Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

My goodness, this is the most awesome museum.  Rated alongside the British Museum and the Louvre it’s a masterpiece of it’s own.  The Winter Palace was begun in 1754 by architect Rastrell.  Catherine II purchased Gotzkowski collection,  first collection. The little Hermitage and then the great Hermitage were built, 1764 to 1787. 1852 was the opening of the Imperial Museum of the New Hermitage. 1865 Leonardo Da Vinci’s  Madonna and Child (Litta Madonna) was purchased. 1914 Leonardo Da Vinci’s Madonna with Flower was purchased.
Vlad, Barrett’s brother in law, accompanied us.  Through translation I learned from Barrett that ,”he likes to go to art galleries to improve his mood.”  I thought that as good a reason as any. I’d just told Barrett I thought a walk in a museums and art gallery was as close as one could get in the city to a walk in the woods in the country. I love museums and art galleries and have been truly blessed to have enjoyed many of the world’s finest.  It was when I was a young man working in London I made a point of using my lunch hours to stroll the British Museum. No wonder I was thin back then.
Today we hiked for hours and miles. We mounted the famous Jordan Stairway first.  Then there was just an endless collection of art and not enough time to see it all.  Vlad asked what I most wanted to see and I said, the da Vinci, Picasso, Rafael. He said he liked the Medieval period most..  On the way to the da Vinci he pointed out his favourites, mostly religious scenes. There was so much.  The Leonardo Da Vinci is of the mother and child, the child suckling.  It’s is a moving portrait. Later I’d learn I walked right past the only Michelangelo there. I was looking at the Rodin sculptures and missed the Michelangelo. I can’t say how much I missed but what I saw was truly inspiring.
I love the Manet.  More Picasso Blue Period.  We’d walked and walked and were hungry and wanting lunch when Barret asked if there was anything else I wanted to see. I’d been reading about the Hermitage and it came to mind that this was the place where Rembrandt’s Return of the Prodigal Son was. I’m a big fan of Henri Nouwen’s Prodigal Son writing and loved the idea that there are two sons, not just one that returns.  It’s really an amazing discussion of Faith and Works, or more importantly Grace.  I’m moved personally by the story.  And there was the painting. What an amazing portrayal.
More Matisse, more Gauguin, Flemish school, French, and finally leaving some Roman and Egyptian floors. We’d fluttered about and come to nest here and there but so much had just been wall art which we’d passed as if it were elevator music. It was beautiful. The whole of the museum is that. There’s everything, from great wooden carved desks to massive bowls and intricate porcelain.  It makes one admire the human capacity for transcendence.  I loved it all and feel my mind has had a marvellous cleansing, a rite of purification, a morning and afternoon, of being pointed upwards.  I know I’ll go back to dragging my knuckles but the memories are there. I love the line from Cohen in Chelsea hotel, “We are ugly but we have the music”.  Well, I may be ugly but I’ve got the most beautiful memories. DSCN1779DSCN1674DSCN1679DSCN1680DSCN1681DSCN1686DSCN1687DSCN1736DSCN1737DSCN1689


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