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

One of the main tools of ancient Russian artisans - various matrices that were used for the production of jewelry items, constitute a huge and little-studied cultural and historical layer, inextricably linked with the history of Ancient Russia, and therefore modern states that consider themselves the heirs of the ancient Russian state.

In the book "Decorative and Applied Art of Russia X-XIII centuries" B. A. Rybakov writes:

The matrices, for the craftsmen who lived at different times in the territories where the ancient Russian state was later formed, were of great importance. Not all masters possessed an outstanding talent and ability to create their own original works of applied art, but what created by great masters could be replicated using matrices and master models cast from the original thing. The more matrices the master possessed, the more he had the ability to create various pieces of jewelry.

Old Russian matrix of iconic form with the image of the Mother of God Agiosoritissa, 13th century

The versatility of the best artisans of antiquity was determined not only by the presence of talent, learning the craft from childhood, but also by the number and variety of tools. If we talk about matrices with Christian themes that appeared among the masters of ancient Russia, then the first samples were obviously matrices brought by the Bulgarians and Greeks from Byzantium, who were invited to work in Russia. Among accidental finds, such matrices are well known and the geography of these finds is quite extensive. As our own production develops, wonderful examples of the work of the ancient Russian masters themselves appear.

The matrix is ​​a universal means of production and, of course, the craftsmen “hunted” for new samples. This "hunt" was especially practiced by foundry workers. By copying new samples, they themselves earned on this, and allowed other craftsmen who were not involved in casting to have extra work. At all times, one of the main objects of work of artisans was women's and men's jewelry, it was, and still remains, a powerful layer of applied art. Separate groups of craftsmen were engaged in the manufacture of ornaments for horse harness, military headsets and belts - a very popular item in the Middle Ages.

Matrix (or plug-in icon) depicting a saint. With regard to the attribution of this saint, three options have been proposed - “Prophet Elijah with the crows,” but Elijah was portrayed as a bearded man of age. The second option is the falconer Trifon with falcons. And the third - Odin in the image of a Christian saint with the ravens Hugin and Munin on his shoulders, which also raises questions

A special area was the production of items related to religion. As for Ancient Russia, after the adoption of Christianity, the work of the most qualified craftsmen became in demand by the Church. The princes and the wealthy elite of society began to compete in donating various highly artistic contributions to the Church, decorating revered icons, precious clothes of the highest hierarchs, and expensive church utensils. In addition, the donors themselves were consumers of the highest class jewelers' products.

Naturally, the bulk of the people also strove to imitate the upper class. Craftsmen who provided the local population with their products lived not only in cities and monasteries, but also in large rural settlements. The production of mass products is especially widespread in the second half of the XII - the first third of the XIII centuries. The nature of rural settlements is as follows, on a certain territory, as the center of the district, there is a large commercial and industrial settlement.

Old Russian matrix of a round shape with the image of the Mother of God, 13th century

In addition to the farmers, there are also representatives of the administration - the princely or boyar tiun, merchants, guards.A priest and a deacon lived at the church. Blacksmiths, artisans - jewelers, foundry workers and any other artisan people lived in separate settlements.

"Demand creates supply", this truth is true for all times. The desire to be like the rich and powerful has always been characteristic of ordinary people. The craftsmen carried out these applications to the best of their abilities and available tools. A vivid example of this is the found defective casting.

The central plate of the golden diadem with the subject "The Flight of Alexander the Great to Heaven" from the treasure found in Sakhnovka (A) and a photo of the casting processed in a photo editor (B)

Obviously, the master, fulfilling someone's order, made a casting bearing a relief image of the composition with the plot “The flight of Tsar Alexander the Great to heaven". However, the casting failed and the scrap was scrapped for the next casting. On the site of the former workshop of a craftsman, an amateur search engine found this artifact (A).

Next cast icon with picture Virgin of Oranta in full growth, in its shape it resembles an insert into some kind of product. It is worth recalling that the main material for the manufacture of various products at that time was wood. With a very high literacy of the ancient Russian population, birch bark was widely used and not only in personal correspondence, even liturgical books, in not rich monasteries, were made of birch bark. Describing the first years of the life of Sergius of Radonezh in the monastery he founded, Theophan the Wise writes:. Painted icons were expensive and rare, and any local caster could cast a copy from a matrix. Therefore, some of the cast icons, similar in manufacturing technology to matrices, could be inserts into the wooden frames of church books, and decorate church utensils, and serve as a prayer icon inserted into the icon case.

