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The Real Life ‘Aristocats’ of St Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum


    (CNN) – As you stroll by means of the grand corridor of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, chances are you’ll hear a smooth meow coming from the pipe beneath.

    Once roaming the huge basement of the Winter Palace – the official residence of Russia’s rulers – there are about 50 cats who’re handled like royalty. Down in the principle room (“Koshachi Dom,” or “cat’s house”) they’re fed and cared for by Hermitage employees, with vets referred to as.

    The palace additionally has a particular room for the extra delinquent cats preferring much less contact with their fellow felines. Then there are those that roam the cellar halls, mendacity on giant pipes and roaming freely concerning the nooks and crannies of the palace.

    The Hermitage additionally has a devoted press secretary for cats, Maria Hultunen. Although they aren’t allowed into the galleries and are not often seen by the general public, Hultunen says they’re widespread.

    “Maybe[it]is because they’re so gentle, maybe because of the strange combination of giant muse and cute cats,” says Holtunen, who’s allergic to animals.

    A black cat is sitting in front of the Hermitage Museum.

    A black cat is sitting in entrance of the Hermitage Museum.

    Olga Maltseva / AFP through Getty Images

    ‘Guardians of the Galleries’

    Today, the Hermitage Museum consists of 5 buildings which might be open to the general public – with the Winter Palace because the centerpiece. Cats have lived on this constructing about three centuries outdated because the starting. Queen Elizabeth I ordered by decree that cats be introduced from town of Kazan, about 1,200 kilometers (746 mi) southeast of St Petersburg, to catch rats within the basement of the palace.

    Cats now roam the basement of one of many world’s largest museums, some declare 233,000 square meter space and greater than three million artworks and artifacts, together with a considerable assortment of Rembrandts, Matisse, and uncommon historic Greek vases.
    State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg at sunset.

    State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg at sundown.

    Julian Finney/Getty Images

    Walking in a museum is like dancing within the footsteps of Russian kings. Visitors can proceed by means of the coat of arms and coat of arms room within the army gallery after which attain the throne room, which really stood in entrance of the seat of energy for the Romanov dynasty.

    Queen Elizabeth I authorized the Baroque fashion for the palace, which was constructed within the late years of her reign within the 1750s and 1760s. His father, Peter the Great, who based St. Petersburg, made it his personal. The mission of westernization of the country, commissioning buildings from main Italian architects.
    In the reign of Catherine the Great, who acquired the primary artworks, the Hermitage assortment was born – and the legend of museum cats grew, with Catherine Allegedly He was dubbed the “Guardians of the Galleries”.
    He based the Small Hermitage (subsequent to the Winter Palace), which was established as a courtroom museum, with the Winter Palace as a non-public gallery. It was not below Nicholas I till 1852, that it was opened to the public,
    Throne Room in the Hermitage Museum, the seat of power for generations of Russian kings.

    Throne Room within the Hermitage Museum, the seat of energy for generations of Russian kings.

    Cave Broad/CNN

    Museum within the eyes of its director

    The present director of the Hermitage Museum, Mikhail Piotrovsky, is aware of each inch of the palace. His father was a director for almost 40 years; Piotrovsky grew up wandering the halls.

    “It’s an encyclopedia of world art and culture. It’s an encyclopedia of Russian history,” Piotrovsky tells CNN. “No other museum has such a combination of beautiful views and beautiful places.”

    Piotrowski says his favourite spot is at all times altering. He loves that the artwork and artifacts will not be saved in a “white cube” just like the minimalist background of most of the world’s artwork museums, however are displayed amidst the splendor of the palace.

    While the director insists that every little thing in his museum is a must-see, a serious attraction is the well-known Peacock Clock, one in all Catherine the Great’s acquisitions. From its perch overlooking the gardens, the gilt-bronze clock holds three life-sized, transferring mechanical birds.

    During a latest go to to the Hermitage, CNN’s Richard Quest (left, standing) was in a position to see the clock in motion.

    “The peacock is a bird of paradise, the garden is a symbol of paradise,” says Piotrowski. “It creates a kind of little paradise inside the museum.”

    The Resurgence of Cats within the Soviet Union and the Hermitage

    When Piotrovsky took command on the Hermitage within the early Nineties, the nation was in turmoil. publish soviet union disbanded in 1991The nation confronted an financial disaster, forcing folks to throw their pets on the streets.

    The museum determined to soak up some stray cats, including among the felines left within the basement on the time.

    Piotrowski says that his pondering was to “give people a symbol of humanity, a symbol of people’s love for animals.”

    But, he provides, “Not everyone liked it. Not everyone likes the smell of cats.”

    The cats of the palace have also been immortalized in these portrait paintings, with costumes from the Hermitage collection.  is on the left "cat tigrik" Sporting the formal uniform of a traditional court outrunner.  on the right, "Kat Gavrila Ardalionovich" The court models the Chamber Herald's formal dress.

    The cats of the palace have additionally been immortalized in these portrait work, with costumes from the Hermitage assortment. On the left is “Cat Tigrik” dressed within the ceremonial uniform of a standard courtroom outrunner. On the precise, “Kat Gavrila Ardalionovich” fashions the formal gown of the Court Chamber Herald.

    Hermitage Museum XXI Century Foundation

    For a few years, museum employees used their leisure time to feed and care for his or her furry companions, however now cats depend upon generosity of donors, Every 12 months, the museum organizes a “Cat Day” the place youngsters come to find out about cats and paint footage.

    To this present day, the fort cats faithfully carry out their rat-catching duties—even the eldest cat at 22 years outdated.

    “Well, if the rats pass close to our cats – they will catch up,” says Hultunen. “They do their job very well.”

    A cat roams the basement of the museum in search of rats.

    A cat roams the basement of the museum in quest of rats.

    Cave Broad/CNN

    With cats within the basement and artwork above, the museum attracts guests from each nook of the world. During the early phases of the pandemic, the Hermitage’s works had been solely out there for viewing on-line. But Piotrowski says he believes folks now acknowledge the significance of seeing the gathering in particular person, in all its glory.

    “I think it’s a great symbolic museum,” he continued, noting that the museum has endured centuries of wars and political upheaval. “No other museum has, frankly, a history like the Hermitage.”

    CNN’s Richard Quest and Robert Howell contributed to this story.



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