Eglomise technique in Russian: Novgorod pectoral icons of the 15th century with images "under crystals"
Eglomise technique in Russian: Novgorod pectoral icons of the 15th century with images "under crystals"
Novgorod thimble icons of the 15th century with images "under crystals"

Among the Novgorod precious pectoral icons, a group of works from the last quarter of the 15th - early 17th centuries is of particular interest. with sacred images "under crystals". These works are of great historical and artistic value both in the design of frames and in the unusual technique of performing images, which in special literature is called "eglomise".

Novgorod was the main Russian center for the production of miniature icons in this technique, although it originally appeared in Moscow and penetrated into Novgorod a little later, spreading widely there in the first half of the 16th century. Under Ivan III (1462–1505), Rus came into active contact with the Western world. In the last quarter of the 15th century. various masters were invited from Italy to Moscow.

Ambrogio Contarini, an Italian traveler, noted in his essay that the master Tryphon lived in Moscow, a jeweler from Cattaro, who made many vessels and other items for the Grand Duke. Tryphon, judging by the name, was Greek, but came from the fortress of Cattaro, a Venetian colony. It was Venice, which in the second half of the 15th - early 16th centuries. experienced a brilliant flourishing of glass making, was the leading center for the production of things using the eglomise technique. It is obvious that it was the Italian masters and, possibly, the Venetians who brought the secret of making such items to Russia.

Over time, it was mastered by Moscow and then Novgorod jewelers. In Ancient Russia, the eglomise technique was used only to decorate precious breast icons. Eglomise inserts were made mainly of crystal or colorless glass, which was invented in Venice in the second half of the 15th century. In Ancient Russia, up to the second half of the 17th century, there was no own production of glass products, and there were no deposits of crystal, so crystal and glass were imported from Western Europe. Among the Novgorod archaeological material, there are large lenses of rock crystal (GPS, no. 17211–493, etc.), dating from the end of the 14th century. Inserts of rock crystal were also found, tinted with a pinkish mass, chemical analysis of which showed that it was most likely shellac with the addition of a dye.

Our Lady of the Incarnation. Icon "under the crystal". Moscow, XV century. Frame - silver, filigree, carving, gilding, 16th century GPS

Semi-precious stone crystal was imported in large quantities from Western Europe and appeared in the XV-XVII centuries. one of the most beloved and highly regarded materials. The lively Novgorod-European ties of this time contributed to the arrival of rock crystal inserts, which were widely and variedly represented in the Novgorod art craft. At the same time, crystal mirrors, cups, feet and other objects, brought mainly from Italy, came into fashion.

Objects with images in the new unusual technique of eglomise began to be made by Russian craftsmen not earlier than the second half of the 15th century. In ancient Russian documents (receipts and expenditures and feed books, inventories, spiritual certificates, etc.), bone, stone, wooden icons, as well as images under glass and crystals are called panagias or icons with tables… In addition to the clergy, pectoral images were worn on a monist or gaitan (a silk cord or chain in 4-5 rows) by women of a grand ducal or other high clan.In the inventories, such images are sometimes called “gate images,” since they were worn over clothing, at the collar. The icons often contain images of the holy wives of Barbara, Catherine, and others, probably of the same names to their owners. Most of these images, often with patronal images, were in circulation among the laity. In the property of princes, icons and crosses appear as objects of blessing, which are inherited or as a dowry.

Such icons were donated to monasteries, where, as a rule, they served as attachments, or "butts," to miraculous icons.

Great Martyr Catherine. Icon "under the crystal". Frame - silver, filigree, carving, gilding. Novgorod, XVI century. GPS

The group of Novgorod pectoral icons consists of several dozen objects, in which, in turn, sixteen subjects stand out. The most common images are: the Archangel Michael, Our Lady of the Incarnation, Nicholas the Wonderworker and the Savior. The rest of the crystal inserts have images of the great martyrs Catherine, Paraskeva Friday, Barbara, the great martyrs George and Demetrius, the Monk Onuphrius the Great, Archdeacon Stephen, the cross on Calvary, the Crucifixion with the coming, unknown saints and saints.

