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Palaces and museums of St. Petersburg -The Hermitage (Winter Palace)

One of the largest and oldest museums in the world which was appeared in 1764 as a place for the private collection of paintings which Catherine the great began to gather, boasts more than 3 000 000 items. The State Hermitage museum occupies 5 magnificent buildings (the Winter Palace, the Small Hermitage, the Old Hermitage, the New Hermitage and the Hermitage Theatre) created by famous architects of the 18th to 19th century. Winter Palace is the oldest building in the museum ensemble; it was constructed between 1754 and 1762 as a residence for Russian Emperors by outstanding architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli. Containing 1057 rooms, 117 staircases, 1786 doors and 1945 windows, the Winter Palace fully reveals all the characteristic features of Russian Baroque style. As the palace contained few halls which were completed with paintings, Catherine the Great decided to rename it Hermitage. Regular purchases of art objects call for more space so that famous architect Velten was commissioned to enlarge the Old or Great Hermitage. He found the decision to unite new building with principal. Then in 1771-1787 fascinating Gallery of Loges was created by G. Quarenghi. Gallery of Loges is the copy of famous gallery constructed in Vatican in the palace of the Pope by the project of architect D. Bramante at the beginning of 16th century. At the same time G. Quarenghi was creating the Hermitage Theater (1783-1787), which is notable for refined simplicity and clearness of the architectural compositions and antique-style interior and décor. The last edifice which was added to the architectural ensemble was New Hermitage designed by Leo von Klenze in 1842-1851.

At present, complex of Hermitage museum is well known all over the world. It is necessary to notice that besides the paintings the great collection includes antique sculpture, Russian applied art, monuments of culture and art of the European and Oriental peoples, paintings created by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Titian, Rembrandt and Rubens, famous collection of impressionists and post-impressionists, Matisse and Picasso, as well as over a million coins and medals, archaeological materials and collections of Scythian gold.

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