250 years of splendor: Dazzling 3D show kicks off Hermitage celebrations

250 years of splendor: Dazzling 3D show kicks off Hermitage celebrations
Russia’s grandest museum - the Hermitage - is celebrating its 250th anniversary. The festivities kicked off with a unique exhibition of a Parthenon sculpture, which left the British Museum for the first time, and a dazzling 3D-mapping projection.

The celebrations marking the anniversary of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg are planned to take place for three days – from December7 till 9.

The Winter Palace, one of the buildings of the State Hermitage Museum. (RIA Novosti/Alexei Danichev)

Late on Saturday, a colorful high-definition 3D mapping projection called the “Dance of History” started the festive events. A series of videos illustrating the most significant historic events of St. Petersburg and the Hermitage, as well as the museum’s finest pieces of art were projected on to the Winter Palace. The display was accompanied by the performance of classical music from different time periods and poetry recitals.

"History Ball", a light show marking the 250th anniversary of the Hermitage, held on Dvortsovaya (Palace) Square, St. Petersburg.(RIA Novosti/Igor Russak)

In honor of the anniversary, the museum will host a number of exhibitions, including the one with the great works lent by the British Museum. The exhibition will feature the reclining marble sculpture of the river god Ilissos, part of the famous Elgin Marbles, which 25 centuries ago decorated the facade of Greece's Parthenon temple.

The marble sculpture of the river god Ilissos, part of the famous Elgin Marbles, which decorated the facade of Greece's Parthenon temple, at an exhibition in Hermitage State Museum. (RIA Novosti/Igor Russak)

This is the first time British Museum has been asked to lend any of the Parthenon sculptures. However, the gesture was criticized by the Greeks calling it a “provocation”. In a long-standing dispute, Athens is arguing that the art works were removed from their native land illegally, while the country was under Turkish occupation as part of the Ottoman Empire.

READ MORE: Stumbling block: Greeks offended by Brits lending ancient sculpture to Russia

On Saturday, the Hermitage also opened the exhibition dedicated to the iconic British painter Francis Bacon featuring 25 of his works for the first time visiting Russia.

Hermitage workers also commemorated the museum’s founder – Empress Catherine the Great - by laying flowers on her tomb in the Peter and Paul Cathedral on Sunday.

Catherine the Great (1729-1796). An engraved vignette by V.Bobrov on a portrait of Peter the Great from Dmitry Levitsky's painting. From the collection of the State Museum of History. (RIA Novosti)

The exact date of the museum’s founding is unknown, so it was decided to celebrate its birthday on the day of the Saint Catherine – December 7 - in honor of the “founding mother”.

Hermitage– from the French ‘ermitage’ translated as ‘quiet retreat’ - was founded by the Empress in 1764, who bought the collection of a German entrepreneur Johann Ernst Gotzkowsky gathered for the Prussian emperor Friedrich II.

Visitors at the State Hermitage Museum in St.Petersburg. (RIA Novosti/Alexei Danichev)

Meanwhile, December 9 marks the Day of Saint George – one of the most revered saints in Russia. The Winter Palace – the main building of the museum and former official residence of the Russian monarchs - houses St George's Hall, also referred to as the Great Throne Room.

St. George's Hall in the Hermitage Museum. Opened in 1795 (architect Giacomo Quarenghi). (RIA Novosti/B.Manushin)

Between the two significant dates is the birthday of the museum’s head – Mikhail Piotrovsky, who is also celebrating his 70th anniversary this year.

Mikhail Piotrovsky, Director, the State Hermitage (RIA Novosti/Artem Zhitenev)

“Who would we be without museums? They show that art is eternal. I really like the statement made by Mikhail Piotrovsky, that museums do not exist in order to present, but in order to preserve,” said a renowned Russian filmmaker Aleksandr Sokurov, as quoted by Vecherny Petersburg newspaper. “The face of our civilization - the civilization of the Old World is much more dependent on museums than on film sets, I hope this will not offend my colleagues,” he added.

The Hermitage is comprised of six buildings, while five, named the Winter Palace, Small Hermitage, Old Hermitage, New Hermitage and Hermitage Theatre, and are open to the public. The collection features more than three million items, one million on permanent display, including paintings, drawings, sculpture, applied art, archaeological finds and numismatic material.

Visitors at the State Hermitage Museum in St.Petersburg. (RIA Novosti/Alexei Danichev)