All panagias with inserts are approximately the same size. A special place among the works of Novgorod is occupied by a large holy panagia depicting the Mother of God on the throne with Jonah and Nikita of Novgorod leaning forward.

If we analyze the shapes of the frames of the icons, then they fall into three large groups: octahedral with concave or even edges, round and curly, which include oval frames with keeled projections. As an exception, it is necessary to note the aforementioned holy panagia, which has a twelve-sided shape with concave edges. The tops are almost always movable, usually rectangular, hollow, with a carved image of the Savior Not Made by Hands or with a nest on the front side, in which an almandine or mother of pearl is fixed. Sometimes they are decorated at the top with a pyramid of beads of grain. There are also keeled tops with filigree, colored with enamel.

The most common option for decorating frames is a scanned pattern of a different nature: hearts, with spiral or plant curls, openwork and overhead. The gilded silver background is usually filled with filigree circles or decorated with shotting. There are also frames decorated with filigree and enamel, most often in blue and green colors. Stones are reinforced between the cut patterns in cylindrical castes: cherry-colored almandines, blue turquoise, pearls, mother-of-pearl. Often colored glasses were inserted into the frames for decoration. Such a bright and at the same time elegant jewelry frame gives decorativeness and elegance to small images.

Pectoral Panagia "Saint Nicholas" 15th century Novgorod Silver, filigree, crystal, pomegranates

The listed design elements of the frames may be one of the dating features of the considered group of panagias: octagonal frames appear only in the second half of the 15th century, the simple rhythmic ornament of heart-shaped patterns becomes especially widespread by the end of the 15th century. From the end of the XIV century. there appears an effective method of designing a cylindrical caste with a thin, gathered in high folds, like a corrugated ribbon. This technique was often used in pectoral icons. Smooth blind setting of stones became widespread later, in the 16th and 17th centuries. With such a setting, a stone, even of an irregular shape, can be tightly compressed around the entire perimeter due to the fact that the fastening edge of the metal is sawn to a minimum thickness during operation. Most of the images we are interested in have just such castes and can be dated to the 16th century.

Almost all the frames of the icons are gilded, some of them are covered with basma plates from the back. Byzantine cameos made of precious stones were inserted into similar frames in the 15th-16th centuries, as well as politicians… Therefore, we can say with confidence that crystal inserts with such a rare technique were very much appreciated. They, of course, were custom-made things, and the images were most often patronal.

First Martyr Stephen. Icon "under the crystal". Frame - silver, filigree, basma, stones, gilding. Novgorod, XVI century. Private collection, Moscow

In one of the earliest surviving Novgorod inventories - the Inventory of the Monastery of Nicholas the Wonderworker on Lyatka (near Novgorod) in 1605, there are "gate icons":.

Crystal panagias in the inventories are adjacent to bone, sinolae, etc. Descriptions of panagias under crystal or glass were met by us in the Inventories of the Novgorod monasteries of Nicholas the Wonderworker on Lyatka (1605), SpasoKhutynsky (1642), Antoniev (1596), as well as in the Inventories of the Novgorod Sophia Cathedral (first half of the 18th century, 1751) and the Novgorod Bishops' House (1725). In the 19th century. Historical descriptions of Novgorodian antiquities also meet similar things. In total, the sources reviewed by us described several dozen panagias under crystals and “behind glass”. Already in the inventories themselves there is a clear separation of crystals and glasses, although both of these materials for the 15th – 16th centuries. were very expensive. However, as already mentioned, in none of the documents did we manage to find the name of the studied technique.

Savior Not Made by Hands. Basmen's icon "under the crystal". Frame - silver, filigree, enamel, carving, gilding. Novgorod, XVII century GPS

The image, made in the technique of eglomise, when placed in a frame, turned out as if from the "wrong side", turned from left to right, which complicated the work of the master, who had to engrave the drawing taking into account this specific moment. Therefore, the images in the eglomise technique are almost all schematized, one-figured, although with all the generalization of the image, the master did not disregard the iconographic details characteristic of this or that saint. The latter are always recognizable, even if there is no inscription or it has been lost. For example, the martyrs Barbara and Catherine are depicted in crowns, the archangel Michael - with a sword and scabbard, all the martyrs - with crosses in their hands. With all the simplicity of the interpretation of images, in the eglomize technique, one can distinguish between the work of several masters. A large group of things is made up of icons with a rather primitive, schematic drawing, with disproportionate faces, sharply exaggerated features, with small hands, sloping shoulders, etc. Another type of image is more "refined". The drawing, executed in thin lines, resembles the carvings on silver plates and bowls made by Russian masters of the 15th – 16th centuries. The faces and figures are graceful as in miniature and are made in an icon-painting manner. The two types of images that we identified indicate different workshops that made inserts using the eglomise technique.

