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St Petersburg Russian Museum

Russian Museum is a Fine-art museum, located on Arts Square at Inzhenernaya Street in Saint Petersburg city, Russia. Moreover, the museum contains a vast collection of Russian paintings, sculptures and icons. It is the world’s largest depository of Russian fine art. It is also one of the largest museums in the country after the State Hermitage. Let’s check out the State Russian Museum today as well as some notable points of its rich history.

The inner galleries of the Russian Museum
The inner galleries of the Russian Museum

Museum history

Historically, the museum is over a century old. It was established upon the enthronement of Nicholas II on April 13, 1895. Thereafter, it opened to the public on 1898 by Tsar Nicolas II in memory of his father, Alexander III.

Moreover, the museum was formerly the State Russian Museum. Also, it was subsequently named the Russian Museum of His Imperial Majesty. Presumably. It is not to be confused with its bigger cousin the State Hermitage museum, also in the same city.

Welcome to the State Russian Museum
Welcome to the State Russian Museum

Furthermore, geographically, the museum sits in the Arts Square in Saint Petersburg. It is a stone throw away just off Nevsky Avenue shopping district today. The museum main building of the museum is also known the Mikhailovsky Palace.

The Neoclassical architecture style of the internal galleries
The Neoclassical architecture style of the internal galleries

It is the former residence of Grand Duke Michael Pavlovich and decked in a Neoclassical architecture style. Also, the building of residence itself was erected in 1819-25. Notably, the behind the museum sits a vast open field called Mikhailovsky Garden.

Tad homely
One of many Victorian style
Sculpture displays throughout

Also, the museum touts as the first of its kind which displays Russian art within the country. Noteworthy, the name, Russian Museum is not to be confused to be one about anthropology and on the history and culture of Russia.

Getting There

Moreover, the museum is ideal for a pop by if you are shopping along Nevsky Avenue. It is a short detour off the main high street. Also, the closest metro station is Gostinyy Dvor. It sits under a mall of the similar name. It is a fashionable city center shopping mall with a metro station, cafes, a wax museum and luxury retailers.

Once there, you enter the museum into the basement ticketing counters. Here, you can find complimentary baggage storage for coats and bulky items. Large bags are not allowed in the museum galleries. From the ticketing, you climb up to the surface level, entering into a large majestic center staircase hallway.

Grand staircase

Moreover, this grand gallery is surrounded by a series of casted sculptures surrounding the grand staircase. A mix of interior and natural lighting from the building front windows illuminates the hall.

The grand staircase is where you start your journey through the galleries
The grand staircase is where you start your journey through the galleries.

Furthermore, you can sense that the galleries were decorated with a touch of Victorian flair. Notably is was reminiscent of 17-18th century interiors, and particularly common in Royal palaces of the era.

Stairwell from top
Multiple wall displays
Paintings and figures

Also, the museums galleries feels more Palace and “House-like” than museum. You get a mix of free-standing sculptures together with paintings hung from the walls. From here, you start off from the second floor from the grand staircase and covering the entire upper floor. Henceforth, you can make your way down on the lower floor as you progress through the galleries below.

Welcome to the galleries!
Welcome to the galleries!

Museum Galleries

Furthermore, some Galleries are large and open with some housing vast paintings spanning almost two floors in height. There is also ample seating within the galleries if you wish to appreciate the artwork for a little while longer.

Some of the vast open galleries, with some housing vast paintings spanning almost two floors in height
Some of the vast open galleries, with some housing vast paintings spanning almost two floors in height.

Notably, the museum also does free guided tours at regular fixed times of the day. The tours are however, only conducted in Russian. Unless if you understand Russian, it is not really tourist-friendly or recommended to attend.

Notable pieces

The museum is home of the world’s largest collection of Russian works. It houses more than 400 thousand pieces spanning the 10th-21st centuries. Furthermore, Its permanent collection includes major pieces by renowned Russian artists.

Permanent collection
vast painting gallery

This includes Karl Brullov, The Last Day of Pompeii (1830–33), Ivan Aivazovsky, Alexander Ivanov, and Vasily Kandinsky, just to name a few. Other notable displays include Ilya Repin’s, Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks (1880–91). These pieces can be similarly found on the upper floor galleries.

Karl Brullov, The Last Day of Pompeii (1830–33) in an open gallery
Karl Brullov, The Last Day of Pompeii (1830–33) in an open gallery

Moreover, on display too is a selection of pottery, porcelain, China. There is also a section dedicated to early painted religious figures. However, this section is notable not as popular as the painting galleries and are often devoid of visitors.

Various pottery
China displays
Peculiar !

Also on display is a curated selection of old pots, plates and pretty good shape as well as some geek pottery with their distinctive paintings on them.

Painted figures
Early poster designs

Furthermore, adding to that, is a small collection of religious arts. There is a gallery devoted to this on the ground floor. It leads onto a set of Contemporary art galleries.

Religious arts
Corridors lined with artwork
Cast iron items

However, despite the Russian Museum being much smaller than the more popular State Hermitage museum. It does pack quite a variety of galleries. Also, the smaller size has it benefits too. It makes the latter a very viable alternative to the Hermitage if it is closed, or if you are time-strapped in St Peterburg city.

The lower art galleries with rather expansive interiors
The lower art galleries with rather expansive interiors

Contemporary works

Notably, during my visit, the ground floors runs temporary exhibition with a focus vintage contemporary artworks and portraits. Also, most of the ground floor buildings have entire galleries dedicated to that.

The contemporary artworks and portraits gallery on the lower floors
The contemporary artworks and portraits gallery on the lower floors

Moreover, the galleries are laid out in a pretty linear manner. With all galleries covered, you are good for about 4 hours tops. Galleries are laid out logically, with one gallery leading into the next. Also, the galleries are well-labeled with galleries numbers which corresponds to the museum map. This makes navigation a breeze.

Modern art
Event areas

Moreover, wrapping up the tail end of the museum is an event area, as well as a cafeteria which can be used as a space even hall. Also, here, a stone staircase connects the upper and lower floor here and is one of the few publicly accessible staircases besides the main grand staircase.

All in all, the State Russian Museum is a great way to quickly immerse yourself into the art of Russia. Also, it is a viable good alternative the State Hermitage museum. Its close proximity to the shopping destinations, and being a stone throw away from the main shopping district from Nevsky Avenue in the city, makes it an ideal location for a dose of the arts.

View more photos of St Petersburg State Russian Museum here.


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