Big Picture

Feline army's artful ways

While it might seem risky to keep dozens of cats near some of the world's most precious works of art, cats are regarded as treasured guardians by the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, Russia.

They patrol the museum's basement for mice and rats and are treated like furry royalty by the doting staff.

The museum even holds an annual Day of the Hermitage Cat to honour its army of felines, members of which have now been immortalised in the rich dress of imperial court servants in portraits commissioned by the Hermitage Magazine, which is published by the museum's Hermitage XXI Century Foundation.

According to the museum, Peter the Great was the first to give residence to a cat in the Winter Palace after he built St Petersburg in the early 18th century, and like so many things that he brought to Russia, the cat was Dutch.

It was Catherine the Great who later dubbed cats the guardians of the picture galleries in the Hermitage.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 09, 2015, with the headline 'Feline army's artful ways'. Print Edition | Subscribe