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Regrettably, Easter eggs of that period failed to survive until our times. As far as we can judge, they most probably were wooden eggs, gilded or silvered and decorated by skillful painters, as well as chiseled bone eggs. As a result of Peter the Great's reforms, materials new for Russia appeared - porcelain, papier-mache and contributed to the development of the art of making Russian Easter eggs.

The Eggs "Nicholas of Mauritius" and "Vladimir Mother of God', S.Kern, Moscow, 1996The earliest porcelain Easter egg that came down to us was created for the 1749 Easter by the inventor of the Russian porcelain, Dmitriy Yinogradov. Afler his discovery of porcelain in 1748, the production, of ornamental eggs in Russia became an industry. An entry in Vinogradov's diary for 1749 says, «We chiseled and molded eggs.» From then until the 1917 revolution, the Imperial Porcelain Factory manufactured Easter eggs. The earliest of them was the egg portraying Cupids, apparently based on a drawing by Francois Boucher, believed to date back to the 1750's and kept by the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg. For every Easter Sunday, the factory manufactured Easter eggs for the members of the imperial family «to be handed out» at the time of congratulating each other on Easter day. From the 1820's, private porcelain factories also began manufacturing Easter eggs. Artistic style hallmarks enable us to estimate the time when samples ordered in a single copy for Easter holidays were made. The decoration of Easter eggs, especially porcelain and glass ones, which were the most numerous throughout the 19th century, correlated with a particular trend in the fine arts.

Starting from the second half of the 19th century, the design of Easter eggs becomes more peculiar, with the use of traditional religious Easter subject matters («Descent into Hell,» «The Resurrection" and others) and religious symbols and attributes. In the scene «Descent into Hell,» Christ, surrounded by patriarchs and prophets, stands, holding Adam by his right hand, over the door to hell, which he has just broken. Traditionally, in the Russian Orthodox faith, «Descent into Hell» is considered a symbol of the Resurrection.

In 1874, ordered by Moscow's «dismissed-priests» Old Believers, the Tyulin brothers, renowned icon painters from the village of Mstyora, near Vladimir, painted images on Easter eggs to greet distinguished persons. The Tyulins by that time had earned a fame through their restoration work on old icons in the temples of the Old Believers' Rogozhskoye Cemetery in Moscow. The eggs were chiseled out of wood. Each consisted of two halves, gilded on the inside with mat gold and painted bright crimson on the outside. The egg was very light, extremely elegant, and polished like a mirror. The Tyulins painted eggs of two sizes: ten the size of a goose egg and eight the size of a duck egg. All the eggs bore on one side the same subject matter - «The Savior's Descent into Hell» - and on the opposite side, the image of the patron saint of the person for whom the egg was meant as a present. There were three eggs with Saint Alexander of the Neva and one each with Czar

Constantine, Prince Vladimir, and Metropolitan Alexis. The middle, where the egg opens, was adorned by the artists with an ornament. The images are distinguished by the exactness of minute details; ancient Russian style norms are observed; pure gold is used. The paintings on these Easter eggs were rewarded by what was much money at that time: 25 rubles for every big egg and 15 rubles for every small rarity. A well-known icon painter from Mstyora, O.A Chirikov, filled an order for a series of patterns of "painting of saints for the 12 high holidays" for the decoration of porcelain Easter eggs. The eggs created on the basis of those patterns are considered some of the best among those manufactured at the Imperial Porcelain Factory. They were also the most expensive ones: to paint one such egg a painter spent 40 days, and it cost 75 rubles. The number of those eggs for every Easter holiday for the imperial family was strictly definite: the emperor and the empress each received 40-50 eggs, grand dukes each received three, and grand duchesses each received two. In their painting, among others, participated A A Kaminskiy, a Moscow architect, who in 1890 met a special order to paint the reverses of porcelain eggs with the «painting of saints» Porcelain eggs often were suspended under icon cases by a ribbon, with a bow below and a loop above, passed through a hole in the egg. To attach ribbons and make bows, they used to hire "bow makers" needy widows or daughters of former employees. The rather handsome payment for their work was considered Easter charitable assistance.

While in 1799 the Imperial Porcelain Factory manufactured 254 eggs, in 1802 it produced 960. In the early 1900's the same factory employed approximately 30 persons, including trainees, who were manufacturing 3,308 eggs annually. For the 1914 Easter, it produced 3,991 porcelain eggs, and in 1916, 15,365. Moreover, thousands of Easter eggs in Russia were produced by various small businesses and artisans. Czars themselves sometimes acted as inspectors: thus, Alexander III recommended that eggs be painted not only in colors but also in ornaments, and he liked glass samples of one piece with engraved designs.

