The museum was founded in 1764 when Empress Catherine the Great purchased a collection of Flemish and Dutch paintings (225) from the Berlin merchant Johann Ernest Gotzkowski.
The museum's storerooms, exhibitions, departments and services are housed in 10 buildings, 7 of which are monuments of 18th- and 19th-century Russian culture.
In 1993 the East wing of the General Staff Building was given to the State Hermitage to house new exhibitions of the Museum. The majestic building (1820-1830) designed by the outstanding architect of Russian Classicism Carlo Rossi completed the ensemble of the Palace Square. Being situated opposite the magnificent baroque residence of the royal family the Winter Palace (Rastrelli, 1754-1762) this classically austere construction of the General Staff occupies grand space from Nevsky prospect to the bend of the Moika river. The lines of the facade of two semi-circular wings smoothly outline the southern border of the square. The wings are connected with a triumphal arch decorated with a sculptural composition - the Chariot of Glory.