Friday, May 18, 2012

Architecture of The Hermitage

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Never before have I been to a museum that detail for detail was on par with, and perhaps exceeded, the collection it housed. It took two days to explore, but a third day would have allowed for a slower, more leisurely pace. Any time there at all would be a gift, however, because I never expected to visit Russia. As a fine arts student, I certainly thought about The Hermitage and its art collection, although, going there seemed but a dream and never a realizable goal. Once we bought and paid for our visas, that dream was rekindled. Like The Louvre in Paris, The Hermitage started life as a royal palace. Even so, The Hermitage seems less imposing than the Louvre. Perhaps that was due to it's pastel colored facade, or the fact that it is not one building, but six adjoining buildings including the Winter Palace. It's not really the exterior that impresses, but the interior rooms and finishes, starting with the floors.
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From the simple geometric patterns to the more flamboyant, multicolored, wood inlays, the floors cannot not be overlooked. The line between art and craft is easily blurred in them, and I found myself wincing several times as I was forced to walk upon them, in order to go from one gallery into the next. It seemed very decadent to place shoes upon such floors, and that very well may have been the intent of the architect.
On the other hand, the Roman mosaics were protected with barriers, but in truth were less fragile than the wooden floors. It was clear to see that Roman antiquities were considered more valuable, but I believed the wooden, inlaid floors were given short shrift because they were made locally and not considered valuable at all.
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My opinion of the inlaid floors notwithstanding, the mosaics were remarkable, so it was easy to slow my pace through the gallery to give them enough time to take in all the details. A Google search gave me more information about them. Instead of discovering where they were unearthed and originally located, I discovered that they were 19th century replicas. For more information on The Hermitage try
Now for some of the rooms and their architectural details; this is another photo essay.  I'll leave it to you to discover their names and histories over the Internet if you're so inclined, because in truth, I'm more interested in showing than telling. So here's a visual walk through some of the galleries.
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With such splendor at every turn, it was interesting to note small details that were unexpected, like door knobs with missing parts or careless repairs such as a dark metal screw in the corner of a gold washed escutcheon.
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