|The First Art Newspaper on the Net
||Established in 1996
|| Sunday, August 18, 2019
|The nine lives of Russia's Hermitage cats that root out unwanted guests: Rodents|
A cat is seen in the basement of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg on October 14, 2015. The Hermitage cats guard the museum's artworks from mice. AFP PHOTO / OLGA MALTSEVA.
By: Marina Koreneva
SAINT PETERSBURG (AFP).- For more than a century visitors have marvelled at the Hermitage Museum's precious collections, and for just as long dozens of cats have prowled the Saint Petersburg palace's sprawling cellars.
The felines has one main task -- to root out unwanted guests: rodents. The 70-odd brigade have their claws so deep into the history of Russia's largest museum -- and one of the world's oldest -- that there is even a special feline unit dedicated to their welfare.
"Our cats are as well-known as our collections," beamed Irina Popovets, who runs the unit.
Every morning, art lovers from the world over arrive at the gates of the Hermitage complex on the Neva River housing a collection that spans ancient Egyptian and Renaissance art to modern masters like Cezanne, Gauguin and Degas.
Meanwhile, 45-year-old Popovets heads down below to feed her purring charges, a mixed batch of colours, breeds and temperaments who are always overjoyed to see her.
Some days, she brings along three assistants to help her vaccinate new arrivals and treat the sick.
As with humans, love alone is not always enough.
"Most of them are in bad shape," Popovets admits, adding that many have been brought in by people who can no longer take care of them.
Her office is located near the massive underworld inhabited by the cats and its walls are hung with portraits of the beloved animals.
"People very often discreetly bring us their cats," she said, and the museum sometimes struggles to keep the ever-expanding feline staff.
Cats first found a home at the Hermitage long before it became a museum open to the public in the 1850s.
In 1745, Peter the Great's daughter Empress Elisabeth issued a decree ordering that "the finest cats of Kazan (a city on the Volga river) be found, the biggest, the ones best-suited to catching mice, so that they can be sent to Her Majesty's court."
By the time Catherine the Great took power in 1762, the felines had become official residents. They were even dubbed the Winter Palace cats, after the royal residence that has now become part of the museum.
They survived successive wars, invasion by Napoleon's forces and even the revolution that overthrew Tsarist rule.
The cats, however, did not make it during the 1941-1944 Nazi siege of Leningrad, the city's name under Soviet rule. The city's famished population had no choice but to eat all their pets in order to survive.
Legend has it that the palace's feline guard was brought back to life when World War II ended, when new recruits were brought in by train from all over Russia.
By the 1960s, there were so many cats at the Hermitage that the authorities decided it would be best to abandon them.
Holidays and postcards
Yet the rat population proliferated and a few years later the cats again found their place.
Though they are no longer allowed into any of the museum's 1,000 halls showcasing more than 60,000 masterpieces, staff say the cats have won the fight against the rodents.
And they have become stars in their own right, hugely popular with some three million tourists who visit each year and snap up souvenirs and postcards adorned with cat pictures on sale in the museum's shops.
"Given the Hermitage cats' popularity, we have decided to kickstart a process to copyright their name," museum director Mikhail Piotrovsky said.
There is even an annual holiday in the felines' honour once a year, as well as a website (http://hermitagecats.ru/) inviting residents of Saint Petersburg to adopt one.
Popovets picks up her office phone to answer queries from a man keen to take home a kitten whose picture he has seen online.
"You're right, it is an honour to adopt a Hermitage cat," Popovets tells him.
© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse
November 17, 2015
Israel accidentally finds ancient mosaic that served as pavement for a courtyard in a villa
Connoisseurs' selection of ancient art, cultural artifacts chosen for Artemis Gallery's Nov. 19 auction
MoMA restitutes Ernst Ludwig Kirchner's Sand Hills in Engadine to the heirs of Max Fischer
The nine lives of Russia's Hermitage cats that root out unwanted guests: Rodents
National Portrait Gallery in London acquires Lucian Freud archive for the nation
New exhibition at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery explores Monet and the Impressionist Revolution, 1860-1910
Bruce Dayton, trustee of 73 years at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, passed away
The dream world of Argentinian artist Tomás Saraceno, unveiled at Espace Muraille in Geneva
First exhibition in France to be devoted to the arts of the peoples of the River Sepik on view at musée du quai Branly
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art acquires artwork by Felix Gonzalez-Torres
Wonderfully assured Dutch Golden Age portrait at Bonhams Old Master Painting Sale in London
Ketterer Kunst announces highlights from its Modern, Post War and Contemporary Art Sales
Stephenson's Nov. 27 auction welcomes holiday season with bountiful array of dolls, toys and trains
Solo exhibition that marks the addition of Khaled Hafez to Ayyam Gallery's roster opens in Dubai
Five rarely-seen works added to Rocks and Rivers exhibition at Scottish National Gallery
Hunterdon Art Museum's Member Highlight show features work of Arturo Cabrera
Catherine Futter named Director of Curatorial Affairs at Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Artcurial announces first winter sale in Monaco: Fine jewellery, watches and Hermès vintage
Asian appetite for luxury boosts global art and jewel auctions
Photographer Stephanie Kloss captures Hollywood's most iconic modernist homes
Swann Galleries' Auction of Maps & Atlases charts exploration and expansion through maps of America
The Art Gallery of Alberta opens three exciting exhibitions to finish the 2015 season
Fall Modern & Contemporary Art surpasses $7.3 million at Heritage Auctions
Inaugural American Portrait Gala raises $1.74 million to benefit the National Portrait Gallery's exhibitions
Most Popular Last Seven Days
1.- Conservation reveals Wellington Collection work was painted by Titian's Workshop
2.- New dinosaur discovered after lying misidentified in university's vaults for over 30 years
3.- Unseen Texas Chainsaw Massacre outtakes and stills sold for a combined $26,880
4.- National gallery reveals conserved Italian altarpiece by Giovanni Martini da Udine
5.- London's Tate Modern evacuated after child falls, teen arrested
6.- Bavarian State Minister of the Arts restitutes nine works of art
7.- Boy thrown from London's Tate Modern is French tourist visiting UK
8.- Child thrown from London gallery has broken spine, legs and arm
9.- £10 million Turner masterpiece may leave British shores
10.- Tourists banned from sitting on Rome's Spanish Steps
Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .
|Royalville Communications, Inc|
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.