a complete layout of the museum, so I decided to just stick to it. The first few rooms from the Jordan Stairs are mostly for the state affairs, like The Small Throne Room, St. George’s Hall and The Armory Hall. As always, there are lots of gilded carvings everywhere! But this is just a beginning. The museum literally has everything. From paintings, sculptures, old jewelleries, icons, potteries, glassware, silverware, antique mosaics to sarcophagi, a real mummy and other artefacts from the bronze and neolithic ages. According to their site, the Hermitage currently houses over 3 million works of art and artefacts.
The Small Hermitage
From the Armory Hall, I went through the War Gallery corridor and St. George’s Hall to reach the smaller building called “The Small Hermitage”. I found here the collection of paintings from the Middle Age (mostly from the Low Countries) and antiquities from hundreds to a thousand years ago.
In the north wing, there is an area called The Pavilion Hall. This is also where Empress Catherine II liked to host her private parties, games or just to relax. I could see why. The Pavilion Hall is not so big but very extravagant with the crystal chandeliers, sculptures and gilded carvings all over the walls. The Hanging Garden right outside the floor-to-ceiling windows would look fantastic in spring and summer. By the way, you can also find the famous gilded peacock clock here.
The New Hermitage
Next to the Small Hermitage is the newer building called (obviously!) the New Hermitage. It was built in 1842-1851 specifically to house the museum’s collections.
More to See on The First Floor…
Once done with the upper floor, I went back to the first floor…. there were still tons to see and I didn’t think I had enough time to see them all! On the first floor of the New Hermitage, you can find the room for the archaic arts, Dionysus Room (housing the ancient Greek sculptures), the Jupiter Hall (housing the ancient Roman sculptures from the 1st – 4th centuries AD), the Twenty-Column Hall, and many more.
There are also collections of arts and artefacts from Eurasia, Golden Horde, Siberian nomads, ancient Syria, Ancient Western Asia and Ancient Egypt on the first floor of the Winter Palace.
When I was done, it was dark already and it was dinner time at the lovely Gosti.