My Hermitage Discovery

The State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg is full of treasures – over three million paintings, works of art and other artefacts. We spent a couple of hours there a couple of years ago on a Baltic Sea cruise. It was the carrot which got me on the cruise, my first one. In fact, much to my surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed the cruise but decided I wanted to go back and see the Hermitage again – or at least the parts I wanted to see. I regarded the first visit as a taster. As we had a ‘group visa’ for the cruise, we had to stay with our guide.

So when the opportunity to spend a week’s holiday in Moscow and St Petersburg, I jumped at the chance. Moscow was super, an open city similar to any other European capital. We were able to find out own way to the Gallery of 19th and 20th century European and American Art, which is part of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, where we saw some wonderful work by Degas, Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso and so on. All at our own pace. The above link has, I think, all the works, so I’m not bothering with my own photographs, except that I was able to photograph some of the brushwork which is not always clear in even high resolution reproductions of whole works.

White_Water_Lilies_Claude_Monet_1899White Water Lilies – Claude Monet (1899)

Monet_detailDetail of brushwork on White Water Lilies

St Petersburg was totally different. The first time, remember, we were staying on board a British cruise ship moored in the port, being taken into the city on organised tours. This time we were in a Russian hotel accompanied and organised by a Russian guide. It was as if we were back in the Soviet Union. The Management put it quite succinctly as “We were welcomed in Moscow. We were tolerated in St Petersburg.”

One of the tours organised was to the Hermitage. I explained to the guide that I wanted to see the Dutch Masters in the Tent Hall. Another member of our party said she wanted to see the Impressionist paintings. I knew where the Tent Hall was in relation to the Rembrandt Room as a result of internet research beforehand. I therefore disappeared when we arrived at the Rembrandt Room (which I’d seen on the previous trip) and managed fifteen minutes there before being found and having to rejoin the ‘official’ tour. We did get to the top floor to see the modern art. As you can see from the floor plan, there is an awful lot. We were in the Hermitage for three hours. We had twenty minutes on the top floor! (and that included having to make our way back down to the exit). The lady who specifically wanted to see the Impressionists and had put up with two and a half hours of Russian history was not happy.

The last day of the tour was free (although the guide tried to twist our arms in to going to yet another palace) so we were able to get back to the Hermitage on our own. However, with having to find our way to the Hermitage itself from where we were dropped, find our way through to the Tent Hall, allowing enough time to retrace our steps, I got about three quarters of an hour with the Dutch Masters (and nothing on the top floor). So what was the Discovery I made (see title of post)? It was one of the 38 known paintings of Jacobus Vrel. Here’s my photograph:

jacobus_vrel_old_woman_by_fireplaceAn Old Woman By A Fireplace – Jacobus Vrel

And here is the link for the Hermitage’s own reproduction – without the problem of reflective glass!

As I mentioned in a post last May, I’ve only just discovered Vrel, and, as explained in that post, there’s not a lot to discover about him. I didn’t know the painting was there, unlike some of the more famous paintings, but I can now tick it off in my I Spy Vrel book!


About notes to the milkman

I'm a printmaker based in the North West of England, living in Bolton and printing at Hot Bed Press in Salford. Please visit my website
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