By Gilbert Kreijger AMSTERDAM Paintings of Russian tsars and robes decorated with gold will be on display at the new Dutch branch of the Hermitage Friday, part of a bid to underline links between the two countries and boost interest in the parent museum.
Located along the Amstel River in Amsterdam city center, a former nursing home has been transformed into a museum to show art from the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg.
"Tsar Peter the Great would be happy with this museum. It all started with Tsar Peter," State Hermitage director Mikhail Piotrovsky told a news conference.
Peter the Great, who ruled Russia from 1672-1725, visited Amsterdam in 1696 and took Amsterdam's canals as an inspiration for the city that bears his name, St. Petersburg. He started the tsars' tradition of collecting art.
Tsar Peter saw the Netherlands, which wants to become a gas hub for Europe, as the most advanced European country in terms of culture and technology, Piotrovsky said.
Paintings of Tsarina Catharine and her family, royal dresses, and china are on display in the building, which is less than a tenth in size of the original Hermitage.
Dutch Queen Beatrix, whose ancestors date back to Tsar Alexander I's sister, and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will open the museum Friday.
Paint was still drying Thursday and workers were laying the last stones outside the museum, which was renovated for about 40 million euros ($55.82 million). It features a bright interior of white walls, and floors of grey natural stone and light brown oak.
The Amsterdam branch of the Hermitage was not about improving the image of Russia but to give a more complex image of the country, Piotrovsky said.
"We want to tell and show how Russia is part of Europe and how it is different from Europe," Piotrovsky told Reuters.
The Amsterdam branch was also part of Hermitage's ambition to show its collection around the world, Piotrovsky said.
Hermitage currently has exhibitions in several countries such as Japan and Germany, and a permanent branch in the Russian city of Kazan. It also cooperates with a research center in Italy, where it has temporary exhibitions of part of its collection.
(Editing by Jon Hemming)