The New Hermitage was the first building in Russia constructed specially to house the museum collections. Emperor Nicholas I invited German architect Leo von Klenze, whose works largely formed the image of the museum architecture in Europe, to come to Russia and build the Imperial Hermitage. Architects Nikolay Yefimov and Vasily Stasov, commissioned to execute Klenze’s project, made some essential changes to it in order to fit the new construction to the existing architectural surroundings.
Characteristic features of the New Hermitage built in 1842-1851 in the style of Historicism are the austerity and monumentality of the structure and the balance of the architecture volumes. The entrance to the museum is accentuated with a magnificent portico supported by the Atlantes figures cut from grey granite in the workshop of Alexander Terebenev. The building is also decorated with statues and bas-reliefs depicting famous artists, architects and sculptors of the past. Classical, Renaissance and Baroque ornaments enliven the massive surfaces of the building’s facades.
The rooms of the museum were designed in accordance with the collections to be displayed in there; for instance equipped with the upper light Skylight Halls on the first floor housed the Gallery of Paintings, while the rooms on the ground floor, decorated in the style of Classical architecture, housed the collections of antiquities and sculptures, and several libraries. The ceremonial opening of the first art museum in Russia took place on 5 February 1852. Nowadays in the historically preserved rooms there are the collections of ancient art, as well as European paintings, sculptures and decorative art.