RUSSIAN THIMBLES

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Severnaya Chern (Northern niello)

Niello has been known in Russia since the X century. It appeared in the most ancient Russian northern town of Russian thimble Veliky Ustiug in the XVII century. The first mentioning about this town in chronicles dates from 1207.
Niello is a kind of original copper-plate engraving, first the article is engraved, then it is covered with niello (niello powder is the alloy of sulphureous oxides of silver copper and litharge), then it is heated, niello melts after the article gets cold it is cleaned and buffed. Source material is silver, that is decorated with niello background is usually gold plated.
In the XVIII century flourishing of niello art began in Veliky Ustiug. The document remained in Moscow archival depository says that in 1744 skilled workman Michael Klimshin from Veliky Ustiug was called to Moscow to teach Moscow citizens niello art and in 1761 brothers Popov started the factory of Ustiug niello. That factory was existing for 15 years. The style of “baroque taste” prevailed at that time: pastoral sumptuous hunting scenery framed and decorated all articles. In the XIX century classicism set in. Articles became more strict, very often one could see the sights of towns and geographical maps (workman Dgilin, etc.). In the middle of the XIX century vegetative pattern developed. It covered surface of articles entirely (workman M.I.Koshkov). It’s important to add that workman Koshkov (we have some information about it) made needle cushions and thimbles.
After revolution niello was restored. In 1929 workshops, which made silver articles with niello was opened under the leadership of M.P.Chirkov. In 1933 artel was opened on the basis of that workshops (since 1960 it is the factory "Northern niello" — art leader Shilnikovskie). Articles of this factory were exhibited at World’s famous exhibits in Brussels, Montreal, New York, Osaka. In 1937 at the World’s exhibit in Paris articles of the theme "Pushkin tales" were rewarded with the Great Silver medal and Diploma (some sources say that it was Golden medal).
Nowadays the factory "Northern niello" makes articles of silver hallmark 925 (sterling silver) decorated with niello. Authors’ works are exhibited in Historical Museum, in Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, in Russian State Museum of Arts and Crafts and in many others. Workmen don’t forget thimbles among their masterpieces. The thimbles are as beautiful as all the other articles of this firm.

" Severnaya Chern"
19x18mm
sterling silver
hand-made
Russian thimble Russian thimble
  Russian thimble Russian thimble


Rostov finift (enamel)

Rostov is ancient Russian town. It was mentioned in chronicles in 862. Original trade in Rostov has been existing since the second half of the XVIII century. It is miniature painting of enamel art, such technique was used in manufacture of church utensils, because that trade appeared first in a little nunnery workshops. In the XIX century that trade consisted of some little family workshops each of which kept secrets of its manufacture very strictly.
After revolution that trade developed rapidly, and famous artist S.V.Chehonin played great part in it. Articles with ornamental flower painting were made with the help of his sketches. In the 20-ies and 30-ies such artists as Dubkov and Nazarov worked fruitfully. Then Nazarov left his students N.A.Karasiov, N.M.Hrikov, M.M.Kulibin. Rostov enamel was exhibited at international exhibits with great success. In 1958 Rostov factory was rewarded with Golden medal at World’s exhibit in Brussels.
Enamel is made of copper. Enamel mass is put on special plate, after burning picture is painted on firm surface and workman makes painting with the help of enamel paints, then the plate is burnt once more. This process is described only in general outline, actually there are much more operations because manufacture of enamel is very hard. Generally factory "Rostov enamel" produces jewelry and souvenirs with decorative flower compositions and miniatures of a certain theme (workmen A.M.Kokin, V.V.Gorsky, E.E.Soldatov, etc.). Articles of this factory are exhibited in Folk Arts Museum in Moscow, in Historical Museum, in Russian Museum in St. Petersburg and other museums of Russia.
Thimbles "Rostov enamel" are very decorative enamel painting is combined with "skun" and "zern". The word "skun" is of ancient Slav and it means "to twist", "to twine" and it reflects technique of manufacture of thin twisted wire that makes patterns. "Zern" are little balls, soldered on patterns. Unusual flowers, bright colours of enamel painting decorate articles, make their appearance very smart.

