The Münzkabinett in the New Hermitage
21 February, 2002 - 20 May, 2002
On 21 February 2002 an exhibition prepared by the Numismatic Department
opened. It is dedicated to the 150th anniversary of the New Hermitage.
The exhibition features 412 items, including ancient Eastern and Western
European coins and medals. The Hermitage's numismatic collection was formed
at the same time as the picture gallery and collection of antiquities
that Catherine II purchased in Russia and abroad. Her reign saw the heyday
of the medallist's art and medals commemorated the most important political
and cultural events in Russia. The exhibition includes series of medals
bearing portraits of Russian rulers from the 1770s and a historical series
(1780 - 90). Coins and medals were also a feature of diplomatic etiquette.
Of great interest is the collection of Chinese coins from Sinkiang (Eastern
Turkistan) - a gift from the Chinese Emperor Ch'ien Lung.
Since the second half of the 18th century the Münzkabinett has been
expanding through private collections, finds of coins and archaeological
excavations. Part of the first registered horde - Byzantine coins and
ancient Kievan zlatniki of Vladimir Sviatoslavovich - found in the town
of Pinsk can be seen in the exhibition.
Of interest too are medals from a gift made to Alexander I by a British
factory-owner that carry images of the decoration of the Parthenon.
The display also includes rare Persian medals and coins received after
the conclusion of the Treaty of Turkmanchai between Russia and Persia
in 1828. Here too is the diamond-studded gold medal sent by Ottoman Emperor
Mahmud II to Nicholas I in gratitude for assistance provided by Russian
The great fire of 1837 (the medal presented to those involved in the restoration
of the Winter Palace is in the exhibition) speeded the transformation
of the Hermitage from a court museum to a museum of world art open to
the public. Nicholas I kept a close eye on the organization of the museum.
On his initiative, in 1851, a collection of coins and medals was bought
from the greatest St Petersburg collector, Jakob Reichel. This acquisition
(some items of which are on display) enlarged and improved the quality
of the Münzkabinett's stocks. An 1853 watercolour by Premazzi recorded
the first display of Greek and Roman coins in the New Hermitage.
Nicholas I issued orders obliging all Russian mints to provide examples
of their products each year for the completeness of the collection. The
Emperor's successors continued this tradition.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the collection of Eastern coins
grew considerably through the acquisition of the collections of Bartolomei
and Velyaminov-Zernov. Stocks of Byzantine coins came from the collection
of Lobanov-Rostovsky, Russian and Western European coins from Pliushkin's
collection. The heirs of Count Ivan Tolstoi donated the remarkable collection
assembled by that expert on Early Russian Art, Russian and Byzantine numismatics.
Parts of these collections are included in the exhibition.
A numismatic library was also created. The exhibition presents the hand-written
catalogue of the Münzkabinett owned by Karl Peter Ulrich of Holstein-Gottorp,
the future Emperor Peter III of Russia.
The display of the numismatic collection did not on the whole change up
to the First World War. After the revolution of 1917, the Hermitage's
stocks were enlarged from private collections that had been nationalized
and items acquired from state institutions. A decree by Lenin confirmed
Nicholas I's instructions on providing the museum with samples of new
coins and medals and such pieces can be seen in the exhibition. The selling-off
of artistic treasures that took place in the 1920s and 1930s also affected
the Hermitage's numismatic collection. The stocks of ancient coins suffered
Following the Nazi invasion in 1941, almost all the Hermitage stocks,
including the numismatic collection were evacuated to Sverdlovsk. After
its return, the Numismatic Department was allocated more convenient rooms
in the Winter Palace.
A denarius of Roman Emperor Augustus
A denarius of Roman Emperor Augustus
Presentation 1 1/2 -rouble - 10-zloty coin of Nicholas
Medal honouring Jakob Reichel
Christoph Karl Pfeiffer
Medal awarded to those who participated in the restoration
of the Winter Palace after the 1837 fire
Andrey I. (Heinrich) Hube
The Coin and Medal Hall in the