The Pinacothèque de Paris shows The treasure of the Romanov, an exceptional collection of a hundred pieces from the Saint-Petersbourg’s Ermitage Museum.
Born at the end of the 17th century, the Russian Imperial collections were soon among the most important in Europe. As early as 1785, Count Ernest de Munich confirmed it: “The strangers and those curious about the country who were allowed to visit these large and rich painting galleries quite rightly admired their magnificence."
The first among them, Peter the Great (1672-1725), was a knowledgeable collector, strongly curious. Peter the First sent his agents all over Europe to bring back paintings and sculptures to Saint-Petersburg. His heir Catherine II (1729-1796), an enlightened ruler, immersed in the philosophy of the Lumières, in her turn, enriched the collections and built the first space devoted to their presentation: the Small Hermitage, built alongside the Winter Palace between 1764 and 1775. That building soon proved insufficient to house a constantly growing number of works. The Great or Old Hermitage was built shortly after, between 1771 and 1787.
Alexander the First (1777-1825), worthy grandson of Catherine II, also left his mark in the imperial collections, especially by endowing the Hermitage with a superb collection of Spanish masters. Finally, Nicholas the First’s reign (1796-1855) was noteworthy for the building of the New Hermitage (1842- 1852), following the fire of the Winter Palace in 1837. It was the birth of the modern museum, similar to those that flourished in Europe at the time, from the Louvre to the British Museum, including the museums in Berlin and in Munich.
In the space of two centuries, the Romanovs brought together one of the finest collections in the world and built a modern museum, open to the general public as early as 1805. By presenting this remarkable group, together with the Esterházy collection, the Pinacothèque de Paris wishes to retrace the history of taste in the European élites at the start of the 19th century.
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