Hermitage Rooms Archive

St Petersburg: A 300th Birthday Tribute
People and Palaces in Photographs around 1900

Photo: Karl Bulla (1854-1929) Self portrait, circa 1900
Karl Bulla
Self portrait
circa 1900

Photo: Winter Palace from the Neva, circa 1900
Karl Bulla
Winter Palace
from the Neva
circa 1900

Photo: Monument to Peter the Great, 1909
Karl Bulla
Monument to
Peter the Great

Photo: Medieval Rooms in the Old Hermitage
Medieval Rooms
in the
Old Hermitage

Photo: Princess Orlova-Davydova in Masquerade Costume for the Ball of 1903
Elena Mrozovskaya,
in Masquerade
Costume for the
Ball of 1903

Photo: Peasant with samovar, 1860s
Willaim Carrick
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.

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