The State Hermitage Museum founded in 1764 by the Russian Empress Catherine the Great in the heart of historic St. Petersburg occupies an ensemble of magnificent buildings on the bank of the River Neva. The grandest of all is the Winter Palace - the former residence of the Russian tsars - designed by Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli. Within the walls of this artistic enclave reside the Hermitage collections, about three million works that trace the development of world art and culture from the Stone Age to today.
Throughout the ages people have admired the perfect shapes of flowers and the natural grace of birds. They became the subjects of countless myths and legends; their images have appeared on walls and canvases; their exquisite lines have been borrowed for the creation of jewellery and architecture. The Hermitage's extremely rich collection makes it possible to explore how artists in different countries and eras have treated this eternal theme, striving to capture the fragile harmony and natural perfection of the world's flora and fauna.