Gift ideas -- arts, literature, books for children; Glittering opulence in Russia; The Hermitage -- Its History and Collections, text by Boris Piotrovsky with a foreword by Giulio Carlo Argan. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. 215 pp. $ 49.95.

The glittering opulence of one of the world's great museums and its cornucopia of art treasures are packed like Christmas stuffing into this oversize volume.

The Hermitage collection is built from one of the great art shopping sprees of all time, dating from the mass purchases of Catherine the Great to the mass plunderings of Eastern European museums after World War II and this book painstakingly documents the furniture, statuary, vases, paintings, and other treasures of this vast musuem.

Unfortunately many reproductions are marred by poor color reproduction, and the text, though historically absorbing, makes repeated bows to Soviet ideology. This book provides an extensive introduction to one of the world's great museums. But, for the price, one might well want the reproductions to have better color and the history less of it.

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