The March Cat Day at the Hermitage
27 March 2010 a traditional March Cat Day, a special project developed by the State Hermitage and devoted to cats living in the museum, was held at the Hermitage. As Mikhail Piotrovsky, Director of the Hermitage, notes, “cats have become a very important part of our Hermitage life and one of our significant Hermitage legends”.
The history of our friends cats dates back to early 18th century when Peter I settled a cat brought from Holland in the Winter Palace. Later the empress Elizaveta Petrovna issued the “Decree on sending cats to the court” where she ordered “to find in Kazan the best and biggest cats suitable for catching mice… If somebody has such valuable cats they shall be announced and shortly sent to the governor’s office”. Catherine the Great, the founder of the Hermitage, attached to cats the status of guardians of picture galleries.
27 March in the Great Courtyard of the Winter Palace visitors had a unique chance of getting to know the heroes of the day, the hermitage cats. Artist Dmitry Shagin conducted a campaign "A Cat on ground, in water or air" in which volunteers could depict on a big banner a fantastic animal, the flying cat, the running cat or the swimming cat. In the museum’s halls visitors played "cats and mice": their task was to help a hermitage cat to find its main prey, mice, in works of art from the collection of the Hermitage.
A creative competition for children who study at art schools and paint shops of Saint Petersburg and the Leningrad region was held by the State Hermitage on the threshold of the March Cat Day. This year children were offered to create an image of cat as a hero of myths and legends. Names of the top ten works were announced on the March Cat Day in the Great Courtyard of the Hermitage. The winner of the competition was also determined by the program’s partner, the Plant of decorative paints Nevskaya Palitra, that participates in the event for the second year and offers paints for performing picturesque campaigns in the Great Courtyard of the Winter Palace.
Under the slogan "Better than male cats can be only female cats", paintings of professional artists inspired by graceful animals, photographs by students attending the creativity group of the Student Club of the Hermitage Youth Center, works by school children participating in the competition "Legends and myths about cats", and photographs of hermitage cats made by Petersburgers were presented at the Winter Palace’s attic.
Famous artists supported the campaign and expressed their love to the Hermitage cat. The attic revealed to visitors the cats wandering in fabulous gardens by Alona Alferova and Vera Panova, the cats as enigmatic as the sphinx by Alexander Bazarin, the black demon by Alexander Lufer, a bit insane fantasies by Vladimir Rumyantsev, the ghost cats by Victor Tatarenko and Sergey Temerev, the animals as beautiful as the Japanese hieroglyph by Sergey Bakin, and the Mitkovsky cat by Dmitry Shagin. Hermitage cats have found foreign friends: Lilo & Stitch from the Louvre, portraits by a photograph Cedric Bonetti and London music lovers by a photograph and gallerist Mariana Hazeldin. The attic exposition was also opened on March 28 during the museum’s working hours.The program was organized by the State Hermitage in association with and with the support of the State Hermitage Orchestra, the Plant of decorative paints Nevskaya Palitra, the Kontrakt Risovalschika gallery, the Non-Stop company, Saint Petersburg Museum of Cat, the Yarky Mir company, the Transelectro company, the Arka publisher, the Social Organization Peterhof Tourist Club, ProAnimale, the Fund of the Hermitage Cats’ Friends.