Rostov enamel of the 18th century
Rostov enamel of the 18th century
Articles with enamel are used for decorating church plate, religious objects. Small icons, crosses, portraits and ornaments painted on enamel are particularly long-lasting and decorative with vivid, pure colours.
Rostov enamel is a special local artistic phenomenon, which is why we shall pay most attention to it. We shall consider works of the masters of the 7J second half of the 18th century, many of which are published here for the first time.
In the age of Kievan Russia Rostov jewelers mastered the production of artistic enamel. In the following centuries they continued to use this noble material to embellish crosses, small icons, filigree icon cases and church plate.For they had been using enamel in other artistic techniques for several centuries and it would not have been hard for them to master another device. Moreover, it was in the 1670s and 1680s on the initiative of Metropolitan Jonah that the Rostov Archbishop’s Palace was erected, many stone buildings constructed and churches decorated with frescoes, icons and church plate. Metropolitan Jonah of Rostov was locum tenans of the patriarchal throne in Moscow for a while and he must have known the masters in the Moscow Armoury. He would have seen the work of Moscow painters, and it is quite likely that such a great lover and patron of the arts as Jonah invited some of these artists to Rostov. True, this is so far just a hypothesis.
The oldest of the authenticated Rostov articles executed in the technique of painted enamel are the works of masters in the second half of the 18th century. The Rostov museum preserve of art and architecture contains a pectoral cross by the master Amphilochus with the date (1777) and the name of its maker.
Amphilochus (whose secular name was Andrei Yakovlevich) was born in 1748 in Rostov. His father and grandfather were priests. At sixteen he entered the Rostov Church of St John the Almsgiver as junior deacon. He later moved to the Church of the Resurrection, where he began to paint icons.
In 1770 he went to Moscow to take part in renovating the painting in the Kremlin cathedrals, and seven years later Amphilochus was received into the brethren of the Rostov Saviour-St James monastery. As well as icon-painting with egg tempera and painting on enamel Amphilochus was a skilled fresco painter. He is known to have renovated the wall-painting in the Church of the Conception at 75 the St James monastery in 1780. In the same year he was ordained a hiero-monk. For about 45 years Amphilochus served as a novice, being the monk at the shrine with the relics of St Demetrius of Rostov, and was father confessor to many eminent people of the day. On a visit to the Rostov St James monastery in 1823, Emperor Alexander I received a blessing from Amphilochus and had frequent talks with him. As a sign of respect Alexander sent Amphilochus through Prince A. N. Golitsyn a pectoral cross with diamonds. Amphilochus died in 1824. The Rostov museum collection of enamel contains a portrait of him painted by an unknown Rostov enameler around the 1860s, probably from an earlier original.
Amphilochus’ enamels show an expressive manner of painting with vivid, rich colours. He treats the enamel base with care, not covering it entirely with paint, but leaving quite a lot of unpainted areas, so that the base helps to create the artistic effect, or “breathes”, as Rostov enamelists put it.
Another Rostov enamel painter, Pyotr Ivanov, was also a clergyman. His two surviving signed and dated works, a pectoral cross of 1791 and a small oval icon of Our Lady of the Sign (1793), tell us that he was a church sexton. Several items 77 in the museum collection are ascribed to this master due to their stylistic features. They include some mitre medallions, Gospel cases and small icons. Judging from the nature of Pyotr Ivanov’s painting, he too, like Amphilochus, painted icons on panels using the egg tempera technique. His works are characterised by the use of very thick, extremely rich enamel paints. His dark cherry, brown and green shades are so dense that they seem almost black. At the same time his yellows, pinks and light greens contrast vividly with the dense dark tones.
The third artist with whose name a series of dated works and undoubtedly authentic works is associated is Alexei Vsesvyatsky. He was born in yg 1782 in Rostov, in the family of a priest at the Church of All Saints, in which he later served himself. Like his contemporary Amphilochus, Vsesvyatsky painted icons in tempera on panels and at the same time mastered the art of enamel. In the earliest of his surviving dated works, a medallion of the Evangelist Mark (1790) from a Gospel, one senses clearly the hand of an icon-painter. The robes are painted as if on an icon executed in tempera: the same stylised folds and the same highlights on the protruding parts of the figures as in icon-painting. The saint’s face is also executed in the manner of icon-painting.
The medallions on the altar cross which Alexei Vsesvyatsky presented to the Church of All Saints are of interest. The one adorning the lower part of the cross shows selected saints who clearly represent the patron saints of the Vsesvyatsky family. There is St Alexis, the Man of God, in whose honour the artist himself was named, and St Ignatius the God-bearer, after whom his father was called. Under the medallion is the author’s inscription: “1798. This icon was painted, by hierarch Alexei Vsesvyatsky.”
The Rostov enamelists of the second half of the 18th century were nearly all priests, deacons or church servers and many of them were descended 80 from priests. In their work one can detect a number of common features: as well as enameling, they nearly all painted icons in tempera on panels and some, like Amphilochus, were also fresco painters.
With regard to the development of style in Rostov enamels of the 18th century, it must be said that in the early works icon-painting features and a certain canonical stylisation with a touch of baroque are more noticeable, whereas the works of the end of the century contain more secular elements and are closer to easel painting. At the end of the century a new style appeared with its own aesthetic norms and a new plastic conception, namely, classicism.