Hermitage Magazine No. 1 (14). Spring/Summer 2009
A letter by the Director of the Hermitage Museum
The two themes reflect principally important sides of the work and life of the Hermitage. One of them is an exhibition devoted to the famous Golden Mask from the tomb of the Bospor king Reskuporid. The second theme is cats at the paintings of the Hermitage. Both themes are connected with deep layers of the museumís life and history. The Golden Mask is a reminiscence of the period when Russian archaeologists made a number of sensational discoveries of the ancient artifacts of the Black Sea region. The Emperor Nicholas I himself attended the excavations, and the Hermitageís collections and exhibitions devoted to the ancient history of Russia got a new dimension.
Thus began a great epoch of the Hermitage archaeology in the Black Sea region that endowed scientists with many fascinating finds. The studies of the finds have been carried out in parallel with the excavations for more than a hundred years. Discoveries have also been made in the museumís rooms. It appears that the history of the Golden Mask has many secrets: it is not known yet if the owner of the mask was a man or a woman. Or a man in a womanís dress. OrÖ For the first time the Hermitage presents all the items from the tomb with a serious attempt to reveal all its secrets. Such scientific exhibitions evoking thoughts and reflections nowadays tend to replace standard and pompous exhibitions of famous, but already studied and no longer provoking items and problems.
The cat theme has another history. The whole world today is aware of the care
with which the Hermitage cats are treated. They are discussed
in as many articles as any other aspect of the museumís life. People are not
only by the fact that they remain the best guards against
the mice, but also by the presence of living beings in the cellars and yards
of the Hermitage, which gives the museum a new, almost human dimension.
Cats become the main theme of exhibitions, festivals and the
Mikhail Piotrovsky, Director of the State Hermitage
New Projects for the Hermitage