The Hermitage: Museum and Former Home of the Russian Emperors

If one wants to truly see how diligently focused and meticulous the Russian Tsars and Tsarinas were in trying to outdo their European neighbors in culture, wealth, and grandeur, one only has to look at their insane collection at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.

* The Hermitage Museum is a sprawling art museum that is second only in terms of size to the Louvre in Paris.

* How sprawling? Well the Hermitage is spread out across a large complex of six interconnected buildings, in a structure that was once formerly known as the Russian Winter Palace.

* And the Russian Winter Palace was formerly the official residence of the Russian Tsars and Tsarinas!

* Access to the Museum is via the expansive Palace Square. Once the main square in the whole Russian Empire, Palace Square has been the site of numerous historical events (often tragic and bloody) including the Bloody Sunday Massacre and the October Revolution of 1917.

* The October Revolution marked the climax of a series of events which began with the overthrow and assassination of the last Russian Emperor, Nicholas II, to the creation of Soviet Russia.

* Today, the Square is lined with dozens of tanks, artillery, and mechanized infantry units for tourists to take photos / selfies with.

* At the focal point of the Square, stands the Alexander Column which was built to commemorate Russia's victory against Napoleon's France.

* As well as this triumphal arc on the General Staff Building, also erected to commemorate Napoleon's defeat, which was a big deal back in the day as Napoleon was the French military genius who almost conquered the whole Continental Europe.

* Entering the Hermitage, one gets the feeling that this will not be an ordinary museum visit.

* Thanks to it being the former royal home of the Russian Tsars and Tsarinas, the museum's walls, stairs, and pillars are ornately decorated and masterfully laid-out for maximum awe effect.

* It's like each succeeding room is competing with the last in majesty and splendor.

* In fact, the rooms compete with the museum treasures themselves for your attention!

* "We have come to pay tribute to the Emperor!" As diplomats once did in the strangely named Small Throne Room, as there was nothing small about it at all.

* Russian valor on full display! 

* As a battle-hardened people, Russians have had to contend with Mongol hordes, Persians, Ottomans, and of course Continental Europeans throughout history.

* And they looked marvelous doing so!

* The wife dressed for the occasion!

* One of the most elaborately decorated rooms in the complex is the Grand Church of the Palace, which was the private place of worship of the royal family.

* And includes numerous relics and items attributed to the Romanovs, including the bloodied uniform that Emperor Alexander II was wearing when he was assassinated. 

* Finally arriving at the Main Throne Room, located in the Hall of St. George, which was where the most formal ceremonies in the Imperial Court took place. (And thus explains why the aforementioned Small Throne Room was referred to as such)

* As a museum, the Hermitage boasts an astounding collection of over three million priceless items!

* With only a small portion of which on display at any given point in time.

* Featuring strange and curious artifacts including this mechanized ostrich and bird figures that are covered in gold.

* And the largest collection of paintings in the world! Yes, beating the Louvre, Musee d'Orsay, the MET, etc.

* Including the Benois Madonna..

* And Madonna Litta, both painted by our main man, Leonardo Da Vinci! I wonder if there's some sort of secret code hidden in these..

* This peculiar painting of an old lady eavesdropping on two young people hanging out..

* This incredible mashup of art, geometry and spacing known as the Raphael Loggias. (Good luck taking a selfie here!)

* And works by the prominent masters: Raphael, El Greco, Caravaggio, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Goya, Monet, Van Gogh, and Picasso!

* Including a sculpture (The Crouching Boy) by Michaelangelo himself! Which astonishingly didn't have a protective glass or stanchion around it!

* In fact, most of the priceless works-of-art did not have any protection around them! 

* I got slightly anxious at the thought of one careless tourist in a sea of thousands of tourists that day knocking a statue over!

* They can probably do this while clothed, but CHOOSE not to!

* Probably a normal scene back in the middle ages!

* Psyche Revived by Cupid's Kiss, by Canova, is one of two pieces built by the aforementioned sculptor, with the other identical piece residing in the Louvre. 

* If you're wondering how the Romanovs got to amass all this wonderful artwork, we can thank Empress Catherine the Great, who reigned over the period known as the "Russian Enlightenment" and the "Golden Age of Russia". 

* Keep your head together! A penny for your thoughts? Don't lose your head!

* Harry Potter and the Undying (Formerly) Flame

* Great Zeus! Yet another Ancient Greek sculpture that's not in Athens?

* Yes it seems that artifacts from the Ancient World are must-haves in any respectable museum!

* And yes that includes Egyptian ones! Like this exhibition that now inhabits the area which used to be the main buffet of the Winter Palace!

* Will you let me just sleep?!

* Ancient Egyptians probably be like "Why are they displaying my bed, upright?!"


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