Russian life underwent a radical transformation under the reforms of Tsar Peter I (reigned 1689-1725). The museum has an exceptionally good collection of objects from the late 17th to early 18th centuries, reflecting many sides of contemporary life. The nucleus of the collection is formed by objects from the memorial museum of Peter the Great (called Peter the Great's Study), which was set up shortly after his death in the museum he himself founded, the Kunstkammer (Cabinet of Curios). Documents, engravings, books, various instruments and tools, weapons, and works of art provide us with rich material for the study of this period.
The unique costume collection includes over 300 pieces of male attire. Eleven lathes come from Peter's own workshop-he learned many crafts, such as wood and ivory turning-and the Hermitage also possesses ivory objects made wholly or partly by Peter.
Until the late 17th century, culture and art were dominated by the Church and religious attitudes, but during the early 18th century a new secular culture appeared, partly under the influence of the European artists and scholars whom Peter invited to Russia to work and to train Russians. Jean-Marc Nattier, who Peter met in Paris in 1717, was commissioned to create portraits of Peter and his wife; Bartolomeo Rastrelli, a Florentine sculptor, became one of the leading sculptors in Russia in the first half of the 18th century and was largely responsible for the birth of portrait sculpture in Russia. Rastrelli's bronze bust of Peter I is regarded as his most accomplished work. Almost all the outstanding figures of the age are represented in the portrait gallery, with works by both Russian artists and foreign painters, such as Ivan Nikitin, Andrei Matveyev, Grigory Musikiysky, Andrei Ovsov, Louis Caravaque, Johann Tannauer, and others. The earliest work by the court painter Ivan Nikitin, Portrait of Grand Duchess Yelizaveta Petrovna as a Child is on display in the museum. The portraits of Peter created during his lifetime are of great historical and iconographical interest.
New features in battle-painting can be seen in the work Battle at Poltava on 27 June 1709 by Louis Caravaque. Prints and engravings, which were the most easily distributed of the various art forms and could be used to propagandise current events in Russia, show a striking variety of themes: battle scenes, maps and construction drawings, feasts, triumphal processions, and townscapes. Considering all that the foreign schools had to offer, Russian engravers Alexei Zubov and his brother Ivan Zubov, Alexei Rostovtsev, and others-taught by the Dutch artists Adriaan Schonbeck and Pieter Picart-proceeded to develop national traditions in printmaking. Alexei Zubov's works are regarded as marking the best in early 18th-century printmaking; his Panorama of St Petersburg (1716) is a true masterpiece.
If you enjoyed this collection, you might want to also visit the other collections at the State Hermitage Museum.
The Palace of Peter I
Agreement on the Royal Succession
Peter I Against a Scene of the Battle of Poltava after a cartoon by Louis Caravaque
Philippe Behagle and Ivan Kobylyakov
Portrait of Elizabeth Petrovna as a Child
Panorama of the Summer Gardens in St. Petersburg. View from the Neva River.
Sculptural Portrait of Peter I