Hermitage Day in Saint Petersburg Date in the current year: December 7, 2024

Hermitage Day in Saint Petersburg The Stage Hermitage Museum, which is one of the world’s largest art museums and one of the most famous museums in Russia, celebrates its foundation anniversary on December 7. On Hermitage Day, the museum offers free admission to permanent exhibitions and a special program of events.

The history of the Hermitage Museum dates back to December 7, 1764. On this day, Empress Catherine the Great purchased 225 or 317 paintings (the numbers vary in different sources) from Prussian merchant Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky and started her art collection. The collection included paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, Titian, and other notable painters.

In the following years, Catherine expanded her collection by acquiring collections offered for sale by the heirs of prominent collectors, as well as by commissioning paintings from notable artists. In her lifetime, the empress acquired 4,000 paintings, 10,000 drawings, 16,000 coins, 10,000 engraved gems, and 38,000 books.

The original collection was exhibited in the Small Hermitage, a two-story building erected next to the Winter Palace in 1764–1766. As the collection grew, Catherine commissioned her court architect Yuri Felten to build the Great Hermitage, which is currently also known as the Old Hermitage. After Catherine’s death, both Alexander I and Nicholas I continued to expand her art collection.

For the first century of its existence, the Hermitage was a private art collection, which only a select few had access to. It was transformed into a public museum during the reign of Nicholas I, who commissioned German architect Leon von Klenze to design the New Hermitage building specifically for this purpose. The New Hermitage was opened to the public in February 1852.

After the Russian Revolution, the Hermitage was proclaimed a state museum. Its collection expanded with the collection of the Imperial Academy of Arts and nationalized private art collections, as well as jewels and interior pieces from the Winter Palace. Sadly, it also suffered losses; the Diamond Room of the Winter Palace was moved to the Moscow Kremlin, several hundred paintings were transferred to the Moscow Museum of Fine Arts, and about 250 valuable paintings were sold to Western museums to finance the rapid industrialization of Russia.

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Hermitage continued to expand its collection by acquiring paintings by contemporary artists. The present-day Hermitage is an extensive museum complex with one of the world’s largest collections of paintings. The main museum complex consists of five buildings (the Winter Palace, the Small Hermitage, the Great/Old Hermitage, the New Hermitage, the Hermitage Theatre) situated along the Palace Embankment.

Every year, the Hermitage celebrates its foundation anniversary with a special program that includes new temporary exhibitions and various events and activities, such as a projection mapping show. Originally a day-long event, Hermitage Day has been transformed into Hermitage Days that begin in late November or early December and last for about ten days.

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