Old Russian plate with the image of the Mother of God Agiosoritissa. Washed out enamel. Diameter 52 mm. Dating XIII - XIV centuries

The most numerous finds of matrices depicting Virgin… Not without the help of a matrix, the base was cast under the sewn-on icon depicting Our Lady of Agiosoritissa. The icon is made of bronze, decorated with champlevé enamels of three colors and could be part of the decoration of the vestments of the church hierarch.

Old Russian matrices depicting Jesus Christ

Old Russian matrices with the image of the Virgin

Old Russian matrices with the image of the Virgin

Old Russian matrices with the image of the Virgin Old Russian matrices with the image of the Virgin Old Russian matrices with the image of the Virgin

The finished product made of silver, created by the master using a similar matrix, looked like this:

Old Russian silver icon with the image of the Virgin, XIII century

Old Russian matrices depicting Archangels and saints

Archangel Michael was very popular in the Byzantine Empire and the upper strata of society in Ancient Russia. The prince's entourage, brought up in the traditions of the druzhina culture, supported his cult and considered him their patron. The archistatigus of the heavenly host was the patron of the earthly host. On the Byzantine matrix found in Ukraine, the image of the archangel is strict and solemn. In his left hand he holds a mirror - a symbol of foresight of the future, his right hand is free and the palm is slightly open. The clothes of the archangel represent the imperial ceremonial dress - lorum, decorated with ornaments, precious stones and gold images, dressed on a tunic. Huge wings, with clearly detailed feathers, extend beyond the image. In the bend of the wings, above the shoulder, there is an inscription: OARKH - MIKH. The edge of the halo is ornamented. In a similar iconography, the archangel is also depicted on a matrix with a diameter of 49 mm. presented on the next page. The differences are only in the turn of the head in three-quarters and the mirroring, in which the mirror is in the right hand. The drawing is rougher and more simplified.

Old Russian matrices depicting Archangels and holy warriors Old Russian matrices depicting saints

The images of various holy warriors were also popular. The people treated their heavenly defenders as well as the earthly defenders. The presence of matrices with their images indicates a certain mass production of such icons.

Old Russian matrices depicting Saints Old Russian matrices depicting Saints

Glass icons, made for pilgrims, ended up in Russia, where enterprising artisans removed cast matrix copies from them for subsequent replication.

Glass paste litic icon depicting St. Dimitri, 13th century

In his work on litics found on the territory of Russia, F.D. Gurevich writes:.

Old Russian matrices depicting Saints Old Russian matrices depicting Saints

Old Russian matrices for making crosses

In the pre-Mongol period, in Ancient Russia, crosses and cruciform pendants were included in composition of necklaces worn by women.

Old Russian matrix for making crosses, 12-13 centuries

The higher the social status of the woman who wore these necklaces, the more expensive were the items included in its composition. But if a single cross cast by a foundryman weighed a lot, then a large number of such crosses, being solid, would weigh a lot, and this is not to mention the cost of such an amount of precious metal. In this case, artisans used the technology of hollow products, popularly known as "blown". From thin metal, with the help of a matrix, the master knocked out the volumetric part of half of the cross, the head was made separately from a strip, also beaten off on a matrix with convex and concave lines, which, with thin metal, created additional stiffening ribs.

Matrices - knockouts for cruciform hangers: 1) Dimensions: 43x36 mm. Material: copper alloy. Ivano - Frankivsk region Ukraine. 2) Dimensions: 41x37mm. Material: copper alloy. Ivano - Frankivsk region Ukraine. 3) Suspension made using matrix # 2. The place of the find has not been established Old Russian matrices for making crosses of various types, 11-13 centuries

The second part of the work consisted in fitting the minted part to the flat plate on the back side. The product was soldered, excess metal was cut off, cleaned, polished and the cross was ready. Placed in a necklace, these crosses looked massive, but did not weigh much. Straight crosses were also done this way, but there was also added an even side strip of metal. However, in some cases, only one side of the pendant relief was minted from a sufficiently thick metal, and such a pendant was also worn as part of a necklace.

Pre-Mongol cruciform pendant of the 11-13th centuries

Photos (A, B) show a fragment and reconstruction of such a suspension.

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