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Ural stone cutters create 3D figurines, which are estimated at millions of dollars in the world art market
Ural stone cutters create 3D figurines, which are estimated at millions of dollars in the world art market

“The masters on the Russian land haven’t been extinct yet” - this is the first thing that comes to mind when you get acquainted with the works Yekaterinburg stone cutter Alexey Antonov and his colleagues in the shop. Together, they have perfected one of the most complex and technical techniques in solid stone carving - three-dimensional colored mosaics. Combining volumetric fragments of multi-colored precious, semiprecious and ornamental stones, as well as gold and silver, a group of masters creates impressive sculptural compositions, the value of some of them on the world art market is estimated at millions of dollars.

Antonov Alexey Nikolaevich (born 1973) - Ural virtuoso stone-cutter, member of the Union of Artists of Russia, honored worker of stone-cutting art, and also the founder of the company "Alexei Antonov's Stone-Cutting House". In 2000, he gathered a team of professionals to revive the former glory of the Ural craftsmen. Today Alexey Antonov is one of the best masters not only in Russia, but also in the world.

Antonov Alexey Nikolaevich - Ural stone cutter

Volumetric colored stone mosaic - the latest technique in the craft

It should be noted that despite the fact that domestic stone cutters and artisans have been practicing the technique of volumetric mosaic for more than a century, the creative workshop for stone processing in Yekaterinburg, headed by Alexei Antonov, raised this art form to a completely new level, including not only precious metals in unusually detailed sculptures, and precious metals. And for several decades now, the masters have been depicting their heroes using the technique of volumetric mosaic, using the most modern technologies, and continuing the stone-cutting traditions of the workshop of the legendary Carl Faberge.

"The Snow Queen". Height: 500 mm. Stand diameter: 350 mm. Stones: quartz, rhodusite, chalcedony, diamonds, sapphire, topaz, cacholong, magnesite, rhodonite, dolerite, fluorite, quartzite, crystal, labradorite, marble. Metal: gold, silver, bronze

- said Antonov.

By the way, the Ural masters are the only successors of the technique of stone-cut volumetric mosaic in the world, as well as the successors of the work of K. Faberge and Denisov-Uralsky.

Technology of turning stones into works of art

Due to the fact that a volumetric mosaic is a very complex technique with the use of many materials, 5-6 people work on one composition even of a small size. Moreover, not only stone cutters are involved, but also jewelers, sculptors, bronze, brass and enamel craftsmen.

"Lesovichok". Produced by: Alexey Antonov's stone-cutting workshop

Volumetric mosaic for cutting stone requires from craftsmen not only professional skills in stone carving, but also deep knowledge of stones in general and their physical properties. Fluorite, for example, has white bubbles inside, which makes it suitable for imaging waves and sea foam, while translucent agate is great for imaging water and so on. Curiously, all sculptures are made only of stone, no dyes or paints are used during the work.

Stone-cutting work "The Swan Princess"

, - says Antonov.

Stone-cutting work "Baba Yaga"

But before the artisans even touch the stone, they must create a mock-up of the future work that is planned to be created, which in itself is a laborious process. The project is discussed in the team of artists, after which a black and white sketch of the approved composition is created.A colored version of the sketch is then created based on the color and texture of the gems that will be used to create it.

Stone-cutting work of "Kikimora"

Once the design is determined, a 3D mockup is created, which is then molded from plastic, with some parts attached to the body using magnets. Previously, the artist made a model by hand from plasticine, but the latest technology has simplified this process. Now the master can detach any part of the layout for study without disturbing the overall composition and its proportions.

"Tsar Koschey the Immortal." Produced by: Alexey Antonov's stone-cutting workshop

And only then the long painstaking work on the work itself begins. So, in order to assemble a volumetric mosaic sculpture, a hole is drilled in each part and a metal pin is installed, with which it is subsequently attached to the rest of the composition. The piece is then sent to the jeweler, who adds the necessary elements of precious metals. This time-consuming and very painstaking process can take a team of five to six craftsmen two to three years.

"Tsar Koschey the Immortal." Fragments

An uninitiated person does not even think about how much natural material needs to be spent on just one product. For example, a stone carver might walk through a 100-150 kg slab of stone in search of a single point that meets his requirements in order to highlight a particular detail in a sculpture. For example, the reddish scars on the face and torso of Tsar Koshchei are not painted over at all, this is the natural color of the stone chosen for this composition.

