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Art note: the last display at the Hermitage Rooms.

Sadly, we must announce the closure of the Hermitage Rooms at Somerset House, London. This joint venture by the Courtauld Institute and the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, was well administered and publicised with skill and energy, but in the end proved too costly.

Like Tsarina Catherine II, her grandson Alexander I collected collections, amongst them that of Josephine de Beauharnais, the first wife of Napoleon Bonaparte. He presented her, on parting, with the Chateau de Malmaison and a number of precious works of art which were unreclaimed loot, mainly from the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel. These were part of Josephine's Malmaison Collection, the final exhibition at the Hermitage Rooms. The most attractive painting in the collection is the tiny Expulsion from Eden by Adriaen van der Werff, the third picture by this rare and exquisite painter to be shown in the Rooms. We shall miss him. Adam and Eve tumble out of Paradise, their plump bronze-gold limbs self-refulgent in the surrounding night. Regrettably Claude's Tobias and the Angel in a sunset-suffused landscape cannot compete in its present ill-conserved, deeply embrowned state. Paulus Potter's Wolfhound stands intrepid but wistful-eyed, since he is chained to a kennel in sight of a wide Dutch flood-plain. His whiskery muzzle is framed by a white cloud; the rest of his fur is matted along the bulges of his muscles. In Luini's St Catherine of Alexandria, which Josephine bought herself, the scholarly saint reads a book with the cherubic approval of two angels who look over her shoulder with mysterious smiles which remind one that Luini was Leonardo's pupil. D.B.
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Publication:Contemporary Review
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 22, 2007
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