2015: Oriental Exhibitions at the Hermitage


As the Hermitage celebrated the 250th anniversary of the foundation of the museum in 1764, one of its most recent departments – that of Oriental art and culture, founded as late as 1920 – embarked on its own year of exhibitions and events.

Since autumn 2014, many of the displays of the Hermitage’s Oriental Department have been reworked and represented, given new cases, lighting and labelling. Text panels provide information about the excavations and travels by those great scholars of the past who made the Russian school of Oriental studies famous throughout the world in the twentieth century.


Bahram Gur at the Princess's in the Green Pavilion, miniature from a manuscript of the Khamsa by Nizami, 1541

September 2015:

A series of temporary exhibitions surrounded the Eighth European Conference of Iranian Studies which the Hermitage hosted in September. A small exhibition, “Forget not when dear friend to friend returned…” 80 Years since the Iranian Congress in the Hermitage, looked back to the Third International Congress on Iranian Art and Archaeology, held in the museum in 1935.

Also in September came a superb exhibition dedicated to the fourteenth-century traveller Ibn Battuta and his book, A Gift to those who contemplate the wonders of cities and the marvels of travelling (9 September – 13 December 2015). Battuta’s book of travels is a multi-layered and curious compendium of information on ‘wonders and marvels’. After performing his first hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) at the age of twenty-one, Battuta developed a taste for travel that led him to spend nearly thirty years on the road. He visited Iran, Iraq, Yemen, the eastern shore and central part of Africa, Asia Minor, Crimea, the Golden Horde, Constantinople, Central Asia, India, China, the Maldives and Spain. In 1354 Ibn Battuta returned to Morocco where, by order of the Marinid ruler Abu Inan Faris the traveller’s reminiscences were dictated to the secular scholar Ibn Juzayy.

Continuing this flurry of events, the Oriental Department now presents “The Abode of charity.” Tibetan Buddhist Art in the rooms of the Winter Palace (10 October 2015 – 17 January 2016). So dominant were the teachings of Buddha, with their call for spiritual self-improvement and the rooting outof one’s own weaknesses and faults, that from the seventh century until the middle of the twentieth century all art in Tibet was Buddhist: there was no secular art at all. Tibet is thought to be the home of Avalokiteśvara, bodhisattva of charity and compassion,and under his patronage Tibet produced its own unique spiritual culture, becoming in effect ‘The Abode of Charity’, the centre of Buddhist culture for the rest of the world.


There is more to come: by the end of 2015 Olga Deshpande's catalogue of the art of Southeast Asia will be published in the Hermitage's series of Collection Catalogues. Familiarly known in the Hermitage as 'the green catalogues' from the uniform colour of their binding, these catalogues have been coming thick and fast in recent years. Several have been translated into English or Italian, making the Hermitage's scholarship more accessible.

After the success of the Hermitage UK Foundation's support for publication of Adel Adamova's Persian Manuscripts, Paintings and Drawings from the 15th to the Early 20th Century in the Hermitage Collection, which was very well received, we are now fundraising to translate another catalogue in the series, Iranian bronzes, to continue to bring the magnificent work of the Hermitage's Oriental Department to the wider world. If you would like to support this work, please contact Janice Sacher: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


2015: Georgy Vilinbakhov Chairman of St Petersburg's English Club

St Petersburg’s English Assembly (the English Club) is the oldest public society in Russia, founded in March 1770. It ceased its existence after the revolution, in 1918, but was revived in the spring of 1998.  In keeping with historical tradition, the Club’s activities are aimed to professional circles – politicians, state officials, businessmen, leading scientists and people in the arts. There are more than fifty members of the Club at the present time, representing all levels of the St Petersburg elite. Its motto is ‘Concordia at laetitia’ – ‘Concord and joy’.

As the Club prepares to mark its eighteenth anniversary, a new Chairman of the administration was elected, on this occasion Georgy Vilinbakhov, Deputy Director of the Hermitage Museum and Chief Herald of the Russian Federation. He has contributed greatly over the years to the recreation of the Club and the development of its symbols and rituals. To mark the 250th anniversary of the Hermitage in 2015 the English Club presented the museum with a print by Adolphe Charlemagne, Napoleon at the Battle of Austerlitz. Illustration to Leo Tolstoy’s novel War and Peace (St Petersburg, 1887). Dr Vilinbakhov was instrumental in identifying and acquiring the print.


2015: Acclaim for Hermitage Foundation publication of Catalogue of Persian Paintings (2012)

‘A lifetime’s work and well worth it: Scholars will treasure this catalogue of the Hermitage’s Persian art.’

                                                                                      Jane Jakeman, The Art Newspaper, September 2014

Adel Adamova, Persian Manuscripts, Paintings and Drawings from the 15th to the Early 20th Century in the Hermitage Collection

Thanks to a Hermitage UK Friends initiative in 2012 the English-language version of Adel Adamova’s catalogue of Persian art in the Hermitage was published by Azimuth Editions (distributed by Thames & Hudson). It has proved both a popular and critical success. The Hermitage UK Friends not only proposed publishing Adel Adamova’s Russian-language catalogue for European scholars but we organised the translation and raised the money for publication.

This is not our first successful publishing project bringing knowledge about the Hermitage collections to scholars and art lovers across the world, nor will it be our last.