Time-short art lovers need look no further than our essential guide to one of the world's most prolific collections
So you’ve been to the Louvre; you’ve craned your neck to examine the Sistine Chapel, and you’ve traipsed the breadth of the Prussian parks and palaces in Berlin. Well, you needn’t have bothered – St. Petersburg has it all, housed in the State Hermitage Museum, formerly the imperial palace of many a great tsar and tsarina. The Hermitage Collection contains a mind-boggling three million items spread across 120 different rooms. You could spend days in here and not fully appreciate what’s on offer, so take a look at our top 10 things to see in the Hermitage Collection, for next time you’re in town.
Michelangelo's Crouching Boy
A singular artwork by Renaissance sculptor and painter Michelangelo, this unfinished marble statue depicts a crouching boy in the nude. It is the only piece of his work within the Hermitage’s hallowed halls.
Statues Of Atlantes
The building of the New Hermitage, which was designed to house the imperial museum collection, is guarded at the portico by 10 columned granite figures each representing a different artist, scientist, or thinker from history.
Between the rare pieces of Scythian and ancient Greek jewellery showcased in the Gold Rooms, and the exquisite collection of the Diamond Rooms, the immeasurable worth of the Treasure Gallery speaks for itself.
Raphael's Madonna Conestabile
One of the highlights of the Hermitage Collection (otherwise known as Madonna and Child), don’t miss the opportunity to see one of Raphael’s seminal masterpieces up close and personal. The collection also comprises an early work on a similar theme, The Holy Family.
The spectacular Malachite Room is a vast sweeping drawing room caked in gold and embellished with lavish crimson curtains and malachite ornamentation. Once the drawing room of Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna (wife of Nicholas I), this room is particularly impressive.
If you liked the Malachite Room, then you’ll love the Kolyvan Vase. At a crushing 19.2 tonnes, this is the biggest single piece of jasper in the world, and is a feat of stone-cutting craftsmanship.
It might not sound like much, but the Main Staircase is one of the museum’s most popular attractions. A cacophony of gilded frescoes and ornamentation, this ceremonial staircase is embellished with granite columns, classical sculptures, and sweeping balustrades of marble.
Comprising a mechanical golden peacock, cockerel, and an owl, the resplendent Peacock Clock is a unique timepiece designed by the famous London jeweller and goldsmith, James Cox.
Leonardo Da Vinci Room
Never mind the underwhelming Mona Lisa, the Hermitage Collection contains not one but two masterpieces by Leonardo da Vinci: the Madonna Litta and the Benois Madonna, one of the artist’s most popular works.
As one of the largest interiors in the New Hermitage building, this majestic room is unsurprisingly a visitor highlight. The neo-Greek décor was originally intended to host a collection of coins, but today it showcases the history of arms and armour between the 15th and 17th centuries.