State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg
The State Hermitage Museum is one of the largest museums in the world and is located in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The museum website describes how the museum was founded in 1874 by Russian Empress Catherine the Great after purchasing 225 Flemish and Dutch paintings from the Berlin merchant Johann Ernest Gotzkowski.
It consists of six buildings including the Winter Palace (famously stormed during the Russian Revolution in 1917).
Located in the heart of St Petersburg, the museum sits on the Palace Embankment of the Neva River. It received 2,426,203 visitors in 2009.
The museum collection consists of 2,967,334 items, including nearly 17,000 paintings, approximately 12,500 sculptures, nearly 800,000 archaeological objects, and over 1,000,000 numismatic items.
Its collection of Western European art is described by the museum website as "one of the finest in the world”. It occupies 120 rooms in four museum buildings and includes works by Da Vinci and Raphael.
The State Hermitage also houses over two million ancient and early medieval items, including objects from the Palaeolithic to the Iron Ages.
In addition, the Oriental collection consists of 180,000 items contained in 50 museum rooms, including art from Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Central Asia and Byzantium.
The Treasure Gallery, devoted to gold and jewellery, is divided into two sections. The first contains around 1,500 works made from gold and dating from the 7th century B.C. to the 19th century A.D.
The second, the Diamond Rooms, shows the “development of the jeweller's craft over the course of mankind's many centuries of history”, according to the museum website.
The State Hermitage Museum Collection has not been valued formally. In 2006, CBC News reported that 221 objects were stolen from the museum believed to be valued at $5.5 million.
In 2009, the Bloomberg News website reported the museum bought 92 watercolour portraits worth approximately $4.8 million from the Paris-based Popoff Collection.
These figures only amount to a fraction of the collection’s total worth, providing an idea of its incredible value.
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