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Old Russian matrices of the period of dual faith depicting animals, birds, mythical creatures and other subjects
Old Russian matrices of the period of dual faith depicting animals, birds, mythical creatures and other subjects

In addition to matrices with Christian symbols, for the period from the end of the 10th century, matrices of various themes are found, reflecting both dual faith and the influence of Byzantium and Western Europe on the cultural life of ancient Russian society. These matrices are made, as a rule, at a high artistic and professional level and are outstanding examples of applied art.

Continuation of the article Old Russian jewelry matrices depicting Christ, the Mother of God, Christian saints and festive subjects.

Gaining statehood, Ancient Russia merged into the general cultural circle of the Byzantine Empire and other European states influenced by the culture of the greatest empire of the Middle Ages. For many centuries, the culture of the Roman Empire, which absorbed the cultures of different peoples, influenced its immediate and distant neighbors. Sometimes it was the influence of samples of Roman culture already processed by other peoples.

The Slavs were no exception, and given the development of their culture since the time of the great migration of peoples, many images of Roman culture were well assimilated by them and adapted to the needs of the Slavic cultural tradition. Therefore, in the period of dual faith, after the adoption of Christianity, there is a great similarity of symbolic images, both in the samples of Byzantine Christian art and in the symbolism of the Slavic pagan religion.

Old Russian jewelry matrix depicting griffins, 11-13 centuries

Making products using dies and punches is a very ancient invention of artisans. This method of production made it possible to create products of the same type in fairly large quantities, which satisfied the needs of members of society.

Along with chasing and engraving, even more ancient ways of creating jewelry, matrices were the main means of production for many craftsmen - artisans of various ancient peoples. Of course, the special orders of those in power were carried out by jewelers individually, but jewelers also used matrices. Thus, the invention of matrices was the first step towards the creation of mass art. Matrices were especially widely used for work in the Basma technique (translated from Turkish Basma means an imprint). Basma is hand embossing on thin sheet metal. The main thing in this process was the matrix, it could have a convex relief or a concave image of various depths in a metal plate. The main metal for casting matrices in ancient times was bronze. The alloy was strong enough to withstand a large number of drifts. The material through which the images were driven out was lead, plastic, fusible, it allowed it to be used many times in minting. In the absence of lead, thick leather was also used, especially among nomadic and semi-nomadic peoples, and soft wood. The drawing was also pressed with bone sticks.

When using a matrix, the clearest image was obtained from the inside of the product and therefore, in some cases, the craftsmen used additional stamping of the front side.

Old Russian matrix with a scene of the Griffin being tormented by his victim - a calf, 11-13 centuries

Speaking about the use of matrices by ancient craftsmen, one cannot ignore the topic of cast objects, especially since the matrices of products quite often served as a master model for molding during casting. But there was also a special manufacturing method in which the shape of the product was carved in soft stone and even wood.

Here is a quote from a well-reasoned research by N. V. Ryndina "Production technology of Novgorod jewelers in the 10th-15th centuries":.

Of particular interest for the history of Old Russian casting is a wooden sash found in a layer of the 13th century. This is a semi-cylindrical bar with dimensions of 95x34x17 mm. On the flat side of the bar, two identical depressions are cut, which served to cast plaques in the form of four-petal flowers with a hemispherical bulge in the center. One of them has survived in its entirety, the petals of the other are damaged, since one edge of the form is broken off. A short, wide sprue is connected to each of the recesses from the side of the semicircular face of the form.

Old Russian juvenile matrix of the 11-13th centuries. with the image of a two-headed bird of prey

The presence of the sprue convinces us that the shape was two-leaf. Simulation has confirmed the possibility of casting in wooden molds products from tin-lead alloys with a low melting point. The slight charring of the mold walls that occurs when pouring metal does not interfere with casting.

It was possible to completely eliminate charring by applying chalk powder dissolved in water to the walls of the mold. Good results were obtained by impregnating the walls of the mold with vegetable oil. And in fact, and in another case, the form perfectly withstood repeated contact with the molten metal. " It should be added that even at the beginning of the 20th century, in the Russian north, village craftsmen cast small icons and crosses for sale at fairs or by peddlers, using a very hard core of a parasitic fungus (tinder fungus) living on trees (mainly birch tinder fungus) for very simple technology.

The cut mushroom was sawn into two halves, boiled down, and a sample matrix was inserted into the softened parts. After that, the flaps were compressed very tightly to obtain a clear impression, and dried in an oven using a special technology. The finished form made it possible to make several dozen good quality castings from low-melting brass, with a melting point much higher than that of tin-lead alloys. Of course, each master had his own secrets, passed down from generation to generation.

Stone half-molds for making moonfish, 11-13th centuries

Unique, piece items made by jewelers were sometimes copied using matrices. The disadvantage of products cast on the impression in the clay mass is not a clear, blurred image of the details. Impression in wax is another matter. For example, an imprint of the finished lunar could be made in a wax plate with subsequent editing of the drawing. The resulting concave image on a wax plate, with a sprue attached, was cast in a copper alloy, with the loss of the wax model, and a finished matrix was obtained. Now the master could knock out the face of the moon. But this rather laborious process was justified only when the master made hollow items from precious metals. For casting in copper or tin-lead alloy, craftsmen preferred to use stone molds with carved patterns (A, B). Undoubtedly, these products of the foundry workers looked rude in comparison with the wonderful works of the masters - jewelers.

Old Russian matrix depicting the flight of Alexander the Great. Material: copper alloy. Diameter 48 mm. Known in duplicate. The first was found during excavations in Staraya Ryazan, Russia. The second was found at Podol in Kiev, Ukraine

An excellent example is found in different regions of ancient Russia, two of the same type matrices depicting the mythical flight of Tsar Alexander the Great to the sky.