There is no doubt that crystal or glass inserts with images were made by one master, and frames for them were often made by another, since specialization in the field of gold and silver making in the 16th century. reached a high level.

The inserts of rock crystal and glass, most likely, came to Russia already in a finished form, then they were gilded in local centers. It is known that in Novgorod in the XVI century. special artisans worked - gophers and goldsmiths. After that, the cabochons with superimposed gold went to other craftsmen who cut the drawing. They could be silversmiths specializing in the engraving of utensils, or bannermen. Let's admit another option, in which there could be only a few jewelers who owned the secret of the eglomise technique. Then crystals with images applied on gold were handed over to master scanners and enamellers, who inserted them into richly ornamented frames.

The eglomise technique was expensive and laborious, and the objects made in this way were fragile and fragile. This can be evidenced by the preserved things, inside of which the images made on gold are cracked, and sometimes just torn in half. These and other circumstances can serve as an explanation for the short existence of the eglomize technique in Russia: for just over one century (the last quarter of the 15th - the end of the 16th century). It flourished in the 16th century.

There were apparently few masters who possessed the secret of eglomise, and the demand for images in this technique was great. Therefore, an imitation of eglomise was required.With the similarity of the frames of the panagias, mostly octahedral, decorated with alman dynamics and mother-of-pearl, several groups of images are found, executed on various materials and placed under crystal. For small images (1.5 cm in diameter), crystal cabochons could serve as magnifying lenses. We managed to identify five groups of panagias, in the center of which basma images could be placed under cabochons, silver gilded engraved images, embroidered on fabric, made in icon painting technique on gesso and painted with black ink on gilded paper. The latter, as less labor-consuming, eventually replaced icons in the eglomise technique. In addition to the named groups of images, there is one more, which consists of panagias with imitation of the eglomise technique, which existed in parallel with the real ones: in the same frames with similar decorations on them, but covered not with crystal or flat glass, but with mica. Under it, on the wooden base of the panagia, paper was placed, painted black, on which a pattern was applied in gold.

Archangel Michael, XV - XVI centuries - Silver, quartz, amaldine, mother-of-pearl, pearls, fine pearls. humiliate, the enemy. metal backs, gilding, filigree

Among the currently known icons in the eglomise technique, a significant group is made up of panagias depicting the Archangel Michael. They are found more often than others in the inventories of monasteries, mainly in Novgorod. In the Inventory of the Spaso-Khutynsky Monastery in 1642, a lot of attachments to icons are mentioned, including a panagia. In the Inventory of the Anthony Monastery in 1696, in the butts to the shrine with the relics of St. Antonia is mentioned. In the description of the butts to the shrine of Nikita Novgorodsky, which was in the St. Sophia Cathedral, there are reports of many crystal icons, one of which was.

The given characteristics of the frames of the icons are very accurate. Octagonal panagias are often called "charcoal" or "burdock" in inventories. Of the ten surviving icons with the Archangel Michael, six are octagonal, elongated vertically, cut without enamel setting. The cloth consists of large spiral curls, placed against a background of densely spaced small circles. This filigree pattern was most typical for the northern Russian centers, in particular for Novgorod.

As for the distribution of octagonal frames, they were most often used in jewelry in the 16th century. The rest of the frames of the icons with the Archangel Michael are larger and have an oval shape with keeled projections, three of them are decorated with filigree with blue and green enamel. Almost all icons (except two) have convex oval crystals in the center. This shape of the central inserts is not accidental, since the frontal figures of the archangels fit well into the outline of the oval. Widely spaced wings give the images a great solemnity. The images are placed on a netted mud, sometimes shaped like a pillow. All archangels are large-headed, with eyes that occupy a quarter of the face, with lush hairstyles in the form of carelessly arranged curls, the outlines of which are echoed by uneven halos, and hairstyles take up more volume than halos. Archangels are presented with short, small legs and curved arms that resemble a wheel in silhouette. They hold a sword and scabbard in their hands, set diagonally to the figure, which gives a certain liveliness to the static frontal images. The shortened proportions of the figures, large heads and wings raised above the shoulders give the images touching and some fragility.

