Artistic cast iron 19th — 20th century
In the 19th - 20th century Russia cast iron was used for the most luxurious interiors together with marble, bronze, silver. The objects of cast iron decorated studies, drawing rooms, libraries, they were presented and collected.
At the turn of the; 20th century, museums started collecting artistic cast iron. At present the Sergiev Posad Museum collection, which was formed in the course of sixty years, from 1930 till 1996, possesses 182 items.
Cast iron, a variety of iron, is a brittle, soft, velvety black metal suitable for casting. It was used in Russia for cannons, balls and bells since olden times. Till the 17th century cast iron industry was domestic. The first Russian cast iron works appeared in the environs of Moscow, Tula, Kashira in the second half of the 17th century. In the 18th century the Urals became a centre of metallurgy.
The majority of enterprises produced artistic articles for house-hold and construction purposes. In the 19th century cast iron study sets became world-famous. They were produced in the Urals by Kasly and Kus works. Similar articles were made by other plants, as well, but they were not numerous. In the Museum collection there arc items made by Cherepets, Nuvehimsk and by one of the Maltsevs’, works.
The popularity of interior cast iron was explained by many factors: fashion, comparatively low prices, high level of casting. <<Souvenir>> quality determined stylistic, functional and large scale character of production.. Having no claim on expressing progressive ideas of that time cast iron articles reflected the whole spectrum of trends in Russian culture of the historicism period.
In Kasly and Kus they produced about twenty products: statuettes (figurines), groups, ash-trays, vases, different boxes, presse-papiers, etc. The articles in greatest demand were cast in two sizes (statuettes: «Quixote», «Mephistopheles», «Ermak», group «Trick Riding of Lezghins», presse-papier «Lying Dog», etc.).
The casters were especially fond of animalistic and genre scenes. Some works were cast from West-European moulds of The Berlin Roval Plant.
The casters did not just repeal the models made of bronze, plaster, marble, they created original works of art. The new variants were worked out by professional sculptors and talented casters. In Kasly there worked M.D. Kanayev and N.P. Bakh. F. Vasenin, a graduate of Stroganov Art School, worked in Kus. Among self-educated sculptors V. F. Torokin is most famous. An artist of great skill, he made his works from beginning to end: he made models, moulded, cast, chased.
Pre-Revolutionary artistic cast iron production stopped in 1914. Since the beginning of the First World War the works produced only military equipment.
Kasly and Kus turned to decorative casting again in the 1930s. They mainly repeated pre-Revolutionary samples. The new specimens of the 1930s are statuette «Zarema ballet-dancer Kaminskaya», group «For Soviet Power», medallion with the portrait of A.S. Pushkin. The watch-chain is an example of unique casting of the Soviet period. It is very complicated. Each miniature link of this flexible chain is moulded and cast separately.
At present the problem of quality is very urgent. Low technical level of castings prevents their artistic evaluation and formation of the museum collections. Nevertheless, the variety of castings, their professional level, decorativeness and usefulness, more than an age-long fame still allow study cast iron sets to remain among the most popular works of Russian applied art.
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