Tuesday 30 October 2012

The oldest museum in the world

Although most of the time we spent in St. Petersburg was blessed with good weather, we did have one day of full on rain. Cats and dogs type stuff! Having investigated the weather forecast before we got to the city we'd decided this was definitely the best day to visit the Hermitage. One of the largest and oldest museums in the world. Unfortunately we didn't book a taxi door to door from our hotel so we did end up with wet feet before jumping in an incredibly overpriced taxi. One piece of advice for St Petersburg taxis: agree a price before you set off, because they do NOT use meters! 

The Hermitage is situated inside the old Winter Palace. A fantastic building, and the art collections are enormous. We picked up a map while there, but trying to keep our costs down we didn't pay for an audio guide. I had already downloaded the Hermitage app which was pretty useful, and it's easy to find the really famous or interesting pieces as there will usually be a huge tour group gathered around them. I also booked my ticket online, (our hotel kindly printed off the confirmation) which saved me joining a large queue. 

We began our tour on the ground floor, away from the European Art, which was a good place to begin as it wasn't busy. We planned our tour direction, and started wandering. When we arrived at the art, to begin with we were looking at all paintings in each room. However, we soon realised this was going to take too long, and we were in danger of art burn-out. So, borrowing a pen from one of the attendants, we went through our iPhone app and marked on our map where each painting or sculpture was. Then we were able to go straight to each piece in the rooms and read the description from the app. I would recommend this, as it's impossible to see everything anyway and this way you really know something about the paintings you do see. The only issue was when we couldn't find a few of the paintings as they were on loan around the world. The attendants in the galleries are very friendly and helpful however so you can quickly ask if you're having trouble locating something.

We paid for the use of one camera, and did get a little carried away with taking pictures, so I have picked out my top picks as a taster of the art on offer at the Hermitage. If you're on the way to St Petersburg, definitely have a look at the hermitage website as it has lots of information on there, and if you have an iPhone the hermitage app is free! Bonus!

Posing with a massive box

Ruisdael 'Marsh' Mary's particular favourite. Also another warning; if you lean over too much you set off an alarm sensor, hense Mary's awkward pose.

Rambrandt 'David and Jonathan' (Sorry about the glass reflection)

It was very difficult to get a good picture of this Rembrandt, not least because of the hoards of people but more due to the terrible lighting in the Hermitage. I still couldn't get rid of all the glare. Not only for picture taking, just admiring the art with your naked eye it was a mission to find decent angles to view the picture, and if they were very large being very close up makes it difficult to take in the beauty of the whole picture. I think that would be my only criticism of the whole museum. The rest of my experience there was excellent.

Rembrandt 'Return of the Prodigal son'

St Sebastian

 I took a fancy to this set.

Thomas Gainsborough 'Woman in Blue' One of the small amount of British Art

and I recognised this little tyke as Prince Edward Tudor!

Jean-Honoré Fragonard 'The stolen Kiss'

Mary had taken a liking to one of the ceramics listed on our iPhone app, so we went to look for it. Named simply 'teapot and lid' with silver, uncut diamonds, emeralds and rubies we were looking forward to seeing a grand and impressive piece. When we finally located the teapot in one of the cabinets, we were extremely under-whelmed. Unfortunately this picture is not very good because the patterned floor reflected onto the glass but we had to get a picture of Mary with the crazily small teapot. For reference, please don't ever bring me tea this small.

In all it's glory

 Andre Derain 'Portrait of an Unknown Man reading.'

Henri Matisse 'Dance'

Some still life Cezanne

Auguste Renoir 'Roses in a Vase'
In this room are portraits of Russian Generals who fought against Napoleon in 1912. There are some missing portraits, likely to be of Decemberists who fell from grace.

and there's a great cafe on the way out that serves amazing cake!

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