The Hermitage leningrad
The Hermitage leningrad
The first specimens of Western European painting began to reach the shores of the Neva shortly after the founding of the new Russian capital by Peter I. That was a period when Russia’s contacts with Western European culture and art had already fallen into a pattern: young Russian artists were perfecting their skills in France and Italy; painters from Germany, France and Switzerland were being invited to work in St Petersburg; and the first purchases of canvases were being made in Holland and Belgium. In 1716, for instance, 121 pictures were bought for Peter I in Holland by Osip Solovyov and 117 were acquired at the same time in Brussels and Antwerp by a commercial agent named Yuri Kologrivov. Shortly after that the collection was augmented by 119 more canvases sent to Peter I by two English merchants, Evan and Elsen. Predominant in Peter I’s collections were Dutch and Flemish paintings.
Jakob Stehlin, the tsar’s biographer, recorded that his favourite artists were Rubens, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Steen, Wouwerman, Brueghel, van der Werff, and van Ostade, and that his best-liked subjects were genre scenes depicting “Dutch rustics”. These Dutch proclivities should not be taken as merely reflecting the personal tastes of Peter “the shipmaster”: the burgher democracy of Holland, which had found such vigorous expression in that country’s painting, had much in common with the progressive reforms in the field of culture and home life that were being introduced by the tsar in line with the course of national development.
The early part of the eighteenth century saw the establishment of picture galleries in St Petersburg and Peterhof, notably in the Monplaisir Palace which as a court collection may be regarded as the prototype of the Hermitage. The artistic level of these galleries was not all that could be desired, yet some of their exhibits were of outstanding merit and were later added to the “golden fund” of the Hermitage. One such Canvas was Rembrandt’s David and Jonathan, originally exhibited in the Monplaisir, but transferred in 1882 to the Hermitage. This, incidentally, was the first Rembrandt to arrive in Russia.
The Picture Hall of this palace contained 115 canvases, mostly belonging to German, Dutch and Flemish masters, with a sprinkling of French and Italian works, purchased by Georg Grooth, a German painter, at the request of Empress Elizabeth. Among these canvases, some of which were even second-rate, there were quite valuable pieces, such as Danae by Jacques Blanchard, Church Interior by Emanuel de Witte and Family Group, an important work by Daniel Schultz of Danzig transferred to the Hermitage in 1937.
Many famous Western European collections came to St Petersburg during the reign of Catherine II. Russia, by then, had passed through two stages of art collecting, which had done much to pave the way for the inauguration of the Hermitage.
While it did contain several first-rate canvases by Rembrandt, Rubens, Hals, and Snyders, the Gotzkowsky collection, which formed the original nucleus of the Hermitage, was no different in respect of artistic merit from the purchases made by Peter I and Elizabeth. The acquisition in 1769 of the collection of Count Heinrich Bruhl, a Dresden connoisseur, radically altered the situation, adding to the Museum’s Dutch and Flemish sections four Rembrandts, four landscapes by Jacob van Ruisdael, two portraits, Landscape with a Rainbow and Perseus and Andromeda by Rubens, a series of hunting scenes by Paul de Vos, and several masterpieces of Terborch, Mieris, van Ostade, and Wouwerman. A splendid series of views of Dresden and Pirna copied by Bernardo Bellotto specially for Bruhl, and the real gem^ of his collection: a small-size canvas by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, known as Maecenas Presenting the Liberal Arts to Augustus.
A small collection was acquired in 1768 in Brussels from Count Johann Philip Cobenzl, which included Rubens’s Roman Charity (Cimon and Pero), Venus and Adonis and Statue of Ceres. Quite sensational was the purchase in 1772 of 158 canvases belonging to the Parisian collection of
Baron Pierre Crozat, which first introduced into Russia the works of the masters of the Italian Renaissance: Raphael’s Holy Family (also known as Madonna and Child with the Beardless Joseph), austere and classically pure; Giorgione’s Judith, shot through with lyric emotion; Titian’s Dапаёf a paean to earthly love; Veronese’s Pieta, whose conflicting greens and pinks suggest despairing sorrow; and Tintoretto’s thrilling and festive Birth of St John the Baptist.
