This winter the National Gallery of Victoria radiates with the opulence and elegance of the Hermitage Museum. The gold and greens of the Hermitage’s Winter Palace commence the journey back to the private collection of Catherine the Great, whose love of great art and culture led her to create her own museum in 1764. Recognising the public value of her collection, as one of the major collectors of art in Europe, Catherine opened the Hermitage to the public in 1852.
The passion with which Catherine collected the thousands of paintings, drawings, decorative objects, sculptures, and more, is brought to life in Melbourne with lush exhibition design and immersive moving image videos of St Petersburg, the grounds surrounding the museum, and of the museum itself, in both a small cinema room and in large archways between gallery rooms. Red velvet and gold accents highlight the furnishings and the magnificence of royalty in Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great.
The exhibition brings a selection of over 400 works to Australia for the first time, including paintings by French, Italian, Dutch and Flemish artists, architectural drawings and works on paper, sculptures, porcelains and precious gems. With a gallery dedicated to the Chinese art and decorative pieces Catherine collected, the diverse rage of works on display showcase the varied interests she held during her rule, including education, literature and design.
Masterpieces from the Hermitage highlight key pieces from her collection, including four works by Rembrandt, Italian masters such as Titian and the Female Nude from the School of Leonardo da Vinci, evocative of the Mona Lisa, Velázquez, Rubens, Dürer, Poussin, van Dyck, Catherine’s acquisition of the collection of Sir Robert Walpole, Great Britain’s first Prime Minister, a celebrated collection of 198 paintings that caused public outcry at their departure from England.
Hermitage State Museum Director of Western Art Mikhail Dedinkin spoke of the importance of the exhibition, in the number of works on display in Melbourne and on the importance of origins of the museum, “This exhibition is the story of how one person created the first fine art museum in Russian history”.
Celebrating its 250-year anniversary in 2014 and one of its largest international exhibitions this year, Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great is a nod to the importance of the arts and culture and a reminder of the lasting impact of decisions made by those in leadership, in an immersive and encompassing display reinvigorating Melbourne’s Winter Masterpieces exhibitions alongside the rousing David Bowie Is at ACMI this winter.
Masterpieces from the Hermitage: The Legacy of Catherine the Great
NGV International, St. Kilda Road, Melbourne
Exhibition continues to 8 November 2015
Entry fees apply
For more information, visit: www.ngv.vic.gov.au for details.
Image: Peter Paul RUBENS and workshop Flemish 1577–1640 The Adoration of the Magi (c. 1620) oil on canvas 235.0 x 277.5 cm. The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (Inv. No 494) Acquired from the collection of Dufresne, Amsterdam, 1770
Review: Jasmin Bardell