Thursday, July 09, 2009

Of St. Petersburg: The Hermitage

The Hermitage in St. Petersburg is one of the world's great art museums. We bought two-day tickets to have ample time to see the collection. There are some definite masterpieces and some amazing rooms full of the crazy ornate stuff that czars (or tsars, take your pick) with too much money on their hands decided to make out of gold. There is the room above which is at least a couple hundred feet long, stacked top to bottom with portraits of guys in military uniforms. The portraits aren't amazing but the cumulative effect is. It's worth an extended visit.

But there are also a lot of rooms that demonstrate that when the czars and/or tsars were at the peak of their purchasing power, Europe was in a trough in its artistic development. Like room after room of portraits like these. Or the room full of monumental still lifes of fish and game that the official staff mother-in-law said made her "queasy." I guess there is no accounting for taste, but supposedly the Hermitage has a million pieces in their collection that are less worthy of display than these.

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