Guide to the Hermitage

11:01 Alyson Tart 0 Comments

When we walked into the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg last weekend, two things crossed my mind

1) I haven't been to a museum in years (which indicates museums aren't usually my pick for sightseeing while travelling)
2) Wow, this place is huge

The museum can be overwhelming without a plan of attack - over 3 million works of art and it is situated in a complex, not just a building, that includes the Winter Palace, the Old Hermitage, the New Hermitage, Menshikov Palace and more.  Like I said, overwhelming.

So after more than four hours of slightly planned random wandering, here's the must sees of the Hermitage:

1st Floor
1. Ancient Egyptian artifacts
Here is your usual, but interesting assortment of Egyptian artifacts. You have sculptures, sarcophagi, and you know, a mummy. Other than the Egyptian National Museum, here is the only place I have seen a mummy which makes it worth swinging by.

2. Room of Ancient Sculpture
Whether you enjoy a good Aphrodite sculpture, or like to pose as friends with busts, this room is the place to be. There are lots of people throughout history captured through sculpture here.

2nd Floor
3. The Peacock Room
This probably isn't it's technical name, but since they don't have it on their website, we will improvise. If you didn't already guess, this room has a peacock, but of the mechanical kind. It's an amazing clock designed by James Cox which apparently is a big name in clocks. The peacock is the main attraction, but also features an owl and rooster which when wound move around the clock.  Unfortunately, this doesn't happen every day, but here's a video that shows the clock in better detail.

4. The Raphael Gallery
This gallery was designed at the request of Catherine II who wanted a replica of the Raphael Gallery at the Vatican. It is breathtaking to walk down this room covered in frescoes and it was copied to the exact detail with one exception - see if you can find it :)

5. DaVinci's Litta Madonna
An iconic piece of art which has some controversy surrounding it. Some scholars think that while DaVinci had a hand in creating this, it was actually his pupil who painted the majority of it, as the Christ child differs from his other paintings. Good luck pushing through the crowds to snap a picture.

6. Rembrandt's Return of the Prodigal Son
While there are many Rembrandts throughout the museum, this is one of his most famous pieces.

3rd Floor
7. French Art
I won't narrow this down - see the entire floor. Those who love art museums will love this section. Rooms full of Matisse, Picasso, Seurat, Van Gough and other painters whose names you are sure to recognize. The rooms themselves also show a sharp contrast to the over the top decor of other parts of the palace.

We managed to get through quite a bit of the museum in 4 hours, but didn't visit any of the other buildings in the complex.  For other details on the collection, exhibits and getting around the Hermitage, try their website.

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