Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Art report / Russia 1

In almost three weeks of northern Europe, I was able to find surprisingly little art to report on.  We visited four elite museums but had what I would describe as a satisfying art experience in only two of them.  I'll tackle these in ascending order of satisfaction.

I've been disappointed in museums before (read about our bad day in Berlin here and my bad day in Paris here) but at least I always got to see some art.  That was not to be at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg.  According to the National Geographic, the fourth greatest museum in the world, with the largest collection of paintings in the world, but according to Kathy, a dud. 

The Hermitage started off as a variety of state buildings, including the royal residence and a large administrative headquarters, so you can imagine that the decor was over the top.  Many, many, many fabulous parquet floors and grand reception rooms:

A life-size gold-and-jeweled peacock clock -- on the hour, he spreads his tail:

In a huge room crowded with tourists, two tiny Da Vinci paintings, which I could not get close to:

Da Vinci, Litta Madonna

Da Vinci, The Benois Madonna

Here, I finally got up close enough to look at some art without 27 people in front of me:

Michelangelo, The Crouching Boy

El Greco, The Apostles Peter and Paul

The greatest disappointment was the Rembrandt collection, the largest of any museum in the world with 15 paintings.  We got to briefly pause in front of two of them before being hustled along by the guide.

Rembrandt, Danaë

Rembrandt, Return of the Prodigal Son (detail below)

There are three million pieces of art in the Hermitage Collection.  I am not exaggerating:  those six paintings are the only ones I got to stand in front of long enough to take a photo.  What a thrill.


  1. Where you there on a cruise excursion? One of my friends recently visited Russia on a different tour and observed that the cruise tours were very hurried. She is also a frequent cruiser so wasn`t being critical just an observation.

    1. yes, we were, and she's absolutely right.

  2. When I visited back in late 1988, no pictures of anything and no handbags. We got patted down. There are Matisse paintings that I had never seen before. An early George Washington portrait. It was so amazing. We had two hours and no guides. We were with a German tour so they didn't know we were Americans.

  3. Sorry about your (totally understandable!) disappointment. Interesting on the cruise tours being so rushed. It sounds more like this was more like the class trip when son was in 9th grade, to Washington DC - more of a "here's a quick look at what's here - we hope you want to come back on your own time/dime to actually see things". So glad I didn't go on that.

    And Thank You for having a name/url option for comments. I've seen bloggers saying they are not getting emails when people leave a comment. What I'm seeing on so many is no way to comment except with blogger id. Not gonna mix personal & work IDs at work, and I won't remember where or what I wanted to comment by the time I get home.

  4. It was the selfie sticks everywhere, including in my field of vision that really annoyed me in the Hermitage Museum.

  5. O, o, many of the Rembrandt paintings are in the Hermitage museum in Amsterdam this year and although it's busy you can easily see them there. I suppose the Hermitage in Russia didn't give information about exchange of (parts of) collections with other musea.