The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow, Russia

The State Tretyakov Gallery is the national treasury of Russian fine art displaying more than 170,000 masterpieces by Russian artists from early religious paintings to modern art which span a period of more than 1000 years. The gallery which is a world-famous museum these days was founded by the Russian merchant and patron of the arts Pavel Tretyakov who donated his collection of artworks to the city of Moscow in 1892. The gallery's main building is on Lavrushinsky Pereulok in the Zamoskvorechye district where merchants traditionally settled in the 19th century.

Pavel Tretyakov purchased his first paintings in 1856 which formed the basis of the famous collection. As his collection grew, special outbuildings were built as wings attached to the main building's living quarters to accommodate additional works of art. When Pavel died in 1898, the building was redesigned by the architect V. Vasnetsov during the period from 1902 to 1904 transforming the house into the great museum we see today which has been visited by numerous generations since that date.

The main historical building houses Russian art from the 11th to the early 20th centuries. On display in the Old Russian Art section are icons by both unknown and famous icon painters from the 12th-17th centuries including Theophanes the Greek, Andrei Rublev and Dionysius. The halls of the 18th - to the first half of the 19th century, display paintings by famous Russian masters, such as F. Rokotov, D. Levitsky, V. Borovikovsky, K. Bryullov and A. Ivanov.

The gallery holds a wide-range collection of Russian Realism from the 2nd half of the 19th century. Its masterpieces include famous paintings by I. Kramskoy, I. Repin, V. Surikov, I. Shishkin, V. Vasnetsov, I. Levitan and many others. The brilliant display of works of art from the turn of the 19th-20th centuries include pieces by M. Vrubel, V. Serov, masters of the World of Art, Union of Russian Artists and the Blue Rose groups.

The "Treasury" displays works made in precious metals and stones produced between the 12th to the early 20th century and plays a special role in the Tretyakov collection. On display are unique gilt and silver icon mounts (Kirill Ulanov. "The Assumption of the Virgin". 1702. Mount. Master M/LS, early 18th century); embroidery in gold and silver silk thread pearls and precious stones; a stone carving (double sided icon with The Prophet Elijah in the Wilderness on the front and St. Nicholas on the back dating from the late 12th century); bone, wood carving, jewellery (C. Richard. Portrait of Catherine II as Minerva, 1789); miniatures (A. Chernov, Portrait of Grand Duchess Maria Fyodorovna, 1779) in gold frames and also intricately decorated books and church utensils (G. Master, Chalice, 1835).

Many exhibits are not only amazing works of art, but are also records of historical events. The collection includes a unique Byzantine mount from the late 13th - early 14th century for the Russian "Virgin of Hodegetria" icon (late 15th-early 16th century) which was kept in the Trinity Monastery of St Sergei - most probably by Sophia Paleologue.

The embroidered "ubrus" and "podvesnaya pelena" were made in the 16th century in the sewing rooms of Anastasia Romanovna - Ivan the Terrible's first wife. They were given as "offerings" by the Tsar and Tsarina, to the Suzdal-Pokrovsky monastery as supplication for an heir. They adorned the venerated icon of "Our Lady with Child" which was also decorated with a pectoral cross, a precious tsata and a tiara and necklace dating from the 17th century. Works by these old Russian masters impress not only by their expression of deep piety, but also by the intricate detail of the works.