The works of such eminent seventeenth- and eighteenth-century French painters as Louis Le Nain, Bourdon, Poussin, Largilliere, Watteau, and Chardin laid the beginnings of a special section of French painting. Equally significant and substantial was the increment to the Museum’s Dutch and Flemish sections through the acquisition of the Crozat collection, which included a number of priceless canvases that have drawn the never-failing attention of experts and connoisseurs, among them Rembrandt’s Бапаё, Rubens’s Bacchus, Portrait of a Lady of the Chamber to Infanta Isabella and sketches for the Life of Maria de’ Medici cycle, as well as Van Dyck’s Self-portrait.
No less important was the Museum’s acquisition of Sir Robert Walpole’s collection (Houghton Hall picture gallery) in London in 1779. This added to the Flemish section fourteen more paintings by Rubens (The Carters, Feast at Simon the Pharisee’s, sketches for triumphal arches and for a ceiling at Whitehall, etc.), several Van Dycks (including Madonna of the Partridges), a series of Snyders’s monumental Shops, and several pieces by Jordaens and Teniers the Younger. The works of such prominent seventeenth-century artists as Reni, Albani, Maratti, Rosa, and Giordano enriched the Museum’s section of Italian art, The Sacrifice of Abraham.
It is difficult to name the most noteworthy works of the Walpole collection, though it may be ventured that particular interest attaches to Rubens’s sketches for the triumphal arches erected to solemnize the arrival of Cardinal Infante Ferdinand in Antwerp, and for the ceiling of the Banqueting House at Whitehall. These lightning sketches reveal a new Rubens, not the fashionable “painter of royalty” but an artist anxious to seize in his daily work the fortunate flashes of inspiration that visited him and to record the images evoked. Together with those of the Life of Maria de’ Medici cycle, they constitute the world’s best collection of Rubens’s sketches.
The exceptionally high quality of the paintings acquired by the Museum towards the close of the eighteenth century should be attributed to the calibre of the men in charge of purchases, enlightened Russians, notably Dmitry Golitsyn, Russian ambassador to The Hague, and also to the cooperation of highly competent foreign experts, such as Grimm, Diderot,
Tronchin, and Falconet. A manuscript catalogue of the picture gallery compiled in 1797 listed 3,996 pictures, including numerous masterpieces. Acquisitions continued during the nineteenth century, though at a slower pace. In 1814 and 1815, seventy-five canvases were bought in Amsterdam from the English banker Coesvelt, among them the Portrait of Count Olivares, a brilliant example of the realistic art of Velazquez. This acquisition laid the corner-stone of the Museum’s section of Spanish paintings, which was soon augmented by the purchase at an auction in Paris, in 1831, of the collection of Manuel de Godoy, a former minister of Charles IV of Spain, and by canvases bought in 1834 from Paez de la Cadena, Spanish ambassador to Russia.
In the 1880s purchases abroad were all but discontinued, though it was just at this time that the Hermitage received seventy-three of the best pictures of the Golitsyn Museum in Moscow, among them Cima da Conegliano’s Annunciation, Rubens’s Virgin and Child, and a View of Venice by Francesco Guardi.
These last pre-revolutionary accretions to the Hermitage picture gallery were exceptionally valuable. The collection of the celebrated Russian scholar and traveller Semionov-Tien-Shansky, which numbered more than 700 canvases, made the Museum’s Dutch section one of the richest in the world and gave the gallery over 400 works of Minor Dutchmen hitherto practically or entirely unrepresented.
The Khitrovo bequest enabled the Museum to establish an excellent exhibition of English painting at the peak of its development: the works of Gainsborough, Raeburn, Romney, Hoppner, Opie, and Lawrence.
Important collections owned by members of Russia’s nobility, such as the Stroganovs, Sheremetevs, Shuvalovs, and Yusupovs, were initially turned into public museums, but later transferred, either wholly or partially, to the Hermitage. Further significant additions to the Museum’s picture gallery came as a result of the nationalization of several other private collections, including those of Argutinsky-Dolgorukov, the Vorontsov-Dashkovs, Gorchakovs, Miatlevs, Olives, and Paskevich.
The works of Ugolino Lorenzetti, Spinello Aretino, Filippo Lippi, Lorenzo Costa, Francesco Francia, and other masters enabled the Museum to unfold an exhibition of trecento and quattrocento art. The canvases of Bartolommeo Manfredi, Mattia Preti, Bernardo Strozzi, Luca Giordano, and certain other exponents of the realistic trend did much to round out the exhibition of seventeenth-century Italian painting, while that of the eighteenth century gained very substantially through the transfer from the museum of the Stieglitz School of Art and Industrial Design of Giovanni Battista Tiepolo’s monumental canvases depicting episodes of Roman history and of Francesco Guardi’s superb Landscape from the Gatchina Palace. The
Italian section, embracing the period from the thirteenth to the eighteenth century, now totalled more than 1,000 canvases. Today it is unquestionably one of the best collections outside Italy, though not all the schools of Italian art are illustrated in it as fully as that of sixteenth — eighteenth-century Venice. There are several lacunae, as, for example, in the case of Florence, Rome, Padua, and of some other cities. On the whole, seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Italian painting is represented in the Hermitage considerably better than the art of earlier periods.
