The State Hermitage Museum was opened in 1852 for free access but for a long time the Hermitage was a collection of the masterpieces of art, belonged to the royal family. The Hermitage was created by the Empress Catherine II as her private collection. It was located in the solitary chambers of the Winter Palace and that?s why the collection got the title ? Hermitage that means ?solitude?. Being an enlightened ruler, she purchased the collections of the European art when an opportunity presented itself. She enriched the Hermitage with the works of Tiziano, Raffaello, Rembrandt, Rubens, van Dyck, and Michelangelo; with the libraries of Diderot and Voltaire and with the collection of the graphic art. After the death of Catherine II her collection of paintings numbered 3096 pictures.
In the XIX century the Emperors of Russian Empire constantly enlarged the collection of the Hermitage. Alexander I and Nicolay I bought not only the large collections but the certain works of masters of art. At that time the masterpieces of Caravaggio, Botticelli, Giorgione, Carracci were purchased. The Emperors enlarged the collections of the Spanish and the Italian art and bought different European collections. In 1852 Nicolay I opened the Hermitage for public. The museum contained the collections of the ancient, the Egyptian and the Oriental art and the great collection of the West European art of the VII-XIX centuries.
After the Revolution the Hermitage was enriched at the expense of the socialized private collections. The Hermitage was enriched with Moscow collections and the collections of the works of art of the XX century. But some collections were lost: the Brilliant Chamber and the part of the works of the classical masters as Tiziano or Rembrandt were removed to Moscow museums. 48 masterpieces of art were sold in 1929-34. In 1941-44 during the Blockade of Leningrad valuables of the Hermitage were evacuated and that?s why were saved. In 1956 the third storey of the Hermitage with the wonderful collection of the impressionists was opened.
Nowadays the Hermitage has 6 buildings: the Winter Palace, designed by B.Rastrelli; the Old Hermitage, built by J.Velten; the Small Hermitage, created by J.B.Vallin de la Mothe; the Hermitage Theatre, designed by G.Quarenghi; the New Hermitage, constructed by Leo von Klenze, and the Reserve House. The Hermitage is one of the largest museums of art in the world and the largest in Russia. Its collection numbered more than 3 millions of the works of art from the ancient times to our time. In the collection of the museum there are archeological finds, the masterpieces of the western and Russian art, numismatic material, the objects of the applied arts and others.