Well known are late-19th-century Easter eggs made of papier-mache manufactured at N. Lukutin's factory near Moscow, now famous as Fedoskino Factory of lacquer miniature painting. In addition to religious subject matters, Lukutin's artists often painted Orthodox cathedrals and temples on their Easter eggs. One of the favored motifs of Lukutin's artists was Saint Basil's Cathedral on Red Square. In the late 19th - early 20th century Easter eggs were also painted in Moscow's icon studios created by artists originally from Russia's traditional icon-painting centers: Palekh, Mstyora, and Kholuy. Well known is the egg from A.A. Glazunov's studio depicting a cockerel, which symbolized the sun.

In their letters from Russia in the early 19th century, the Wilmot sisters from Ireland, who were guests of Yekaterina R. Dashkova, famous educator, wrote about Russian Easter. When Saturday church service ended, everyone started giving each other Easter eggs, decorated, carved, painted in different colors. The sisters note that Easter presents are a must, andPrincess Dashkova gave to one of them, as an «egg,» two diamonds. When offering a gift, the Wilmot sisters note, the giver says in Russian, Khristos voskrcsc! (Christ has resurrected.) The recipient answers, Voistinu voskrese. (He has resurrected indeed.)» Saying those words, the sisters continue, even a peasant has the right to kiss the hand of any important person (even the emperor himself), and no one can be refused. From that we see that the role of an «Easter eggs» could be played by other sifts, namely, jewels.

One of the first persons who tried to combine an Easter egg with a jewel was Carl Faberge. His name is most frequently associated precisely with the brilliant art of the decorative Easter eggs. For known reasons the decorative eggs of the Faberge firm have until recently been more widely known outside of Russia. The Faberge studios created 56 Easter eggs for Russian Emperor Alexander III and Emperor Nicholas II. Between 1885 and 1894 Alexander III presented his wife with ten Easter eggs, and Nicholas II, from his father's death in 1894 to 1917, presented the Dowager Czarina, Maria Fedorovna, and his wife with 46 Easter esss.

Twelve Easter eggs were created for V.F. Kelch, owner of several sold mines in Siberia. Some elegant and expensive Easter presents, often containing surprises, were also made for Prince F.F. Yusupov and Duchess Marlboro. Those were Easter eggs with complex winding mechanisms; they were also wonders of jewelry art; the creation of each one of them was very expensive. The samples were kept in special cases or safes and were taken out for display only during Easter. At present we know where only some of the Faberge rarity Easter eggs are found: twelve items are in possession of the Queen of the United Kingdom, eleven are in the Malcolm Forbes Collection, and ten, in the Armory of the Museums of the Kremlin.

The first Faberge Easter egg was made in 1885 by Mikhail Perikhin. In 1886, at the age of 26, this skilled craftsman from the Siberian town of Petrovskiy Zavod became chief foreman of the Faberge firm. Until 1903, when he died, his initials were put on all surprise eggs of the firm made for Emperors Alexander III and Nicholas II. The first egg made by Perikhin consisted of an ivory «shell» with stripes of dark blue enamel; in the «shell» there was a golden-with-enamel hen with ruby eyes. Inside the hen, there was a golden crown inlaid with pearl. And inside the crown there was a golden ring. It was precisely in 1885 that the tradition of giving annually Faberge Easter eggs was born. «Your Majesty will be pleased,» this answer Faberge used to give when asked about the subject matter of a new eggs.

The tradition of making jewelry Easter eggs in Russia was old. For instance, skilled craflsman Nordberg made a silvered surprise egg for Alexander II. But it was the Faberge firm which brought the art of making jewelry Easter eggs to an unsurpassed level of skillfulness, elegance, and creative inventiveness. Faberge never produced exact copies. All Faberge works bear the stamp of a single, inimitable, individual style, which has entered the history of world art forever. The Russian imperial dynasty and its numerous royal and princely relatives in Britain, Denmark, Greece, Bulgaria, Hesse, and Hannover received Faberge eggs as presents from Russia, highly prized those presents, and passed them down to their heirs.

