The Hermitage

We went to a special screening of the long version of Margy Kinmonth’s film about the Hermitage, in which she was given special access to its curators and, most of all, to its Director, Mikhail Piotrovsky, who is the low-key hero of the film, showing off Catherine the Great’s collection of gems, talking about the work of his father Boris, who was Director before him, its history, how he has made it into a global force, all with such obvious pride. The heroine is Larissa Haskell, who was a curator of paintings at the Hermitage from, I think, 1955 to 1965, who describes with great vividness how her family had to eat, first, her father’s leather belt and, then, the family cat during the privations of the Second World War. Through the ups and downs of its extraordinary history, the curators managed to preserve the great treasures of the collection, apart from the forced sales of great paintings by Joseph Stalin to Andrew Mellon.

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