Did guards at the Hermitage give empty-frame tours in WWII?
June 5, 2020 1:36 PM   Subscribe

I just read this great poem, The Curator. Did this really happen - Hermitage guards giving tours of the empty frames during World War II?

I've found some suggestions that it really happened, including a page at the Hermitage site and a PDF about a painting inspired by the events - the PDF presents the poem formatted as prose, with a footnote that reads, "Miller Williams interview of an old curator at the Hermitage Museum (date unknown). Copy in the author's possession."

Where can I find out more about this? My attempts at using search engines are not helping today.

posted by kristi to Media & Arts (4 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
The Rape of Europa is the title of both a book and a documentary about the Nazi looting of art that has a section on the siege of Leningrad. It's been a long time since I've seen the documentary and I haven't read the book, so I don't know if this particular aspect is covered. It's very much worth watching the documentary anyway.

There's a fairly recent novel called The Madonnas of Leningrad - the main character is a woman who was a curator at the Hermitage during the war. I couldn't find any mention of these incidents in the review, but I can see the author's notes in the Amazon version, and she recommends Harrison E. Salisbury's The 900 Days: The Siege of Leningrad, S.P. Varshavskii's The Ordeal of the Hermitage, and Cynthia Simmons and Nina Perlina's Writing the Siege of Leningrad: Women's Diaries, Memoirs, and Documentary Prose.

Thanks for posting the poem and introducing the topic. Sorry I can't directly answer your question, but this has been fun to try to look into.
posted by FencingGal at 6:27 PM on June 5 [1 favorite]

This tiny snippet from Google links to a book that might--or not--have more on the subject. Unfortunately you can't see much more than a quote from the poem.
posted by Singout at 7:14 PM on June 5

This article says briefly that there were tours of the Hermitage during the blockade (Google Translate should cover it). Oh, and this article says the tours (or a tour) was given by a curator named Pavel Gubchevsky.
posted by posadnitsa at 7:15 PM on June 5 [2 favorites]

Apropos of The Hermitage, I strongly recommend that you watch Russian Ark, one of the most astonishing movies ever. It inspired Ms. Intermod and I to eventually go all the way to St. Petersbug and see the palace for ourselves ...

There's a sequence about the artwork that takes place during the siege.
posted by intermod at 9:12 PM on June 6

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