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The Hermitage and Gazprom inaugurated the Year of Peter the Great in Russia

Published 19 January 2022

On 14 January 2022, the Rotunda was the setting for the opening ceremony for the permanent display of the “Peter the Great Gallery”. The display is housed in the part of the second stoirey of the Winter Palace overlooking the main courtyard that once contained the childhood rooms of Emperor Nicholas I’s sons, Konstantin, Nikolai and Mikhail.

The opening of the display was timed to mark several notable anniversaries at once: 300 years since the proclamation of the Russian Empire and also 300 years since the signing of the Treaty of Nystadt that brought the Northern War to an end and formally returned lands lost in previous Russo-Swedish wars. At the same time, the display is the start of a large-scale project devoted to the 350th anniversary of the birth of Peter the Great, which will be celebrated in May 2022.

At the formal opening ceremony, Mikhail Piotrovsky, General Director of the State Hermitage, said: “We are formally announcing, together with Gazprom, the start of a major Hermitage programme devoted to Peter the Great. The jubilee of Peter I is very important for the whole country, and especially for Saint Petersburg and the Hermitage. We preserve his possessions, his spirit and the memory of him. Peter the Great is an eternal figure, the founder of the Empire. It is to this history that the hall in which we are standing – the Rotunda – is devoted.

“We are grateful to Peter I for many things. He was the founder of Saint Petersburg – there is nothing more to say about that. He started Russian art collecting – he was the person who brought the Taurida Venus and the first Rembrandt painting to Russia. He initiated museum practices together with Russia’s first museum – the Kunstkammer. We are continuing his deeds and throughout the year we will be celebrating the first Russian Emperor in special festive occasions devoted to Peter. Today we are formally opening the first halls of the Peter the Great Gallery. By the end of 2022, the rest of them will also be open. I am grateful to the Gazprom company for being our partner and sponsor of this project in particular.”

Also participating in the opening ceremony was Alexei Miller, Chairman of the Board of the Gazprom public joint-stock company. “We have entered the year 2022, the year of the 350th anniversary of the birth of the first Russian Emperor, Peter the Great. He considered the meaning of his life to lie in the establishment of Russia as a leading world power, the creation of the empire. And he accomplished that, within his lifetime. Peter I devoted all his energy and strength to this mission. He was a true dedicated activist.

“Peter I’s period left a brilliant mark in the country’s art and culture. And today we are opening the first part of the permanent display of ‘Russian Culture in the First Half of the 18th Century’ – the Peter the Great Gallery. And it is highly symbolic that we are inaugurating jubilee events that will take place throughout the country here in particular, in Saint Petersburg, the brainchild of Peter the Great, in the capital of the Russian Empire, in its treasure house – the Hermitage,” Alexei Miller said.

The display contains many paintings, sculptures and works of applied art, scientific devices and instruments that came from the palace collections of Peter the Great, his niece Empress Anna Ioannovna and his daughter, Empress Elizabeth. The exhibits placed in the halls of the first phase are devoted to the personality of Peter himself, the history, culture and art of Russia at the time of the sweeping reforms that he introduced.

Hall 156 (the Rotunda) tells about Russia’s victories in the Northern War (1700–21) that ended 300 years ago with the signing of the Treaty of Nystadt. Military triumphs became one of the main themes in the art of Peter’s day. One of the most popular subjects for painting in this period was the Battle of Poltava that took place on 27 June (8 July) 1709 – an extremely important encounter that determined the eventual outcome of the Northern War. The display features the painting of The Battle of Poltava that Louis Caravaque produced to a commission from Peter I.

Hall 157 contains paintings by Russian artists of Peter’s day and foreigners who worked in Russia. One showcase holds a unique wax bust that recorded Peter I’s appearance with documentary precision.

In Hall 158, visitors can see items made by Peter himself, the Tsar’s costumes, walking sticks, seal and other personal belongings. The central showcase contains a unique church chandelier that Peter personally carved from ivory with the assistance of craftsmen in his own turnery. Some of the items here are of particular significance for the nation’s history. The year 2021 saw the 300th anniversary of the proclamation of the Russian Empire. That event took place on 22 October (2 November) 1721 in the Senate, when, during the celebrations for the Treaty of Nystadt, Peter I was awarded the title of Father of the Fatherland and Emperor of All the Russias. The display includes a silk cloth bearing the words “Vivat the Father of the Fatherland, Peter the Great, Emperor of All the Russias”. This very banner adorned the hall of the Senate on that day where an extremely important event in the country’s history took place – the birth of the Russian Empire.

The curator of the display is Natalia Yuryevna Bakhareva, a senior researcher in the Department of the History of Russian Culture (headed by Viacheslav Anatolyevich Feodorov).

More about the display


General sponsor of the permanent display

You can learn more about other projects of the development of the permanent display of the art at the State Hermitage here.