State Hermitage is one of the largest museums in the world. Its exhibitions include over 3 million exhibits representing Antiquity, Western Europe, Middle East, Russia and many more epochs, countries and regions. Its foundation dates back to 1764, when Catherine the Great purchased a big collection of Western European paintings. The museum consists of five buildings located in the historical center of St. Petersburg on the Neva embankment. The Winter Palace was built in 1754-1762 by Francesco Bartolomeo Rastrelli. In 1764-75, at the order of Catherine the Great, Small Hermitage was erected by Jean-Baptiste Vallin de la Mothe and Yuri Felten. In 1771-87, Yuri Felten built the Great Hermitage. In 1783-87, based on Giacomo Quarenghi designs, the Hermitage theatre was built. To complete the ensemble, in 1842-51 Leo von Klenze built the New Hermitage for the emperor museum.
The collections of the museum have been growing for two and a half centuries, and now include 17,000 paintings and 600,000 graphic works, over 12,000 sculptures and 300,000 works of craft, 700,000 archeological and 1,000,000 numismatic findings. In the State Hermitage you can see masterpieces of Leonardo da Vinci, Rafael, Ticiano, Rembrandt, Rubens, Matisse and Picasso. The museum also hosts a world's best collection of Holland baroque, French paintings of 19th and 20th centuries, Western European decorative art collection, a unique Gold of the Scythes exhibition, and ancient Greek jewellery.