It should be emphasized that a good casting, close to the original, could serve as a master as a matrix or a master model for subsequent copying of the product.

Types of ancient Russian jewelry matrices depicting animals, birds and mythical creatures

Old Russian jewelry matrices, 11-13th centuries Old Russian jewelry matrices, 11-13th centuries Old Russian jewelry matrices, 11-13th centuries Old Russian jewelry matrices, 11-13th centuries Old Russian jewelry matrices, 11-13th centuries

A set of matrices XII - XIII centuries. for punching out belt pads with the image of the bird Sirin and Semargl

An interesting find was made on the territory of Ukraine. One of the items is a die for punching out the belt pads. At the same time, two more segments of the belt pads were found connected with oxides. When reconstructing a possible type of finds, it turned out that the symbolism of the objects corresponds to the symbolism of ancient Russia in the 12th - 13th centuries.

Old Russian matrix for driving out belt pads with the image of the bird Sirin and Semargl, 11-13 centuries

However, the very shape of the belt pads is typical of the so-called "noblemen's belts" of the 17th century. When belts with overlays of this shape appeared, I could not find out. The matrix depicts: Siren maiden - a bird and Simargl (A). On the second cover there is a plot "Two birds at the Tree of Life". The round bead is badly damaged by corrosion.

A set of matrices XII - XIII centuries. for driving out belt pads

Ouroboros Matrix

The last of the presented matrices deserves a separate discussion, since the image of Ouroboros is captured on it - this is how the ancient Greeks called this beast. Throughout the history of mankind, this image has changed, transformed, acquired or lost certain features, but the opinion remained unchanged among all peoples that this ancient serpent represents the cyclical nature of all processes occurring in the Universe, the beginning and end, death and the birth of a new life …

Matrix depicting a horned beast biting its tail. Diameter 61 mm. Dating 11-13 centuries

Having drawn a circle for the first time, the ancient man realized that it was possible to move along this path endlessly, each time returning to the starting point. Images of uroboros of different historical periods have been found from Central Siberia and the Kama region to Polotsk. They were also found in the Far East.

Many later images of the sacred beast absorbed some of the features and functions of the ancient Ouroboros. This is both the Slavic god Lizard, and Simargl - the keeper of the Tree of Life. Considering the time and place of existence of this matrix, we can say that this beast was perceived, most likely, as Simargl. Talking about the production of jewelry, we do not consider the whole range of use of images of symbolic animals, birds and plants that was widespread at that time. But this symbolism was present on almost all objects used by man. These were household items, clothing, weapons, horse harness, the house itself where a person lived was necessarily decorated with the symbols of amulets-defenders.

The image of the beast in question was even placed on a brush - a universal weapon for the entire population (A). By the way, images of other defenders were also placed on the brush, the "Fierce Beast" - the lion (B), the sacred bird - the falcon Rarog (C).

Old Russian brush, 11-13th centuries

On the presented matrix there are interesting details in the image of the beast, which need to be discussed in more detail. The first detail is the tail of the animal curled into three rings. These rings personify people's ideas about the existence of three worlds of reality: the Upper - the world of the gods; Middle - the world where people live and the lower - the world of dead ancestors. We see the same structure of the world on the matrix with the god Rod found in the Chernihiv region of Ukraine.

By the way, the adjacent three convex points on the moon of the early Slavs and a later period also personify the trinity of the world. It was not for nothing that Nicholas Roerich chose this ancient sign - “three dots in a circle” for his “pact”. This division of the worlds is the most ancient concept of the structure of the Universe among almost all peoples of antiquity. The second interesting detail is the horns of the beast.

Not all images of this kind have such precise detail. The characteristic dot, a common solar symbol located in the center of the crescent of the horns, clearly indicates that they are symbols of the Moon and the Sun. Horns in ancient symbolism are both a solar and a lunar symbol, which is included in the attributes of both the sun gods and the moon gods. It is these heavenly bodies, like a crown, that adorn the head of Ouroboros - Simargla on the presented matrix.

The stylistics of the execution of the drawing itself on the matrix speaks of a certain influence of Sassanian art. A rather massive matrix with the image of Ouroboros - Simargla (B) apparently served as a master model for the manufacture of pendants by casting. This is indicated by the characteristic traces left over from the preparation of the wax mold for attaching the headpiece - the ear for wearing the pendant. The circular "stick" ornament is erased at the place where the head is attached. It is obvious that on the matrix - the original, with which this casting was made, this ornament was combined.

Old Russian matrices for the manufacture of serpentine icons

Of course, one cannot ignore the topic of mysterious "serpentine icons".The author is not aware of the original matrices for their production. If there were any, then they were used to make single things from precious metals. And already from these products, embossed and modified in wax, matrices of wider application were cast. Of course, there were also stone, carved forms for casting these icons.

Old Russian serpentine icon 11-13 centuries

It should be noted that despite the rarity, a fairly large number of coils cast in bronze were found, although they are known coils carved from stone… Of course, the farther from the original, the worse the castings were, which can be traced in the lifting material.

Half of the mold for the hanging icon - "coil". Side of the composition with snakes and incantatory inscription. Dimensions: 72x53 mm. Time 11-13 centuries

Concluding the story about matrices for the production of jewelry by medieval artisans, it should also be said that the very conditions of finding matrices in the ground for many centuries have presented discoveries with surprises, sometimes pleasant when the composition of the soil contributes to the excellent preservation of objects, and not very pleasant when oxides destroy unique things. It is even sadder when a well-preserved artifact is damaged by agricultural machinery, and such damage is massive.

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