"...You are not the northern lights, you are the most bright star of the
North, and there never has been any other luminary so beneficial" - this
was the characteristic given by Voltaire to Catherine the Great. Her personality
illuminated the epoch that got in history the name of the "Magnificent
Age". In the reign of Catherine II the grandeur palace ensemble that became
the official residence and the storehouse of the art treasures and also
private appartments of the Russian Empress was erected.
On 7 February 1852 in the building of the New Hermitage the first Russian
public museum was open for the visitors. The tradition of collecting works
of art led down in Catherine's time becomes a part of the state policy.
19th century brings changes in the life of the royal residence. Interiors
of the palace ensemble get renewed according to the new tastes. Official
and private life of the members of the royal family is connected with
the walls of the palace, as well as the last page of the reign of the