The Rumyantsev Mansion, designed in Classical style in the first half of the nineteenth century, is one of the most beautiful palaces in St Petersburg. The façade of the Mansion is decorated with a mighty twelve-column portico and a high relief by Ivan Martos representing “Appolo Musagetes on Parnassus accompanied by the nine muses and their mother Mnemosyne”. The history of this building with its original interiors and items, reminds of the prosperous era of St Petersburg, from the epoch of Alexander I until the period of the reign of Alexander III.
In 1802 the Mansion was purchased by Count Nikolay Rumyantsev (1724–1826), an outstanding statesman, promoter and patron of the arts. His Mansion became “a center of sciences” and “a temple of muses”. Holding diplomatic and civil positions, Rumyantsev started to collect artefacts of Russian history and culture, taking special interest in ancient manuscripts, incunabula, ecclesiastical books and state acts. In 1814 Rumyantsev retired and, until the end of his life, concentrated his efforts on organizing and funding of the projects, which aim was to explore Russian history. He gathered a team of scientists, whose research activity ended with publishing of dozens of books and creation of the museum of antiquity.
Count Rumyantsev died in 1826, his last will saying that his younger brother Sergey Rumyantsev (1755–1838) should turn the mansion with all of its collections into a museum. The opening of the Museum on 28th May 1831 was an important event in the life of St Petersburg artistic circles. The words of Nikolay Rumyantsev “For the benefit of education” were inscribed on the pediment. No admission fee was charged. The Museum was open for people of all estates. From 1830 to 1855 the mansion also housed the society for Promotion of Arts. The museum was affiliated to the ministry of Public Education, and Count Sergey Rumyantsev contributed a lot to its funding. After his death in 1838, the condition of the building and the collections started to deteriorate due to dramatic shortage of funds.
In 1861 the Rumyantsev museum was moved into Moscow Pashkov's Mansion on Neglinka Street. Its collection of books, that included about 28000 volumes, formed the basis of the Russian State Library which was referred to as “Rumyantsevskaya” until 1924.
From 1868 to 1882, the mansion changed hands for several times. In 1882 it was purchased by Zinaida Beauharnais (1856–1899), the wife of His Imperial Highness Evgeniy Romanovsky, the Fifth Duke of Leuchtenberg (1847–1901), a descendant of two ruling dynasties. She commissioned to the architect Alexander Stepanov to rebuild the mansion, which interiors still convey an impression of the personality its owner, who managed to turn her home into a fashionable town house to aristocracy taste. The Dukes of Leuchtenberg and then their descendants owned the mansion until 1916. After the October Revolution of 1917 the rooms of the mansion were used to house offices and living quarters.
In 1938 the Museum of the History and Development of Leningrad occupied the Rumyantsev Mansion. After the Second World War, in 1946, the exhibition called “The Construction of Petrograd-Leningrad and its economy” was opened here. The display explored the history of the city from the date of its foundation to the mid-twentieth century.
The interiors of the Rumyantsev Mansion had been restored by the 300th anniversary of St Petersburg in 2003. A unique mirror of 28 square meters in size is displayed in one of the rooms.