from the Neva
Peter the Great
Costume for the
Ball of 1903
Peasant with Samovar
14th June - 10th August 2003
On 27 May 2003, St Petersburg, home of The State Hermitage Museum,
celebrates its 300th anniversary. One of the youngest cities in
Europe, it was founded in 1703 by Peter the Great as a window onto
the West, part of his programme to modernise Russia.
To mark this occasion, the Hermitage Rooms
at Somerset House is offering free admission to
an exhibition of some 200 photographs from the Hermitage collection,
presenting a profile of this rich and thriving city in the late
19th and early 20th centuries when it was still the capital of Russia.
These images strikingly demonstrate just how little the city has
been affected by the subsequent upheavals of the 20th century. Visitors
to St Petersburg today will discover that much of the centre has
been preserved just at it was when these photographs were taken
- a feast of 18th- and 19th-century architecture.
Special emphasis is placed on the interiors
of the Winter Palace, home to the Romanov rulers of Russia until
their fall in 1917, and the Hermitage - then still an imperial museum.
Another group of photographs focuses on the mansions of those late
19th-century wealthy individuals whose treasures were to enter the
Hermitage after the Revolution. Complementing photographs of the
magnificent masquerade ball held in the Winter Palace in 1903 are
some of the original costumes worn at this glittering event. In
contrast to this opulence is a selection of images of ordinary people
and the less salubrious parts of town that they inhabited.
to main Exhibitions