The Hermitage, Russia’s most famous art museum, has been a cultural landmark of St. Petersburg since the time of Empress Catherine the Great. Originally a private museum, the Hermitage’s collection was founded through Catherine’s art purchases. In the years following her reign, Catherine’s successors expanded both the structures and collection that compose the Hermitage. In 1851, during the reign of Nicholas I, the Hermitage became a public museum. While the museum’s collection grew in size and notoriety, some of its most valuable works were sold during the early years of the Soviet Union. Today, examples of museum’s collection include works from classical antiquity, the Renaissance, Impressionist paintings, Modern art, and Russian art.