A definitely fuller interpretation of seventeenth-century French realistic art became possible with the acquisition of Mathieu Le Nain’s Portrait of a Youth, Pierre Montallier’s Acts of Mercy (the only authentic work of this follower of the brothers Le Nain), and a Self-portrait by Jean Da- ret. These included Watteau’s Capricious Girl, Lemoyne’s Virgin, Boucher’s Triumph of Venus, Greuze’s Spoilt Child and several portraits, Fragonard’s Snatched Kiss, Hubert Robert’s Villa Madama near Rome and Ruins of a Terrace in a Park. Quite a few important works have been added to the Netherlandish, Flemish and Dutch sections. Among those of the Flemish artists special mention should be made of Rubens’s Christ Crowned with Thorns, Susannah and the Elders, Nessus and Dejanira, and the sketch Descent from the Cross, three portraits by Van Dyck, and Jordaens’s The Bean King, the latter revealing with particular brilliance and candour the democratic, popular roots of Flemish art. The Museum’s Flemish section now houses about 600 pictures.
At present the gallery possesses three canvases of Bloemaert, who trained a brilliant galaxy of Utrecht painters. There have been further accessions to the exhibition of the Haarlem academic painters, such as van Mander’s Massacre of the Innocents, which came in 1921 from the collection of Nikolai Roerich, Russian artist of note, and Gornelisz’s Feast of the Gods, acquired shortly after that from the Pavlovsk Palace.
Some very interesting and important accessions have increased the collections of German, Spanish and English painting. The Spanish section, for instance, has acquired a Crucifixion by Zurbaran and an Annunciation by Antolinez, and the English section — Wright’s The Annual Girandola: Castel Sant’ Angelo in Rome and Morland’s Approaching Storm. The works of Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, and Finnish masters acquired from various palace galleries and private owners formed the nucleus of a modest section of Scandinavian art.
This acquisition gave the Hermitage its first works of Delacroix and Delaroche of the romantic school, Theodore Rousseau, Daubigny and Dupre of the Barbizon school, and painters closely associated with it, such as Diaz de la Pena, Jacque, Troyon, and Corot, and, finally. Works by their contemporaries were received at the same time, including those of de Braeckelaer, Gallait, de Keyser, and Leys of Belgium, Weissenbruch, Roelofs and van Schendel of Holland, and the Achenbach brothers, Knaus and Meyerheim of Germany.
In 1929 the Museum’s section of nineteenth-century art was augmented by canvases collected by the Russian landscapist Alexei Bogoliubov for the Anichkov Palace. A very valuable addition to the Museum’s picture gallery, received in the 1920s from the Yusupov, Naryshkina and Leuchtenberg collections, including David’s Sappho and Phaon, Guerin’s Morpheus and Iris, Prud’hon’s Innocence Preferring Love to Wealth, and Ingres’s Portrait of Count Guryev.
The Postimpressionist section has fifteen Gauguins, eleven Cezannes and four Van Goghs. Even more impressive is the exhibition of the following generation of artists, which contains thirty-seven Matisses, nine Marquets, fourteen Derains, nine Bonnards, twenty-two Denis, and thirty-six Picassos.
The German school is something of an exception, being rather well illustrated by the works of Leibl, Stuck, Liebermann, Ehmsen, Nagel, and Grundig, even though in some cases by single canvases.
The latest section of the picture gallery is that of the socialist countries of Europe. The task of expanding this section is currently being given top priority by the Museum.
During the past few years the Museum’s collections have been augmented by acquisitions made by its purchasing commission and by gifts received from artists or members of their families and from collectors. In this way the Hermitage has come into possession of such canvases as Bellange’s Lamentation, Stanzione’s Cleopatra, van Ostade’s Rustic Society, Berchem’s Pastoral Scene, Matisse’s Portrait of a Woman, Boudin’s Landscape, Guttuso’s Crowd, Rocco and Son and Still Life, Fougeron’s Chad- fishers and Bridge, etc.