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The Hermitage in the Prado Saturday, November 5, 2011

From Tuesday 8 November visitors to the Prado will be able to see this major exhibition of almost 180 works through which the Museum is proud to reveal the enormous variety and richness of the Hermitage’s collections. These great collections span the 5th century BC to the 20th century and include outstanding archaeological items, the decorative arts and the Museum’s remarkable holdings of paintings, sculptures and drawings. Co-organised by Acción Cultural Española (AC/E) and sponsored by Fundación BBVA, the exhibition is a unique event in that it is the largest and most important selection of works from the Hermitage to be exhibited outside of that Museum. It marks the conclusion of the unprecedented exchange of collections between these two great museums within the context of the bi-lateral Spain-Russia Year 20011 that began earlier this year with the presentation of The Prado in the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg. 

The Hermitage in the Prado

Following the presentation in Russia earlier this year of the exhibition The Prado in the Hermitage (State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, 25 February to 29 May 2011), which saw the highest visitor numbers of any exhibition held at that museum (more than 630,000), Spain is now welcoming The Hermitage in the Prado (Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 8 November 2011 to 25 March 2012), which will be inaugurated next Monday by Their Majesties the King and Queen of Spain.

Comprising 179 works from the Hermitage’s celebrated collections of paintings, drawings and sculptures in addition to a large and remarkable groups of archaeological items, examples of the decorative arts, furniture and court dress, The Hermitage in the Prado will be open every day of the week for an exceptional four-and-a-half months. It thus marks the conclusion of a unique exchange of collections between these two great museums that are not only of equal importance but have similar origins as repositories of the former royal collections of their respective countries. Both exhibitions fall within the framework of the bi-lateral Spain Russia Year 2011.

As was the case with the exhibition of works from the Prado held in Saint Petersburg earlier this year, this exhibition will occupy almost all of the Prado’s temporary exhibition galleries. It will offer visitors the chance to see one museum inside another given that it includes not only many of the Hermitage’s most famous works of art and archaeological items but also objects that relate to the Museum’s own history. With this aim in mind the exhibition opens with portraits of Peter the Great, Catherine the Great and Nicholas I and with paintings of the interiors of the Winter Palace and its surrounding area. This presentation of the origins of the Hermitage as an imperial palace will be completed with a selection of pieces of furniture and examples of court dress, on display in another room.

With regard to the large and highly important selection of paintings, drawings and sculptures in this exhibition, particularly notable works include Saint Sebastian by Titian, The Lute Player by Caravaggio, Saint Sebastian by Ribera, Three Men at a Table by Velázquez, and two works by Rembrandt from the important group of the artist’s paintings in the Hermitage, namely Portrait of a Scholar and Haman accepts his Fate. Among the drawings on display will be works by Dürer, Rubens, Watteau and Ingres, while sculptures include the terracotta model by Bernini for The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa, and The Penitent Magdalen, one of Antonio Canova’s masterpieces in marble. Moving forward in time, the exhibition also features notable works from the Hermitage’s celebrated holdings of Impressionist and Post-impressionist paintings by artists such as Monet, Cézanne, Renoir, Gauguin and Matisse, the latter represented by Game of Skittles and Conversation. There are three works by Picasso, including Seated Woman and The Absinthe Drinker, while this section of the exhibition concludes with two great icons of Russian avant-garde art, Composition VI by Kandinsky and Malevich’s enigmatic Black Square.

The Hermitage, however, represents more than this exceptional group of masterpieces and in order to convey the full scope of its remarkable collections the exhibition also includes a large group of objects from its remarkable archaeological collections. Notable among them is the Comb with Battle Scene, a Scythian gold item from the 4th century BC, in addition to other pieces of gold jewellery of the Siberian nomadic cultures from the collections of Peter the Great. In addition, and in order to complete this comprehensive overview of the Hermitage’s holdings, an important selection of the decorative arts includes unique objects such as the sword decorated with silver, rubies and diamonds that was given to the Czar by the Indian ambassador in the 18th century, and the exquisite Vase of Flowers made of rock crystal, gold and diamonds by Carl Fabergé (1846-1920), jeweller to the imperial family.

The State Hermitage Museum

The State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg is one of the largest and most spectacular museums in the world. It is located in a group of imposing buildings next to the River Neva, primarily in the Winter Palace, which was the residence of the Empress Catherine the Great in the 18th century. Its collections range from pharaonic Egypt to Siberian cultures, the Greco-Roman world, Renaissance art, Neo-classical sculpture and the painting of Matisse and Picasso. It is one of the few museums that can be considered truly encyclopaedic as a result of the collecting activities of the Tzars, starting with Peter the Great (1672-1725), as well as that of various private collectors of avant-garde twentieth-century art.

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