“With Love From France” or How the Hermitage Cats Became an Integral Part of the Museum
After a nice gesture by a French philanthropist (name withheld), one of the most famous cultural-historical and art museums can safely have another name – a “mewseum”.
Mikhail Piotrovsky, the Director-General of the Hermitage, announced at a press conference that a French philanthropist had bequeathed a sum of money for the upkeep and encouragement of the “Hermitage curators”.
Such an international gesture has greatly impressed all the Hermitage employees, who were contacted by the French lawyers to settle all questions.
How Did It All Begin?
The history of the cat’s popularity began in the 18th century with the emperor’s rule. It was Peter the First Romanov who brought the first cat from Holland and housed it in the then wooden Winter Palace. The cat’s name was Vasily and his main task was to catch and exterminate mice.
And so it became a custom since then that Russian people used the professional services of cat mousetraps.
Although Empress Catherine II hated cats, she kept them at court and gave them the status of “keepers of art galleries”.
Of course, no one allowed them into the museum halls with the exhibits. They lived in the cellars of cultural heritage (these cellars are 20 kilometers long) and did an excellent job. According to the data of that time, Russian blue cats were most favored. Over time, the area where the cats were hunted became known as the “Big cat cellar”.
Also, interesting is the fact that each cat has a veterinary passport and stage of sterilization. These venerable cats are examined by a veterinarian every year.
So, you might be asking, How do they live there? The cats won’t let us lie that the basements of the Hermitage are very warm and dry (which is very comfortable in winter), and in summer the cats walk on the lawn and on the landscaped grounds of the museum.
Hermitage cats are a respected and integral part of the museum’s cultural heritage, so they are treated accordingly. Many cats die not from old age but from being run over by cars. In this regard, the museum administration has installed signs that read “Watch out, there are cats!”
The Modern Life of the Hermitage Keepers
The cats are so merged with the cultural life of the museum that they deserve their own name as a breed of cat. They are so surrounded by separate attention that they can compete with the most ancient paintings and exhibits.
As of today, their number doesn’t exceed 50 specimens. Even for the 250th anniversary of the museum, the director of the Hermitage ordered the distribution of the cats «into good homes» and reduced the number to fifty.
New and potential owners go through stages of interviewing and upon conclusion of the contract receive the honorary title of “owner of the Hermitage cat”! This sounds proud!
- If you would be a cat you would say Meow* (happy sound)
- If you would be a cat you would say HRR* (angry sound)