An extraordinary similarity was found between five images of archangels placed in frames of different shapes and ornamentation and are currently in the Novgorod, Russian and Historical museums. Judging by the style of the frames, all of them were executed in Novgorod at different times: some, forged, were made earlier (late 15th - early 16th centuries), others with enamel, later - in the second half of the 16th century.

Analyzing the nature of the drawings on gold under the crystal cabochons, one can come to the conclusion that they were all engraved by the hand of one master.

The most recognizable signs of archangels are their clothes. They are dressed in generational plate armor, divided by small strokes into several "tiers". The lower edge of the armor is uneven, elongated on the left and right. Archangels have two vertical mesh stripes on the chest, echoing the mesh posture. The eyes are covered with half-closed eyelids. Undoubtedly, these images are very close in time of execution, so the inserts with them could be remounted into later frames with enamel, corresponding to the tastes of a particular era.

Once again, I would like to draw your attention to the simplified, naive manner of images on Russian icons using the eglomise technique, which distinguishes them from Italian works. This is especially noticeable in the example of the group we have chosen. So, the Archangel Michael with outstretched wings and shortened proportions of the figure echoes his more ancient image on serpentines. With this "primitive" interpretation, the master pays great attention to the details described above. If the icons with the archangel have the inscription "MIKHALA ARKHANIL", then it is located vertically on the sides of the wings, and to read it, you must turn the icon sideways. The inscription was included in the compositional structure of the image and was a kind of decorative frame for the figure. It is no coincidence that the group of panagias with archangels turned out to be the most numerous. Archangel Michael was the victor of Satan, so we saw a fighter against demons, the forces of evil. In addition, the Archangel Michael in the image of the Guardian Angel was widely revered in the 15th – 16th centuries. This can be evidenced by the large numbers of wooden, bone and copper cross-vests with a full-length image of Mikhail in the form of a warrior with a sword, with a carved or embossed inscription "ANGL THE KEEPER" placed above his head. In the Great Menaea Chetyah, the role of the Archangel Michael is described as follows: "… God set the Archangel Michael as a kind of omnipotent weapon and preservation against the power of the devil to protect and preserve the stumbled (ie, expelled from paradise) man." Therefore, on the archangel, who protects a person from the forces of evil, military armor is "a symbol of the continuity of the battle."

This interpretation of the image of Michael in the form of a Guardian Angel can be confirmed by the inscription on a wooden worship cross from Vyatka in 1592. On the reverse side of the cross there is a carved image of the Archangel Michael with an unfolded scroll in his left hand, on which the following words are carved: "Archangel Michael is God's voivode and God's guardian by man."

In the edition we have examined, images of Michael are also found on icons, in sewing, in large wooden reliefs of the 15th - 16th centuries. All this speaks of a certain tradition followed by the masters who worked in the eglomise technique.

The group of panagias with the Mother of God of the Incarnation is as numerous as the group with the archangels. "The image of the Mother of God Oranta, as well as the Mother of God with the Child in a medallion, or the image of the Mother of God enclosed in a circle of" sky "(the motive of the circle is important) has long, and not only in Novgorod, carried a protective function, had an apotropic meaning." Therefore, similar images with the Mother of God possessed the properties of amulets. It should be noted that almost all images of Our Lady of the Incarnation are covered with cabochons not oval, but round, characteristic of bivalve panagias.

The earliest in this group is an octahedral breast icon with the image of Our Lady of the Incarnation under a convex oval glass from the Hermitage collection. The image is cut along the contours on a thin sheet of gold leaf with the background removed and filled with dark blue mastic. To the left and right of the figure of the Mother of God, the letters are inscribed on gold: MP O – У IC XC. The middle part is framed with a bundle of twisted silver wire. The front side of the frame is decorated with a floral ornament made of krin, made using filigree enamel technique, soldered onto a gilded silver plate.

