Saint Petersburg: The Hermitage
September 9, 2011
At the Hermitage Museum I was approached by a charming woman who offered to be my personal guide. Since she quoted an exorbitant fee, I simply explained, “I just follow my nose.”
I noticed that everyone raced through the entrance lobby and headed for the magnificent grand stairway leading up to the main galleries. What a shame. They rushed through the arcade filled with enormous Greek sculptures. And in one corner, in a very unpretentious location, I found a huge urn with bas relief sculptures depicting a “party” and the inevitable outcome of too much of a good thing.
My nose led me to a temporary exhibit of Roman sculpture and painting of the 18th and 19th Centuries. This one exhibit is worth the price of admission. The Antonio Canova (1757 – 1822) sculptures of mythological figures, very young girls and boys, are so finely and sensitively wrought that they nearly brought tears to my eyes.
German art is not on everybody’s must see list. But there I was, in a gallery filled with portraits….not “pretty” like some French paintings ... but serious and somber and controlled and powerful. Much more to my taste.
Yes, I found the rooms of Picasso, Rembrandt, Pissarro, Renoir, Cézannes. The rooms of Egypt.
My friend Harry in Bangkok told he had lived in Saint Petersburg and had visited the Hermitage eight times. He estimated had had seen about ten percent of the holdings.
There was a moment when I felt it obscene that there should be such a vast array of priceless art in one place. How many hundreds of thousands of items are in the Hermitage collection? Under what circumstances were they acquired? What was the origin of the funds necessary for their purchase? I reckon the answers may not be so pretty.
That pensive moment passed. I remembered how fortunate I am to even be here.
This is the link for the Canova collection at the Hermitage.
Don’t forget my video of the Greek “party”…Click on the YouTube icon on the left.