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The State Russian Museum boasts the unrivalled collection of Russian art and applied art that covers the entire history of its existence starting from the 10th century up to the present day.The collection, being more than 400†000 items, reflects every form and genre of art. One of the great asserts of the exhibition is the fact that all items being displayed in a clear chronological progression, provide the onlookers with the complete picture of the development of Russian art starting from Peter the Greatís insistence on breaking with Old Moscovite traditions to the officially approved style of the latter-day Romanovs; from the soul-searching of the so-called Wanderers and the explosion of Symbolism and Futurism to the Socialist Realism.
Unlike the Tretyakov Gallery with its extensive collection of icons, the supremacy of the Russian Museum is based on the number of invaluable canvases of the late 19th and early 20th century.
The idea to establish a museum dedicated to the Russian art dates back to the epoch of Alexander III, who began acquiring Russian art at the end of the 19th century with a view to open a national museum. His plans were fulfilled later on March 7(19) 1898, when his son Nicholas II issued a special decree on establishing the countryís first ever state museum of Russian fine art named after its founder "The Emperor Museum of the Russian Art named after Alexander III". From the very first days of its existence, the collection was exhibited in the Mikhailovsky Palace, the former palace of grand duke Mikhail Pavlovich - the son of the emperor Pavel I.
From that time on there existed two main sources of acquisition, the biggest part came from the Hermitage, the Museum of the Academy of Arts and from royal Palaces such as the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoye Selo, and to a lesser extent by acquiring private collections, such as the Prince Lobanov-Rostovsky collection. During the first ten years of it existence, the number of items almost doubled in size. Itís also worth mentioning that after the October revolution in 1917, the collection of the museum was enlarged several times over its original size due to the process of nationalization. All private collections and individual works were placed in charge of the museum.
The present day collection is housed in four palaces located in the historical center of St. Petersburg, taken together they present an encyclopedia of the development of Russian architecture of the 18th -20th centuries. The oldest and the most sophisticated Stroganov Palace accomplished in baroque style was built by Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli, the architect of the world-famous Winter Palace in 1753. Now it is a treasure house of the collection of Russian decorative and applied arts from the 19th and 20th centuries and also there is an exhibition of wax figures of members of the Romanov family. The Marble Palace, famous for the fact that its facades are decorated with more than 20 varieties of marble, was built to a design of Antonio Rinaldi in 1768-1785 in early classical style. Its exposition is devoted to expansion of the inter-connections between Russian and Western art. One of the most mysterious Palaces of Saint-Petersburg is the Michael''s Castle, notorious for the fact that it was the place where despite all measurements the emperor Paul I was killed as a result of coup díetat. This impregnable structure built by the architects Vasily Bazhenov and Vincenzo Brenna in 1797 Ė 1801and with its four facades accomplished in different architectural styles, †houses a permanent exhibition of formal court portraits.
Self-evidently the main building which houses the basis of the collection and the central exposition is the Michailovsky Palace with the adjacent to it Benois Wing. This masterpiece of the late classical style was performed by the brilliant architect Carlo Rossi in 1819-1825. This large and harmonious building is considered to be one of the most significant phenomenon in Russian architecture and at the same time it forms the nucleus of the Arts Square laid out to the design of the same architect.