Jeweller’s art of the peoples of Russia
Jewellery occupies a special place among works of decorative-applied art. It had a long process of development as it passed from talismans which give protection against enemies and diseases to real works of art, decorating costume and emphasizing its design and originality. Being closely linked with the material and spiritual life of peoples, jewellery embodied their aesthetic and social ideas as well as the peculiarity of national art.
The jeweller’s art was a traditional branch of the artistic activity of many peoples inhabiting Russia. Ornaments of various types and shapes, as well as the method of their production and decoration, were developed and perfected through t he centuries. A wide range of valuable original means of expression was gradually accumulated. All this makes the study and creative realisation of national artistic experience extremely fruitful for the development of the art of Soviet jewellers.
These peoples’ skill in the creation of jewellery was notable for its pronounced originality, and reached a high level of craftsmanship. The aim in selecting examples for the present publication was to reveal the artistic value and the method of production of objects, decorating the costumes of different peoples and to make it possible to assess the level of development reached by jewellers of various nations.
Almost all the jewellery reproduced in the album is made of precious metals (mostly of silver), because they naturally possess boundless plastic qualities, thus giving vast possibilities for the jeweller’s art. Ornaments made of these metals not only give a definite idea of traditional forms of national decoration, but also show in the most expressive way all the methods used by jewellers of different peoples.
The contents of the album are taken from the stocks of the State Museum of Ethnography of the Peoples of the USSR, which possesses the largest collection of various peoples national ornaments in the country. The composition and the size of this ethnographic collection is unique, and this has made it possible to reproduce the jeweller’s art of the peoples of Russia very fully in one volume. Nevertheless no single collection can be exhaustive, and for this reason not all the peoples are equally represented in the album; thus some articles of Buryat and Yakut jewellery are not included in the album; Kalmyk ornaments are not represented at all. though undoubtedly they are remarkable both from the artistic and the scientific point of view. Kalmyk ornaments are represented in the Museum by only a few articles which are not typical of the Kalmyk jeweller’s art.
Most of the ornaments reproduced in the album date from the 19th century, but there are some ornaments of earlier periods, typical of the jeweller’s art of a particular people and preserved in its customs till the beginning of the 20th century.
Some metal and stone articles, included in the album, reveal elements of the ancient magic symbolism in which jewellery initially originated. For a long time jewellery retained the function of a symbol of social status. Alongside this the real value of traditional jewellery can be found in its artistic qualities, owing to which it has maintained its importance till the present time and still excites profound aesthetic delight.
Different peoples used different sets of jewellery and applied them in different ways to decorate their costumes, but the way they combined jewellery with other components of costume are more or less the same. The basic principle is that jewellery should be in harmony with the wearer’s figure and the style of his costume.
All the peoples wore full sets of ornaments on gala occasions. Privileged social classes had heavily decorated costumes.
Jewellery was created by craftsmen whose works contained elements of national artistic culture. Those craftsmen applied the most complicated methods of creating jewellery. They knew how to reveal the natural beauty of stone, how to bring metal to sing and glass to sparkle. Every nation had its own favourite methods of manufacture and decoration. Thus the craftsmen of Daghestan possessed a perfect technique of mellowing, while Tartar jewellers were masters of the most intricate form of filigree. Buryat craftsmen were famous for their skilful decoration of the surface of their work with metal incision (thousing technique), Russian jewellers, when creating certain ornaments, used a thin rolled metal ribbon in a very original way. One can see national peculiarities in the very way the same methods are applied by different peoples. They can be seen in the soft plastics of Russian cast rings and earrings, in the graphic clearness of carved pendants in Yakut breast ornaments, in the decorative perfection of Buryat chase patterns, in the picturesque expressiveness of Tartar filigree.
The peculiarity of every people’s national character, its world outlook and visual image are most vividly seen in the shape and arrangement of traditional national ornaments. The principle of selection of the works of art reproduced in the album aims at accentuating the original features of jewellery, typical of every nation.
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