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With an exterior like this I guess I should’ve expected super ornate interiors. This is the breathtaking facade of the Winter Palace. (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

This past weekend I was in St. Petersburg, Russia for the “Art & Reality” conference. During that trip I had the pleasure of taking some time to visit the world-renowed Hermitage museum.

Arguably the greatest museum in the world (few others measure up), it was a breathtaking experience that taught me a new concept that I never had to grapple with before, namely something I can only describe as the banality of super awesomeness — as you can tell, it’s a very scientific concept.

I’ve never been in the position of walking into room after room and having my jaw drop to the floor as I encounter yet another arrangement of masterpieces or an interior as mind-numbing extravagant as any I’ve ever seen. The Hermitage is a treasure trove.

For my first post about the Hermitage, I wanted to post a series of images I captured of palatial interiors that give a sense of the beauty to be found in this complex of six buildings (only four are partially open to the public).

Here is some of what I saw.

I once heard a joke that the tourists to The Hermitage were, to the amusement of locals, impressed with some of the most mundane things. I understood where that came from because everywhere you turned there was a door or floor or column that took your breath away.

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In the room with the Peacock Clock, this Orientalist ceiling evoked the feel of a South Asian palace.

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At every turn you encounter hallways and passages that are grand and impressive.

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The galleries themselves, like this series of rooms in the Italian section, were painted bright colors and made the space feel magical. It was a welcome departure from some institutions that shy away from strong color.

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The 18th C. French galleries were some of the more ornate and wondrous. Tables competed for your attention with floors, which competed with chandeliers and moldings. You could almost be forgiven that you didn’t notice the huge Hubert Robert panels on the walls or the other works by François Boucher and others hanging all around.

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This extravagant room is a visual showstopper but also makes you realize why the Russian Revolution took place. As one commenter mentioned to me on Instagram, it’s the same feeling your get when you walk through Versailles and then realize how the French Revolution made a little more sense within this context.

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Even in doorknobs in the very Rococo room are stunningly beatiful.

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With a gold interior, this room had its own warm glow. The well-designed display cases you see here are common throughout the museum and are well suited to the display of two- and three-dimensional objects. they helped give the museum its own character

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This 19th C. room seemed restrained compared to the other rooms and almost minimalist compared to the opulence of earlier centuries.

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Some rooms were impossible to photograph because of low-lighting (like the medieval English-style library) but this wasn’t one of them. This room looked “tasteful” beside other spaces that were packed full of patterns and surfaces of every kind.

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For more information on the Hermitage, please visit the Wikipedia page or the more spartan official website.

Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.