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A man contemplates some of tha paintings at the Hermitage Amsterdam museum. EFE/Koen Suyk

AMSTERDAM.- Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and the President of the Russian Federation, Mr. Dmitry Medvedev, will attend opening celebrations of the Hermitage Amsterdam museum on the evening of Friday, June 19, one day prior to the public opening of the museum on June 20, 2009. Other members of the Dutch Royal family expected to attend include Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Maxima. The Hermitage Amsterdam opens with the dazzling exhibition, “At the Russian Court: Palace and Protocol in the 19th Century.”

The Hermitage Amsterdam is the first branch of the magnificent Russian State Museum Hermitage in St. Petersburg. The Hermitage Amsterdam will organize temporary exhibitions chosen from the collections of the Hermitage and other Russian museums. The opening exhibition will feature more than 1,800 objects to tell the story about the court life of Russian tsars, including the Romanov throne, jewelry by Fabergé, gala dresses and the last tsarina’s grand piano.

The museum is housed in the monumental 17th-century building Amstelhof, a historic building off the Amstel River in Amsterdam which has undergone nearly $50 million in renovations in preparation of the opening of the museum. The Hermitage Amsterdam’s 9,000 m2 (nearly 96,000 square feet) consists of two large galleries, cabinets, an old chapel, regents’ rooms and an enclosed garden. The building also contains a study centre, a restaurant, shops and the Hermitage for Children center.

From June 20th 2009, 10 a.m., a major new European cultural destination, the greatly expanded Hermitage Amsterdam, will welcome visitors to its elegantly restored 17th-century building in the historic heart of Amsterdam. Founded to bring the richness and grandeur of Russia’s artistic heritage to one of the West’s most charming capitals, this independent cultural institution will inaugurate its spacious new home — ten times the size of the previous building — with the exhibition At the Russian Court, a dazzling display of more than 1,800 treasures from the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg.

Hermitage Amsterdam is the only dedicated, independently managed venue in the West of St Petersburg’s magnificent State Hermitage Museum. At the Russian Court — a scholarly researched exploration of the opulent material culture, elaborate social hierarchy and richly layered traditions of the Tsarist court at its height in the 19th century — will remain on show from June 20th in the new institution until January 31st 2010. Hermitage Amsterdam will then stage two large-scale, temporary exhibitions each year, drawing on the encyclopaedic collections and unparalleled scholarship of Russia’s museums to offer cultural riches that would otherwise be unavailable in Amsterdam.

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Masquerade costume of Grand Duchess Ksenia Alexandrovna-‘Boyarina’, 1903

One entire exhibition wing of Hermitage Amsterdam will be devoted to the elaborate protocol of the nineteenth-century Russian court, with its public demonstrations of power and opulence. The other wing will tell the story of the grandiose dinners, parties and themed balls hosted by the tsars in the Hermitage. Among the objects that will bring these subjects to life will be hundreds of exceptionally rich ball gowns and other costumes, magnificent court paintings by Franz Xaver Winterhalter and Ilya Repin, extraordinary items of furniture including the famous Romanov throne, impressive pieces of jewellery by makers such as Fabergé, vast and valuable dinner services and the last tsarina’s own grand piano.

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Nikolai Bodarevski, Portrait of Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna, 1907, oil on canvas