"Flowers"
33x19mm
silver-plated copper
enamel
hand-made
hand painted
Russian thimble Russian thimble
"Bouquet"
30x21mm
silver-plated copper
enamel
hand-made
hand painted
Russian thimble Russian thimble
"Flowers"
30x19mm
silver-plated copper
enamel
hand-made
hand painted
Russian thimble Russian thimble
"Flowers"
30x19mm
silver-plated copper
enamel
hand-made
hand painted
Russian thimble Russian thimble
"Horse"
21x16mm
silver-plated copper
enamel
hand-made
hand painted
Russian thimble Russian thimble
"Cat"
24x16mm
silver-plated copper
enamel
hand-made
hand painted
Russian thimble Russian thimble


Holmogorskya carving

Village Holmogori is situated 75 km far from town Arhangelsk. Art carving has been known in Russia since the X century. This trade appeared in Holmogori in the XVII century. It is known that tzar Alexei Michaelovich sent to Holmogori his orders to make bone combs, wine glasses, bone staffs. It is also known that brothers Sheshenin were called to the Armoury Chamber of Moscow Kremlin and they participated in restoration of Ivan III throne, which was made by Greek workmen in the XV century. In the XVIII century it became fashionable to have bone articles and trade of carving flourished. Tzar Peter the Great who came there on business of Russian Navy paid his attention to skillful carving of native workmen and was fascinated by this art himself. His works are exhibited in the department of Russian culture in State Hermitage. Carvers used mammoth bone, walrus bone, cattle bone. They painted bones, then put engraving ornament on this background, one part was left white then they decorated the bones with colourful engrave or delicate carving with plaited relief pictures of birds and animals. At the end of the XVIII century the style of Holmogorskya art changed, it became not so magnificent and smart because classicism influenced it. That’s why the shape became rectangular, bright colours were absent. Delicate pattern turned into diamond shaped netting and on its background workmen put graceful garlands of flowers. In the middle of the XIX century passion for carving passed, demands for it reduced. Several workmen worked in village Denisovka, which was Lomonosov’s Motherland, they made small articles: combs, needle cushions, knitting hooks, etc. In 1930 three-year educational school of carving was founded in village Lomonosovo, in 1933 thirty of its graduates organized their artel. In 1937 at world’s exhibition Paris M.A.Hristoforov, the graduate of Holmogorskya school was rewarded with Golden medal for his works, therefore he was the Chief of factory almost for 40 years. Modern workmen of Lomonosov art carving factory in village Lomonosovo of Holmogorskie region use technique of delicate and relief carving. They produce caskets, cigarette cases, cigarette holders,pipes, decorations, vases, goblets. Workmen often turn to plots of Russian folk tales, praise nature of Russian north(workmen V.A.Prosvirnin, N.D.Butorin, V.I.Kuznetsov, etc.). Authors’ works are exhibited in Historical Museum, in Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, in Russian State Museum of Arts and Crafts and in many others.
Thimble of bone , made by workman from Arhangelsk region is represented on my site. It is decorated with engrave.

"Holmogorskya carving"
24x24mm
bone
hand-made
Russian thimble Russian thimble


Gzhel

Gzhel is the most well-known Russian folk ceramic trade. Moscow suburb region of 30 villages (Rechnitsa, Gzhel, Girovo, Turigino, etc.) was known by its pottery since the XVI century. The high level of art was reached by Gzhel ceramics in the second half of the XVIII century, when common pottery was changed for majolica. There were such articles as jars, mugs, dishes, plates, etc., decorated with painting, made in green, yellow, blue, violet-brown colours on white background. At the end of the XVIII century expensive majolica was changed for simpler technique of half highly glazed pottery. It was made of white clay, covered with colourless transparent glaze and decorated as a rule, with blue under-glazed painting. It is one of the most bright phenomenon of Russian ceramics art. In the second half of the XX century this trade began to revive and in the 50-iee Gzhel had its own wonderful and unique image thanks to researches of fine art expert A.B.Saltikov and works of Moscow artist N.I.Bessarabova. Legacy of Gzhel majolica of the XVIII century and half highly glazed pottery of the XIX century were the main basis of this revival. Such artist as L.P.Azarova played the great part in the development of Gzhel pottery. She had been the Chief artist of Gzhel for more than 20 years since 1954. In 1972 the Union “Gzhel” was founded. Six little workshops located in several villages were the main basis of it. The main method of manufacture is casting in plaster cast forms. Every article is painted by Gzhel workmen with their own hands, painting is made of cobalt. Artists: A.E.Sapronova, V.A.Petrova, N.B.Turkin, etc. Gzhel has its own style: blue and light blue patterns and flowers on white background. Authors’ works are exhibited in Historical Museum, in Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, in Russian State Museum of Arts and Crafts and in many others.
I didn’t manage to see real thimbles made in technique of Gzhel, but probably they exist. My site represents thimble “in Gzhel style” made at St. Petersburg enterprise.