After the First World War, the fall of monarchy in Russia, and the impoverishment of the aristocracy, many Faberge articles were sold or passed to new owners. In the 1920s, to add hard currency to the treasury, the Soviet government sold a number of works of art from
state collections. From the imperial collections, confiscated after 1917, a large portion of apparently "absolutely useless" for Soviet society unique Easter eggs was sold. Even in spite of the belligerent atheism of the post-revolution decades, the tradition of celebrating Easter was passing from generation to generation - it was very deep-rooted in the Orthodox believers throughout Russia.

When the making of present, artistic Easter eggs stopped, people continued celebrating Easter with krashenki (those eggs dyed in one or several colors which practically every Russian knows) and pisanki (painted with ornaments). The tradition of making pisanki was strong in western areas of Ukraine. Their pisanki resemble pre-Christian style of drawing, dating back to the times when the Russians, Ukrainians, and Belorussians were still one people - a source of pan-Slavonic traditions. The ornaments of pisanki can be either geometrical, floral, or zoomorphic. West Ukrainian pisanki bear many symbols, typical of the ancient Slavs in their pagan period. The symbols include triangles, stars, crosses, dots, spirals, rounds, swastikas, stylized parts of and entire plants, cockerels, little horses, etc. Pisanki, as a rule are found in rural areas. Every village has two or three painters. Pisanki are painted for Easter, mainly for children's fun. They are sold mainly in cities. The ornamentation is done as follows: the egg is covered with wax with the help of a narrow little pipe fastened to a stick. The little pipe is used to outline the drawing. When the wax cools, the egg is put in a paint. Thus it is panted entirely with the exception of the drawing's outline, which remains white. Then the portions of the egg which are intended to remain in the original color are covered with wax, and the egg is put in a different paint. And so they proceed several times. After that, they heat the egg and melt the wax - a pisanka (singular of pisanki) is ready. The paints normally used are plant ones. Pisanki have two or more colors. There exists a special ornamentation technique to produce these popular Russian gifts: a design is scratched by a pointed tool. Such eggs are called skrobanki
«In the city of Gorki,» wrote art historian M.A. Ilyin, «at a Sunday bazaar (best of all on Palm Sunday, one week before Easter Sunday) in kolkhoz markets you will find real legions of remarkable examples of popular art. They will be wooden painted eggs, boxes in the shape of mushrooms, children's toys, and much more - all covered by strikingly bright chemically aniline designs. They are paintings from the villages of Maydan and Krutets. They have longspread far beyond the limits of the city. They are a genuine offspring of our people's modern art, live, beautiful, and bright.

Almost all manufacturers of traditional painted wooden art works would make Easter eggs as well. True, for a long time this was disapproved of by the officials. Therefore the living art of the wooden Easter egg found refuge in backcountry villages east of the Volga: Polkhovskiy Maydan and Krutets. The lathe production of painted articles began in the early 1900's. In 1914 - 1916 local handicraftsmen began decorating tararushki (lathe articles: pencil cases, little boxes, and toys), following the example of Sergiyev Posad artisans, with the help of pyrography and subsequent painting. It was only in the 1920s that the Polkhovskiy Maydan painting evolved into an individual style. It is done by individually applied paints: scarlet, yellow, and dark blue. When the paints mix, they result in red and green tones within the boundaries clearly marked in India ink. Plant ornaments are combined with graphic elements: trees, a river, a sun, houses, and birds.

Usually, the samples are the size of a natural chicken egg. Sometimes, as an exception, larger eggs are made. The most frequently represented motifs and subject matters are images of a cockerel or a pullet, a sun, a temple or a church, etc. The egg painters of Krutets even in Soviet times were not afraid to write on their works «XB» (Russian letters standing for Khristos voskrcsc! "Christ Has Resurrected"), paint churches, and indicate otherwise that those were Easter eggs.

Some believe that the Polkhovskiy Maydan and Krutets painting style was brought there in the early 1920s by migrants from Ukraine. The naive peasant painting of these eggs is similar to the painting and ornamentation of Ukrainian pisanki. The same pagan symbols are present on the eggs: the rooster, the hen, and the sun, which is the symbol of revival. The size is close to that of a natural chicken egg; the design principles are the same. Thus, we see that the creations of the new popular-art centers of Polkhovskiy Maydan and Krutets, which appeared in the 20th century, closely combine the Christian and the pagan traditions.

The Dabenskaya Artel (workers' cooperative) in the village of Dabenki, Podolsk district, south of Moscow, used to make polished lathe articles of wood and bone, including eggs. It was from there that both Moscow workshops of the Handicrafts Museum and Sergiyev Posad handicraft artels obtained skilled turners.

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