Rostropovich collection opens to the public

The Palace of Congresses, which includes the Constantine Palace, is a Government compound - a business centre, state residence and cultural historical reserve in one. The palace, a gem of 18th- and 19th-century architecture, was restored for the 300th anniversary of St Petersburg in 2003. A majestic building overlooking the Gulf of Finland, it has been the venue for many landmark events, including the 2006 G8 summit.

"The Constantine Palace was chosen as the new home for the collection with good reason," said Vladimir Putin. "It symbolises the revival of Russia and its unbroken historical and cultural traditions."

The 450 or so items in the collection are permanently exhibited: masterpieces of applied and decorative arts, drawings and prints from the 18th to the middle of the 20th century, porcelain from the Royal Works, and many paintings, including Carl Bryullov's portrait of Princess Aurora Demidova and Valentin Serov's portrait of Prince Felix Yusupov.

The collection is chronologically arranged, from the reign of Elizabeth to Nicholas II on the ground floor. Soviet art from 1917 to the 1950s is in the basement.

The works of art were brought to Strelna last December.

Apart from the palace, the Russian Museum in St Petersburg, the Pushkin Fine Arts Museum in Moscow, and the Moscow Kremlin Museums were all competing for it.

The Constantine Palace museum is open from 10.30am to 6pm every day except Wednesday. Admission is £6.50. -

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