St. Petersburg
"Flowers"
30x20mm
highly glazed pottery
Russian thimble Russian thimble


Matryoshka

The first matryoshka appeared in Russia at the end of the XIX century. It was eight placed wooden doll, representing a girl dressed in sarafan, white apron, bright shawl on its head and with a black cock in its hands. It was cut in Moscow workshops "Child’s up-bringing" by turner V.Zviozdochkin according to the sketch of well-known artist S.V.Malutin. It is considered that figure of Japanese holy man was a prototype of matryoshka. This figure was bought by family of well-known patron S.I.Mamontov by chance. In spite of this fact it is considered that Sergiev Posad, the most prominent center of toys manufacture in Russia, is Motherland of matryoshka.
The trade of wood cutting has existed there since the XVI century. Toys, made by Russian folk workmen, amused Russian tzarevitches. Wooden matryoshka was so expensive that it turned into traditional Russian souvenir. In 1900 it got public recognition at the World’s exhibit in Paris. In 1930 when Sergiev Posad was renamed into Zagorsk the style of matryoshka painting was called "Zagorsky". Now old name is returned to this town. Sergievskya matryoshka is a round-faced girl dressed in shawl and sarafan and apron. Painting is very bright in three or four colours (red or orange, yellow, green and blue). Contours of face and clothes are outlined in black. There are one-, two-, four-, six-,eight-placed or more matryoshkas. Workmen make the fifty-placed or sixty-placed matryoshka for outstanding events. The fifty-placed matryoshka is of about one metre height, the smallest one is of one centimetre height. Artists: V.I.Sokolov, S.M.Havanskie, A.I.Shishkin, etc. Semenovskya matryoshka, Merinovskya, Polhovskya, Viatskya matryoshka are well-known too.
Town Semenov is located 70 km far from Nizhny Novgorod. This town is famous for its fine art trade such as Hohlomskya painting. Toys’ manufacture was casual trade for Semenov town workmen. They took it from Sergiev Posad artists. In 1929 the first artel of matryoshka manufacture was founded, it united toy workmen of Semenov town and the nearest villages. Village Merinovo is located near Semenov town. In 1922 workman A. Maiorov bought Sergievskya toy, cut the similar one and together with his daughters painted it. Since then this trade has become the main one for Merinovskya workmen. The characteristic feature of Semenovsky style is a simple decision of image and particular painting as magnificent bouquet. There is an old Russian village Polhovsky Maidan in the South of Nizhny Novgorod. Peasant Nikita Avdukov was the first who bought machine after the war with Napoleon. Different tableware was made with the help of this machine. At the end of the 20-ies of the XX century artel "Krasnai Zaria" was organized. Nowadays all citizens of this village turn toys. The characteristic features of Polhovskya matryoshka: gaunt shape with firmly delineated head, it’s painting on outline, which has been made beforehand. Viatskya matryoshka has the most complicated technique of manufacture. Straw is used in its painting. Nowadays the most popular is Sergievskya matryoshka: shawl, apron, sarafan and bold combination of colours.
I represent several matryoshka thimbles on my site. All of them are hand-made and hand-painted in Moscow. I don’t know if matryoshka thimbles are made in well-known matryoshka workshops. I hope it is so.

The very first matryoshka doll

"Matryoshka"
23x20mm
wood
hand-made
hand painted
Russian thimble Russian thimble
"Matryoshka"
23x20mm
wood
hand-made
hand painted
Russian thimble Russian thimble
"Matryoshka"
25x18mm
wood
hand-made
hand painted
Russian thimble Russian thimble
"Matryoshka"
25x18mm
wood
hand-made
hand painted
Russian thimble Russian thimble
"Grandpa and turnip"
29x19mm
wood
hand-made
hand painted
Russian thimble Russian thimble
"Grandma"
30x19mm
wood
hand-made
hand painted
Russian thimble Russian thimble
"Granddaughter"
16x19mm
wood
hand-made
hand painted
Russian thimble Russian thimble


Author Irina Sotnikova.

Material used:
Popova O.S. Kaplan N.I. Russian arts trades. M., 1984.
Baradulin V.A.,etc. Basis of arts handicraft. M.,1979.
Bardina R.A. Articles of folk arts trades. M., 1986.
Bolshya Sovetskya encyclopedia. Edition 3, M., 1970-1978.
Russian towns: encyclopedia. M., 1994.
Gritsuk V.I. Joy and profit. — "Rodina", 1995.9

If you want to use this information fully or partly active reference to the site "Russian thimbles" is obligatory.

© Irina Sotnikova, 2004



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