The Hermitage – St. Petersburg, Russia

Looted Booty Finds a Home

It would take approximately nine years to cast even a brief glance at each of the museum’s 150,000 works on display (and that’s only 5 percent of the museum’s collection!) in the never-ending maze of the Hermitage Museum’s 1,000 rooms.

The unrivaled bounty of the collection (twenty-four Rembrandts, forty Rubenses – just for example) is enhanced by the immensely beautiful salons themselves: the Hermitage was the Winter Palace of every czar and czarina since Catherine the Great.

One of the world’s finest collections of Italian Renaissance art can be found on the second floor, an artist’s who’s who that culmi­nates with two works by Leonardo da Vinci and the museum’s only Renaissance sculpture: Michelangelo’s Crouching Youth. The top floor houses prominent works by Picasso and Matisse and a host of Impressionists and Post-Impressionists.

The rooms themselves are so busy with patterned parquet floors, crystal chandeliers, inlaid marquetry, molded and painted ceilings, gold leaf, objects of jasper, lapis lazuli, and amber, they almost upstage the art collection. It’s easy to imagine the gala balls, power meetings, and declara­tions of war that took place in the State Rooms. The Malachite Room, fashioned almost entirely from the rich green stone mined in the Ural Mountains, is a masterwork in itself.

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