I took so many pictures in the Hermitage of St. Petersburg that I’ll divide them among two posts: the buildings and the paintings. First the building itself, which was a palace of the Russian tsars until Nicholas II was deposed in 1917, with Catherine the Great installing the original art collection in 1764.
The museum itself comprises several connected buildings, and I’d recommend buying tickets online in advance; they’re cheaper, you avoid the long lines of tourists, and you get the right to photograph thrown in for free.
Considering both the paintings, which range from the medieval through post-Impressionists, and the setting, which is incomparable, I consider the Hermitage the finest art museum I’ve been to. It also has the largest art collection of any museum in the world: almost 3 million objects.
The building (click this and all photos to enlarge):
The sign at the entrance kiosk. I found it cool because of all the various kinds of heroes, veterans, and “gentlemen” who got free or reduced entry:
The Jordan Staircase is the main entry to the Winter Palace. Designed by architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli, it is flanked by Italian sculptures acquired by Peter the Great, and was used by dignitaries visiting the tsar. Every January 6, the imperial family would walk down these stairs to celebrate Christ’s baptism at the adjoining Neva River (the tsar would drink a cup of water from the river presented by the Metropolitan of the city):
One of the imperial rooms off the throne room, showing the building’s opulence:
Since the building was a palace, it’s very elaborate, although much of it was restored after the German siege during World War II. Here is a parquet floor in one part of the building:
The throne room, with the double-headed eagle of the Romanov dynasty:
and a lavish display of paintings:
Leonardo is one of my favorite painters, and the Hermitage has two of his dozen or so paintings. They’re displayed in this room, which is always full of tourists:
The paintings are behind glass, and surrounded by tourists, so it’s hard to get a good look. Here are photos of the two Leonardos. The first is the Madonna Litta (1490; note that there is some doubt about whether these really are by Leonardo, but most art scholars think they are):
This is the “Benois Madonna” (1478), once considered lost but found in 1909 to be part of a private collection:
Finally, a huge and beautiful malachite vase (malachite is my favorite mineral):