Stone-cutting work "Joker"

In the work on the bright and dynamic composition "Joker" precious and semi-precious stones were used: jasper, malachite, dolerite, rhodonite, lapis lazuli, charoite, fluorite, amazonite, lepidolite, apatite, cacholong, crystal, as well as bronze, silver, silvering and gilding. The height of the figure is 90 cm. The weight is 90 kg.

Stone-cutting work "Joker". Fragment Stone-cutting work "Joker". Fragments

The most mysterious work of the Stone-Cutting House is "Tamerlane", where the history of the fatherland is captured in the eternal stone. A large team of stone cutters, jewelers, experts in bronze, metal, a team of artists, layout specialists, geologists and gemologists worked on its creation.

Stone-carving work "Tamerlane" from the collection "Great Conquerors" "Tamerlane". Fragments

Project "Bullfighting"

Triptych "Bullfighting" ("Toreador", "Dancer", "Azure Bull"). (2020). Ekaterinburg. Produced by: Alexey Antonov's stone-cutting workshop

And literally last year, Alexei Antonov's stone-cutting workshop truly surprised the art world by presenting to the audience a unique triptych "Bullfighting" ("Toreador", "Dancer", "Lapis Lazuli Bull"), made in the technique of colored volumetric mosaic. It took the craftsmen more than six years to create works of the highest level. This event caused a lot of noise in the press and on television. And no wonder. True masterpieces are not born every day.

And it should also be noted that these one and a half-meter works have no equal in the world, since before that the size of such sculptures, made by Ural craftsmen, did not exceed thirty centimeters.

"Bullfighter"Ural craftsmen created a one and a half meter sculpture of a bullfighter from precious metals, pearls and stones. The cost of the work was estimated at five million dollars (in the world art market it can be sold at several times more expensive).

Project "Bullfighting". "Bullfighter". Produced by: Alexey Antonov's stone-cutting workshop

The sculpture was created by a team of 20 craftsmen for two years. One hundred and fifty kilograms of precious and semi-precious stones, 10,000 pearls, gold and silver. The "fabric" of the camisole is made of rhodusite - a rare bright blue with a silky sheen stone, the reserves of which have dried up in nature (it was mainly used in the space industry). Bright crimson knee-highs are made from a special grade of rhodonite, which has not been mined for over a hundred years. The fabric held by the bullfighter is made up of a million pieces, but it looks like one piece. And to create the face and hands from the masters, it took a whole block of silicon of the rarest flesh color.

Project "Bullfighting". "Bullfighter". Fragments. Produced by: Alexey Antonov's stone-cutting workshop

It is worth saying the same about the character himself, who so accurately with all his nature conveys the harsh image of a bullfighter swinging a blade at a bull.The main thing in this sculpture really is that it really looks like a real person: a complete resemblance to a real person, an exact reproduction of the texture of skin and fabric, absolutely transmitted tension before the battle, a grimace of tension that distorts a handsome manly face.

"Lapis Bull"

Project "Bullfighting". "Lapis Bull". Produced by: Alexey Antonov's stone-cutting workshop

The bull, the creation of which took 300 kilograms of Afghan lapis lazuli, is made in the frame technology patented by the authors using the technique of volumetric stone mosaic with the effect of golden craquelure. The character is endowed with the power, threat and power of the wild.


Project "Bullfighting". "Dancer". Produced by: Alexey Antonov's stone-cutting workshop

"Dancer" is made of quartz, topaz, jasper, petrified wood, bronze, silver … Her languid grace, temptation, cold blue eyes in the shadow of long eyelashes draw like an icy whirlpool.

The cost of a stone miracle in the art market

Experts estimate the sculptures "Toreador" and "Dancers" at five million euros each, and the Bull - about 500 thousand euros. And this is only an expert, while the auction price during the sale can grow significantly. Given the time and effort it takes to create these intricate stone wonders, it's no surprise that the cost is prohibitive.

The height of the smallest sculptures is about 23 cm, and their cost starts at $ 20 thousand. Average figures with a weight of 15-20 kg and a height of about 30 cm are estimated at $ 100 thousand. Well, specimens that reach a meter in height and a centner in weight are on average estimated at up to a million dollars.

Russian bogatyrs. Produced by: Alexey Antonov's stone-cutting workshop

But for Alexey Antonov and his team of craftsmen, the art of volumetric mosaic cutting of stone is more than a financial benefit, it is a heritage.

Continuing the topic, read our publication: A real miracle: The exquisite stone flowers of Carl Faberge.

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