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THE MAKING

OF THE COLLECTION

Although visited now by thousands of people the Museum
traditionally retains the old name of the Hermitage attached to it in
the 1760’s and meaning «a hermit’s dwelling», or «a solitary place». The
name is due to the fact that the Hermitage was founded as a palace
museum accessible only to the nearest of the near to the court.

A number of objects of which but a small part was later incorporated in
the museum’s collections were acquired in different countries by Peter
I. These were antique statues Marine landscapes, land a collection of
Siberian ancient gold buckles. However, the foundation of the
Hermitage is usually dated to the year 1764 when a collection of 225
pictures was bought by Catherine II from the Prussian merchant
Gotzkowsky.

A feature characteristic of the 18th century accusations was the
purchase of large groups of paintings, sometimes of complete
galleries, bought en blok at the sales in Western Europe.Count
Bruhl’s collection acquired in Dresden in 1769, the Gallery of Crozat,
bought in Paris in 1772 and the gallery of Lord Walpole acquired in
London in 1779 were the most prominent among the acquisitions made in
the 18th century. Together with numerous purchases of individual
pictures, they supplied the museum with most outstanding canvases of
the European school ,including those by Rembraandt,Rubens,Van Dyck
and other eminent artists, and made the Hermitage rank among the
finest art galleries of Europe. Works , commissioned by the Russian
court from European painters also enriched the Picture gallery.By
1785 the Museum numbered 2658 paintings. Prints and drawings, cameos,
coins and medals were likewise represented at the Hermitage.

The acquisition of complete collections and of individual works
of art was continued in the 19th century but on a more modest scale
than during the previous period. Among the most notable acquisitions of
the 19th century were: Mathew Malmaison Gallery of the Empress
Josephine bought in 1814; the collection of the English banker Coesvelt
consisting mainly of Spanish paintings, purchased in Amsterdam the same
year; as well as the paintings from the Barrbarigo Palace inVenice which
gave the Museum its best Titians.

As to the individual works of art, the acquisition in 1865 of
Leonardo da Vince’s «Madonna Litta»fromthe Duce of Litta collection and
the purchase of Raphael’s «Virgin and Child» from the Conestebite
family in 1870, were important landmarks in the growth of the treasures
of the Hermitage.

In 1885 the Hermitage received an important collection of
objects of applied art of the 12th – 26th centuries, gathered by
Basilevsky; , together with the Armoury transferred from Tsarskoe
Selo, notably enriched the Museum with a new type of material

The first decade of the 20th century witnessed the acquisition
of a magnificent collection including 730 canvases by the Dutch and
Flemish artists, which had been in the possession of the eminent Russian
scientist Semenov-Tienshansky. Another most important acquisition was
Leonardo da Vinci’s «Madonna and Child» purchased in 1914 from the
family of the architect L.Benois.

The Great October Revolution created highly favourable
conditions for the further growth of the Museum collections and
their systematic study. Since October 1917, due to the care taken by
Soviet Government for the preservation of art treasures, the Museum was
enriched with a great number of first-class works of art. Among these
were the best pictures chosen by the Hermitage the nationalised
private collections such as those formerly owned by the Yussupovs,
the Shuvalovs, the Stroganovs; paintings transferred from the imperial
palaces; art treasures, acquired by exchange from other museums within
the country.

The policy of planned distribution of art treasures among the
museums carried out by the state, enabled the Hermitage not only to
fill up many gaps and deficiencies by adding to its picture gallery
Italian paintings of the 13th-15th centuries, works of the
Netherlandish school, and of the French school of the 19th and 20th
centuries but to form a museum free from private taste , and made it
possible to arrange the collections systematically. The accumulation of
materials which had not been represented in the museum in the
pre-Revolutionary period ,led to the formation of new departments: the
department of the history of culture and art of the primitive society,
of the culture and art of the peoples of the East, and that of the
history of Russian culture.

He immense growth of the collections made it necessary to extend
the exhibition

space This is why the building of the Winter Palace was placed at the
disposal of the Hermitage, the name «The State Hermitage» being now
applied to the whole great museum thus formed.

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