The 7th of December is the birthday of the Hermitage Museum. Why was this date chosen? The 7th of December is the day of St. Catherine, the patron saint of the Russian empress Catherine the Great. She was the one who founded the Hermitage in 1764: she bought a collection of paintings gathered by Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky, a merchant from Berlin, for Frederick II, the king of Prussia. Prussia was defeated in the Seven Years’ war, which made Frederick refrain from the purchase. The resourceful merchant offered the collection to the Russian empress, and the enlightened monarch accepted his proposal. Later, she bought other items, from Western as well as Russian collectors. During the reign of Catherine the Great, the art collection was not revealed to the public, and only her grandson, Nicholas I, erected a special building for the collection and then created a museum that was open to the public. The museum was transferred to the Winter Palace after the revolution (before that it was the tsar’s residence).
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