Among the treasures at the State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg are the cats who have been guarding the gallery’s famous artworks from mice since the mid-18th century. And now, in a show of gratitude towards their feline protectors, the museum has commissioned Uzbek artist Eldar Zakirov to paint the prowling pusses. The result is Cats of the Hermitage, a series of digital oil paintings featuring the cats in Tsarist court costumes.
Around 70 cats guard the grounds of the Hermitage museum, keeping rodents at bay. The tradition was started in 1745 following a decree by Peter the Great’s daughter, Empress Elizabeth, who ordered that the biggest cats capable of catching mice be brought over from Kazan.