The Hermitage Feat (Feet)
Last August, while visiting St. Petersburg Russia, my husband and I donned comfy clothes and shoes for a grand five-hour tour of the Hermitage Museum. (established in 1764)
Six buildings, three million items, the largest collection of paintings in the world, 4 million visitors a year, and 1,978,622 square feet (183,820 m2) in size, second in only to the Paris Louvre. Natalya, our guide, was swift footed and allowed little rest, but each room was grander and more amazing than the next! The Museum has wonderful tours online of many of their works, so you too can leave the tennis shoes at home and tour it from your laptop!
Catherine built a fine Winter Palace for herself and her art collection. We gawked and exclaimed at the golden décor and throne room flair, we moved through rooms and rooms and rooms of masterful works.
We breathed the air in rooms with oils and sculptures by Dutch, Flemish, Russian, Italian, French, German, English, Egyptian artists. To stand by a Vermeer, Rafael, Rembrandt, Rubens, Van Gogh, Gauguin, da Vinci, Michelangelo, Pissarro, Durer, Picasso, Gainsborough , Caravaggio…Pinch me! Was it real? Yes! It was, and boy did we snap photos as proof.
The most glowing room was not allowed to be photographed! The jeweled encrusted Amber Room, once the subject of Nazi looting, has been restored and now on display in full blown glory. In 1979, the Soviet government began a project to reconstruct the Amber Room based on black-and-white photos. The project took 24 years to complete and required artisans to resurrect the old and largely forgotten art of amber craftsmanship. Amber is for sale in every Russian street and store. Take a souvenir home.
While our feet were tired, we accomplished quite a feat in our tour, our souls were nourished by the canvas and marble. To me, a museum should leave one with wonder, with feeling and with amazement. Our planet world is so fortunate to have humans who value the arts in every continent, country and village. These collections are available to smell, feel and memorize with our eyes. It reminds me of a student one who told me “Ms. Brown, we touch the art with our eyes, not our hands, right?” Indeed!