The filigree ornament is filled with mastic of dull gray-blue and dark green colors. Four cylindrical castes are mounted in the ornament, one of which has preserved bright mother-of-pearl.

The nests on the rim and in the head are decorated with a thin "corrugated" wire gathered in high folds. The reverse side and ends of the icon are covered with smooth silver plates enclosed in thick spiral bundles of silver wire. A dark cherry almandine is attached to the top. For a number of signs, this panagia can certainly be attributed to the monuments of Novgorod art.

The type of the Mother of God is close to the Novgorod samples of the 15th – 16th centuries. The baby is depicted without a medallion in the folds of the maforium of the Mother of God. The image on the panagia is made in the tradition of the 15th century. The shoulders of the Mother of God are sharply slanted, thin hands with thumbs raised up are set almost perpendicular. Such signs are found on Novgorod icons of the 15th – 16th centuries, as well as on costly bivalve panagias (bone, wood, metal). The clothes of the Mother of God are with wide sleeves and conventionally designated folds. On the maforia, on the sides of the figure of Christ, two mesh stripes are vertically located. Similar stripes are found on the clothes of the archangels of the Novgorod group. The high cap of the Mother of God with curls of hair protruding from under it is shown schematically. The nimbus of the Mother of God is very narrow in comparison with the cap. Christ and the Mother of God have irregular proportions of faces: bulging eyes, large teardrop-shaped noses, barely marked lips and small sloping chins. The baby is large-headed, with "curly" hair encircled by a double circle representing a halo. In the baby's left hand there is a folded scroll, the right one is a blessing one. The scratched drawing is somewhat displaced in the lower part to the left, which is why the figure of the infant Christ is, as it were, tilted to the right with the absolute frontality of the figure of the Mother of God. The images are markedly disproportionate.

The sockets on the rim are not accidentally located, they form the composition of the centerpiece. The filigree ornament in the form of krin was a favorite technique for decorating Novgorod and, in general, northern objects of the second half of the 16th - 17th centuries. The closest analogy to the decorative design of the panagia is the setting of a two-leaf wooden folding folding door made in Novgorod at the end of the 16th century. with carvings of Our Lady of Hodegetria and John the Theologian with an angel. This folding came to the Novgorod Museum from the St. Sophia Cathedral. Its frame is decorated with an openwork filigree superimposed on a gilded background with crines filled with dark blue and blue enamel. The midships and sides are framed with thick twisted braids. The ends are decorated with crooked stylized flat wire hearts.

Perhaps the frame of the breastplate and the glass insert are things of different times. Judging by the image on gold, as well as by the quality of the bubble glass, it was made at the end of the 15th century, and the frame dates from the end of the 16th century, although the centerpiece and frame were made in Novgorod.

In favor of the Novgorodian origin of this panagia, there is one more important sign: a dark blue background, on which a gold pattern is placed. The use of just such a pigment is known only in Novgorod material. Therefore, such a background serves as one of the accurate signs of Novgorod works, especially panagia under crystal.

To the Novgorod circle, on the basis of these signs, we classify pectoral icons with images under crystals and glass of the martyrs Catherine, Barbara, Paraskeva and other saints especially revered in Novgorod. Some designs on gold were applied from the back on flat glasses or crystals, which were much more difficult to make than cabochons. If you pay attention to all the panagias covered with flat glass, you will notice that the images behind them are surrounded by a gold frame around the edge, corresponding to the beveled chamfer along the side of the glass.

Apparently, this is a special technique that creates the refraction of light, due to which the impression appears that the gold rim is applied from the outside; thus, a greater flatness is imparted to both the glass and the pattern. Consequently, flat glass suggested a new decorative technique to the master. This technique was used mainly by Novgorod masters, since the dark blue background and at the same time the nature of the images indicate Novgorod as the center for the manufacture of such panagias.

The published Novgorod panagias under crystals by no means exhaust the range of preserved works in museums and private collections. We hope that our work, which is essentially only the first step towards the study of this type of Novgorod art, will contribute to the further identification of such monuments.

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