The Paired PaintingsTwo religious works by Sandro Botticelli and Albrecht Altdorfer kick off the show – a juxtaposition that illustrates the differences between the Renaissance north and south of the Alps. Other pairs of important Northern paintings are by Hans and his brother Ambrosius Holbein, and by Bartholomäus Spranger and Hans von Aachen. Italian painting forms a focal point of both collections, and in the show it is represented by Venetian works. Compositions by Nicholas Poussin and Bernardo Strozzi introduce us to early baroque painting in Rome. Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Jan Steen, Rubens and van Dyck speak for the “Golden Age” of Dutch and Flemish painting. And works by Thomas Gainsborough and Philipp Hackert function as examples of British and German art.Both the Romanovs and the Habsburgs were partial to historical and mythological subject matters. Charged with political content, these scenes displayed their patron’s (political) intentions and aims. Genre scenes and landscapes, however, represent the other end of the artistic spectrum. Portraits and the way they capture a sitter’s personality form another major focal point of the exhibition. Among the highlights are two portraits by Anthony van Dyck: that of Nicholas Lanier and the artist’s self-portrait. Both showcase his virtuosity and his ability to capture a sitter’s character in his gaze and pose. The exhibition also hopes to invite visitors to take a “journey of discovery” to the River Neva by showcasing less well-known artists – among them the above-mentioned Ambrosius Holbein, the brother of the celebrated Hans Holbein the Younger, or Domenico Capriolo, whose oeuvre is closely connected with Titian and Giorgione – but also by the, maybe initially surprising, confrontation of works by, for example, van Dyck and Watteau.