We are often asked what to see at the Hermitage museum «If I have just two or three hours before my cruise ship goes on». We tried to answer this question in our main post about the Hermitage, but understood that a list of 10 Top paintings not to be missed requires a special article. So it’s here, take four minutes to look through the list and choose the paintings you would have regretted to have missed.
1. The Return of the Prodigal Son
The Return of the Prodigal Son was painted by Rembrandt from 1666 till 1669.
This painting can be named as the biggest one among other Rembrandt`s religious paintings. In the picture you can see the final scene of a popular parable about the prodigal son. In the foreground there are two people – the father and the son, who has just returned to his father`s house. The father is glad to see his son. Nobody knows who the other four people are – some guess that all of them are brothers and sisters too. One assumption tells that two people on the right – the same characters before the son`s escape. The painting was bought by Russian ambassador and diplomat Dmitry Golitsin in France and then placed to the Hermitage in 1766.
2. The Madonna Litta
The other popular painting at the Hermitage is The Madonna Litta, which was made in the 15th century. Traditionally, it is supposed that it was painted by Leonardo da Vinci, but there is also a guess that the picture was made by his pupil.
At the Louvre, there is a pencil drawing of Madonna. The face in that picture is similar to the Madonna Litta`s one. Therefore some people suppose that da Vinci is the author. In the picture there are two figures – a woman with a suckling baby. Before this moment she decided to finish breastfeeding, but because of the child`s wish she held over it.
3. The Conestabile Madonna
The Conestabile Madonna which was named before as Madonna with a book is Rafael`s miniature.
Some art critics suppose that the painting has not been finished. It is the last picture by Rafael which was painted before he moved to Florence at the age of 20. When the painting was transferring on canvas from a board, artists found out that firstly Madonna held a garnet in her arm instead of the Sacred Book. The garnet is a symbol of victim and spilled blood. You can see a woman and a baby reading this book interestedly in the foreground now. This painting is the only Rafael`s creation available in Russia.
4. Apostles Peter and Paul
Apostles Peter and Paul is a Greko`s painting which was made in 1587-1592 in Spain.
In the picture there are two figures. They are opposed: Paul is presented as clever, categorical and merciless and Peter is shown as a doubting and pondering person. Paul is sure about everything written in the Sacred book. At the same time, Peter has an internal conflict about this, which makes him be doubting. El Greko was the first person who painted these characters in such contrast. Because of it art critics still look for some hidden symbols now.
5. Tratched Cottages
Tratched cottages and houses is a Van Gogh`s painting which was made several months before his death in 1890. He painted this picture in France, where he moved to improve his health.
Some theories tell that there houses reminded Van Gogh his mother country – Holland. He returned there several times and painted some pictures with houses. The picture shows us a few cottages in yellow and green colors with dark blue sky. The place is calm and quiet. This painting was bought by prominent Russian collector Savva Morozov. In 1917 his collection was divided between the Hermitage and The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts. Since then the painting has been presented in the Hermitage.
6. The Woman Holding Fruit
The Woman Holding Fruit was originally named as When Are You Going. The painting was made by Paul Gauguin in 1893 during his first visit to Tahiti.
The picture shows us a tahitic settlement. In the foreground there is a woman who is going somewhere with a big fruit in her arms. Some critics think that this character has its real prototype. The woman`s face is attentive and concentrated. All colors and atmosphere shows that the weather in this place is boiling. In the background there are two other women. They are looking attentively to the main character. The Woman Holding Fruit was also bought by Savva Morozov and then was placed to the Hermitage in 1917.
7. The Boulevard Montmartre in Paris
The Boulevard Montmartre in Paris is a Pissarro’s oil picture which was made in 1897.
This painting belongs to Pissarro`s cycle of pictures showing Paris boulevards in different seasons and weather. The author wants to show real life in Paris, therefore the street is quite lively and crowded. There are some carriages and pedestrians: all of them are in a hurry. The author shows that motion is equivalent to real living. Life in the picture can`t stop or become less quickly. Real life in Paris admires Pissarro: in the painting he uses different colors avoiding using grey and faded colors.
8. Two Sisters (Meeting)
Two Sisters (Meeting) was painted by Pablo Picasso in 1902.
Picasso created the plot of this picture in a hospital for prostitutes. In the picture there are two women. One is holding a baby giving it to sister, who is going to take it to the monastery. The painting has only cold colors: there are only humility and redemption without any love, happiness and faith. The author introduces a biblical motive: a sinner and a monk are similar to God. Because of this the painting has such name. The monk sister is ready to take a sinner’s baby. There is a shade only behind the sinner – it also is a symbolical detail.
9. Portrait of a Lady in Blue
Portrait of a Lady in Blue in the only one painting by Thomas Gainsborough presented in Russia. The picture was painted in the late 1770s.
Some critics suppose that a beautiful lady in the foreground is the Duchess Elizabeth Beaufort. The woman is about 33 years old. The artist shows elegance and gallantry inherent to English high-winged women. Also this picture demonstrates English fashion of those years on an example of Elizabeth Beaufort with her clothes and hairstyle. The picture was bought by Russian collector Alexey Khitrovo for his own collection of English Portraits. In 1912, it was taken to The Hermitage by his will.
Danae by Titian is the most famous painting of this author which was made in 1554 in Italy. It is also one of the most erotic pictures of Titian.
The plot of the picture comes from ancient antique myths. Critics suppose that the woman in the foreground was condemned to celibacy by her father, because the Oracles predicted him death from his grandchild. In her dungeon Zeus came into as a golden rain. The main character is quite and calm – nothing can surprise her. All colors of this painting show her languor and heat. Russian poet Maximilian Voloshin described colors of Danae as autumn and bronze.