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Carlo Maratta, Pope Clement IX, 1669. Oil on canvas, 153 x 118.5 cm. ©The State Hermitage Museum.

LONDON.- BP is to be the lead sponsor of a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition which will bring masterpieces from the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg to Britain for a unique show at one of this country’s finest historic houses, Houghton in Norfolk, opening on 17 May 2013. 

The magnificent art collection, which originally hung at Houghton, was brought together by Britain’s first Prime Minister, Robert Walpole (1676-1745), and following his death was sold in 1779 to Catherine the Great of Russia and was later housed at the State Hermitage Museum. 

Over 70 paintings from the collection, including masterpieces by Van Dyck, Poussin, Rubens, Rembrandt, Velazquez and Murillo are being reassembled for the first time in over 200 years and shown in their original settings at Houghton. The exhibition includes works on loan from the Hermitage and other Russian museums as well as loans from the National Gallery, Washington and the Metropolitan Museum, New York. 

The exhibition will reproduce the original hang of the Grand Rooms at Houghton,bringing them back to their original splendor. In its scale and ambition, the exhibition will be a fitting celebration both of 250th anniversary of Catherine the Great’s accession to the throne, and the long and distinguished history of Anglo-Russian cultural relations. 

For over a decade BP’s support for Russian culture includes the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory, the Mariinsky Theatre and the Valery Gergiev Foundation. In 2012 BP extended its support and has partnered with the State Hermitage, Tretyakov Gallery, Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko musical theatre and annual Dyagilev musical festival in St Petersburg further demonstrating BP’s commitment to Russian cultural life. 

In the UK, BP is a major supporter of the arts with a programme that spans over 35 years. In 2011 BP announced it is investing almost £10 million in extending its long term partnerships with the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Royal Opera House, and Tate Britain over the next five years. Taken together, these agreements represent one of the most significant long-term corporate investments in UK arts and culture. 

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David Tenniers, Kitchen, 1646. Oil on canvas, 171 x 237 cm. ©The State Hermitage Museum