The world’s most important museums house huge collections of works of art of various eras, styles and genres. Many of these objects were created to decorate palaces, residences, and temples, and were designed to be viewed within the context of a particular interior or exterior setting. Other, no less outstanding, works of art were created more for the close scrutiny of the individual owner. More often than not the latter objects were items of applied art which were encountered in everyday life: jewelry, ornamented weapons, utensils and accessories of dress.

These are often not only masterpieces which amaze by their perfection and intricate workmanship, carrying entire messages coded in their ornament and most minute details. It is possible to appreciate these items only by holding them in the hand, as the artist intended. When an owner turned a chased bowl in his hands or passed the carved hilt of a dagger from hand to hand, whimsical scenes of a related story, myth, or legend would unfold before him. Such tiny figurines as netsuke would begin to speak and slowly reveal their secrets only when in the palm of an inquisitive viewer. Armorers of the court of the Grand Mughal skilfully wove intricate ornaments from flowers and plants into quotes from sacred texts, inlaid with gold on the bulat blades, which could only be viewed by the owner when a sword was drawn from its scabbard. Exhibiting such works in a museum is a difficult task since they are traditionally presented in glass cases at a respectable distance from the eye, making it difficult to discern the maker’s intention, hidden in the finest details.

The project “Hermitage under a Magnifying Glass” is an attempt to use modern digital technology with photographic precision to convey to the viewer all the splendor of these masterpieces from the collection of the State Hermitage Museum. By magnifying the item or its parts several times, you have the opportunity to study its ornamented surface millimeter by millimeter, rotate it at any angle on the screen of your smart phone or monitor, and explore the minutest details of a carving, engraving or relief.

The secrets of the ancient masters and jewelers of the East, of the carvers of Japan, and the armorers of Turkey are opened up before you by the curators of the collections of the State Hermitage, together with world famous experts. We wish you a pleasant journey through our “magnifying glass”!