The Hermitage is among the world's largest museums. It was founded in 1764 when Catherine the Great purchased the first collection of 255 paintings in Berlin. The museum has since grown to house over 2.7 million exhibits and is visited by over 3.2 million every year. Housed in five buildings along the Neva River embankment, the Hermitage boasts a vast collection of Egyptian, Greek, Ancient Roman, Oriental, Western European Art, and Applied Arts.
THE WINTER PALACE
This baroque-style palace was the official residence of the Romanov Royal family and is the largest of all buildings of the museum. It was built in 1764 by the Italian architect Rastrelli for Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great. The Winter Palace is home to many of Russia's most impressive interiors and state rooms, the famous Jordanian Staircase, as well as the private quarters of the Romanov royal family. The third floor houses the Impressionist Art collection, the largest of its kind in the world.
Adjacent to the Winter Palace, the Small Hermitage was completed in 1769 by the French architect de la Mothe. The building served as Catherine the Great's own "hermitage" where one could repose in retreat. It was here that she adorned several rooms with paintings, statues and other works of art. The most prominent of all exhibits is the famous Pavilion Hall decorated with original Roman mosaics floor and a Peacock clock by the English master James Cox.
Large (Old) Hermitage:
It was built in 1787 by the architect Yuri Velten. By the late 18th century the Hermitage Museum had Europe's largest art collection and the new building was built as an exhibition hall. The Old Hermitage houses the museum's most valuable paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, Rafael, Caravaggio, and a collection of the Medieval Italian Art. A new gallery added to the Old Hermitage in 1792 was turned into a replica of the Rafael Lodges of the Pope's Palace in the Vatican City.
Completed in 1851 by the Russian architects Stasov and Efimov. Like its predecessor, it was built to house the growing art collections of the museum. The New Hermitage houses superb collections of Western European art, with several halls dedicated to works by Rembrandt, Rubens, and Van Dyck.
The last building along the Neva River Embankment, the Hermitage Theater was built in 1787 by the architect Quarenghi. Catherine the Great wanted to have an in-house theater for the exclusive enjoyment of herself and her close friends. There is no formal entrance to the theater from the street and the entry foyer connects the Hermitage Theater to the Old Hermitage spanning the waters of the Winter Canal. The theater is laid out as a Roman amphitheater with perfect visibility and superb acoustics from every seat.