The State Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia.
This incredibly detailed museum is a part of the beautiful Winter Palace, founded by Catherine the Great and completed in 1764. It is a notable example of Baroque architecture, with plenty of gold ornamentation and detailing, exquisite molding, and impressive staircases, such as the grand staircase at the entrance to the museum, shown in the first image. The museum is spread out over several buildings, including the Winter Palace of Peter the Great, the Menshikov Palace, and the Museum of the Imperial Porcelain Factory.
The “Westernization” of Russia really began with Peter the Great’s father, Tsar Alexis, and part of this westernization process included the study of culture from the western European powers at the time. Catherine the Great continued this tradition by starting the State Hermitage out with over two hundred paintings she bought from a Berlin art dealer, to be put on display in St. Petersburg. The modern collection now spans from the Middle Ages to contemporary times, from Rubens to van Gogh to exquisite icons from Novgorod and Moscow, as well as a number of Eurasian pieces and Tsar Nicholas II’s own private collection.
When Hitler unsuccessfully invaded Russia during the Second World War, he swore to destroy St. Petersburg, the Hermitage included. Distraught, its citizens responded immediately:
"On 22 June 1941 all the Hermitage staff were summoned to the museum. Research workers, security guards and technical personnel — everyone took part in the packing, spending no more than an hour in 24 on eating and resting. From the second day on hundreds of people who loved the Hermitage came to help us… Those people had to be ordered to eat and rest. The Hermitage was dearer to them than their own health and strength.” — Iosif Orbel
"Orbeli gave the war cry. It was a self-mobilization of the entire Leningrad intelligentsia: professors from the Academy, art historians, and artists young and old came here in the first hours of the war, answering the call of their hearts.
We had to hurry. The enemy was approaching the city. The restorers gave permission to cut paintings from their stretchers. That was quicker. But what does it mean — to cut a picture.
The artists wouldn’t do it. They cut down on their rest time and sleep.”— Liudmila Ronchevskaya