Hermitage Revealed

Front Row at the Movies by Shirrel Rhoades

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As president of the Key West Art & Historical Society, I help oversee four museums. So you may not be surprised
that I recommend seeing “Hermitage Revealed,” a documentary about the famed Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Not everybody will get a chance to tour this former royal palace of Catherine the Great, today a repository for more than three million historical artifacts. But you can do just that — without having to buy an airline ticket — this Saturday or Sunday at Tropic Cinema.

The word “hermitage” means a place for people who live alone. The museum got that name because of its exclusivity. In its early days, only a very few people were allowed to visit. Today, it’s one of the most visited museums in the world.

British writer-director Margy Kinmonth received unprecedented access in 2014 to make this film celebrating the museum’s 250th anniversary. Kinmonth’s cameras were allowed behind the scenes, inspecting special collections and exclusive areas that remain hidden from the public eye. The objets d’art range from Rembrandt to Russian masterpieces, Michelangelo to Matisse, prehistoric artifacts to the gemstones collection of Catherine The Great, and much, much more.

The Hermitage Museum is the second largest museum in the world (The Louvre is slightly larger). Founded in 1764 when Empress Catherine the Great acquired a large collection of paintings from the Berlin merchant Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky,
the Hermitage has been open to the public since 1852.

Catherine was determined to make Russia a cultural center on a par with Europe. In her lifetime, she acquired 4,000 paintings from the old masters, 38,000 books, 10,000 gems, 10,000 drawings, 16,000 coins and medals and a natural history collection that fills two galleries.

Today, contemporary art shares space with Old Masters and priceless antiquities.

The collections occupy a large complex of historic buildings along Palace Embankment. Of the six buildings in the main
museum complex, five — the Winter Palace, Small Hermitage, Old Hermitage, New Hermitage and Hermitage Theatre — are open to the public.

The Heritage’s 80-year-old director, Mikhail Piotrovsky, acts as genial tour guide for this film. He grew up playing in the halls of the institution that was once managed by his father, Boris Piotrovsky.

If you like to visit museums, this is one not to miss.

Email Shirrel: srhoades@aol.com

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