RESERVE OF PROVINCIAL ART NOUVEAU

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Опубликовано в библиотеке: 2021-10-18
Источник: Science in Russia, №6, 2012, C.94-102

by Olga BAZANOVA, journalist

 

The first written reference to the settlement located on the bank of the Volga at the confluence of a small river Kimrka was made in the deed of tsar Ivan IV of 1546. According to this document, it was a popular market place where merchants from Pereyaslavl, Tver and even Smolensk used to come to. They sold and bought salt, fish, bread, cattle and poultry. Hence, the place occupied by the present-day Kimry (district center of the Tver Region) was an important traffic center and a cross-road of goods getting to ancient Rus primarily by water routes, in the given region by Volga, Dubna, Sestra and Yakhroma rivers.

 

During archeological excavations in Kimry carried out in the 1930s, employees of Tver State University and the Institute of Archeology, found fragments of settlements of the Stone Age (10-3 thous. years B.C.), Iron Age (1 thous. years B.C.), ancient Russian mounds and sites of ancient settlements (10th-11th cent.). Results of these excavation works are exhibited at the municipal museum of local lore (branch of the Tver State Unified Museum of History, Architecture and Literature). There you can see full-size layouts of excavations with original artifacts (camp of an ancient man, burial sites of the first half of the 2nd millennium B.C., Slavonic burials), and showcases representing numerous articles made of stone, mammoth tusk and iron by our predecessors.

 

In the 1st millennium B.C. the present-day Kimry district was settled by representatives of the Finno-Ugric tribe called Merya. Then, in the mid-1st millennium, it was colonized by Slavs--Krivichi and Slovene tribes that had more developed husbandry and tools. By the 11-12th centuries, a settlement of craftsmen--weavers, smiths, potters, etc.--formed there. As early as in the 16th cen-

 
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tury, it turned into a large trade center, which is proved by the deed of tsar Ivan IV of 1546 to the Kirill Belozersky Monastery* (to buy and sell salt without state duties), the first written document mentioning Kimry, kept at the museum of local lore.

 

At that time, this settlement (it became a town only in 1917 by the Decree of the Provisional Government) belonged to the Tsar's Court and supplied fish to the tsar--this was basic trade for local residents. In 1552, this district was presented to Prince Vladimir Andreevich Staritsky, Ivan IV's cousin, for his military successes: he led Russian troops during an assault of Kazan** and was among the first who entered the city; in 1591 the district was transferred to the prince Fyodor Ivanovich Mstislavsky, who held the highest position in the Boyar Duma for 36 years and outlived seven tsars. In 1598, 1606 and 1611, he was among candidates to the then vacant throne of Moscow, but he, as an experienced courtier, preferred to "make tsars" maneuvering in between different political forces and preserving his status of a major landowner of those times.

 

In 1635, Kimry was granted (in reward for an "eternal piece" agreement with Poland beneficial for Russia) to a powerful courtier, diplomat prince Alexei Mikhailovich Lvov, one of the closest associates of the Russian national hero Dmitry Mikhailovich Pozharsky*--chief of the Volunteers' Army that in 1612 liberated Moscow from Polish and Lithuanian invaders. In 1688 the settlement was given to a boyar Fyodor Petrovich Saltykov who became Ivan V's father-in-law. The tsar had a poor health and could not actively engage in state affairs, but in the period from 1682 to 1696 officially shared the throne with his consanguineous brother, future emperor Peter I. In the beginning of their reign, German crafts-

 

See: O. Viktorova, "Old Russian Holies", Science in Russia, No. 2, 2009.--Ed.

 

** Assault and seizure of Kazan by the Russian army were a logical conclusion of the third Kazan military campaign (June-October 1552) organized by Ivan IV that put an end to the Kazan Khanate as a sovereign state.--Ed.

 

See: A. Bogdanov. "All of Us Should Be in Chime and Union...", Science in Russia, No. 6, 2007; L. Lyashenko, "For the Sake of Peace and Accord", Science in Russia, No. 2, 2010.--Ed.

 
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men made a unique two-seat silver throne, today kept in the Armory*.

 

In 1762, the Empress Elizaveta Petrovna granted the district to her cousin Anna Karlovna Skavronskaya. Her husband chancellor Mikhail Vorontsov decided to develop the estate: he fenced it, constructed a spacious guest house, laid roads and made credits available to local residents. The museum of local lore keeps original items of the 17th-18th centuries: a goldwork icon, silver coins, weapons, peasant utensils, and an engraving "The Settlement of Kimry from the Meadow Side of the Volga" (1772)--the first picture of the settlement.

 

In late 18th-early 19th centuries, an Italian in the Russian service count Giulio Renato de Litta, husband of the next owner of the district from the Skavronsky family

 

* The Armory--a Moscow treasury museum, part of the Grand Kremlin Palace complex. The collection of the museum includes valuables made by Russian craftsmen and donated by foreign countries and kept for centuries in the tsar's treasury and patriarch sacrarium.--Ed.

 
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Yekaterina Vasilyevna, niece of the Empress Catherine II's favorite Grigory Potyomkin, expanded plans of local development proposed by Vorontsov. The actions taken gave the expected results--the income of settlement owners and local peasants increased significantly. Suffice it to say that in the early 19th century it was Kimry merchants who brought most of bread to St. Petersburg. Boot trade known here from the 13th century became also animated.

 

As one of the most ancient trades in the world, leather processing and making different items from it were very popular in Russia owing to the abundance of raw materials, and the 13th century became a time of its heyday. Since this work was rather water-consuming, shops were usually constructed near rivers; so, in the 14th-15th centuries entire riverside streets and districts were occupied by leather-dressers. At that time they made simple boots (made of one piece of leather fastened with small straps), soft shoes, bottines and high boots. This trade was also actively developed in the Volga settlement of Kimry and in the neighboring villages, especially as this region was located on the cattle-driving route from Eastern regions of Russia to Moscow.

 

Over the years, by the 17th century small shops turned into large tanning yards and tanneries, characterized by a complex technological cycle of leather dressing to produce a high quality material for boots that hardly changed till the end of the 19th century. Skins of horses and horned stock were first steeped, then brushed, softened with sour bread extracts, tanned with oak, alder and osier bark and, finally, stretched and colored. In the 18th century Kimry craftsmen made a lot of articles from local leather, starting from heavy boots for soldiers and finishing with ladies' ball-shoes. They also used to make waterproof high boots: exterior and inner layers of leather were interlaid with a bull bladder (a pellicle from the peritoneal cavity of the animal).

 

During the Patriotic War of 1812, Count Litta, already known to the readers, placed a high profit order to a local manufacturer Andrei Stolyarov to make boots for Russian army. This order enabled the manufacturer to enlarge his production facilities and establish a network of stores, including stores in St. Petersburg, Rostovon-Don and Moscow. In 1898, descendants of the lucky manufacturer set up a Partnership of N. Stolyarov and Sons in Kimry, which by that time earned the fame of the "capital of shoe kingdom", and nine years later they constructed the first mechanical plant in the district called "Yakor". One of the first regional ethnographers Alexei Stolyarov who wrote a number of books on this territory (published in 1899-1908) also belongs to this family.

 

Shoe trade was actively supported by the government and investments quickly earned profit. In 1847, local

 
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peasants, who earned a lot too, redeemed themselves from bondage, having paid a lot of money to their owner (that time it was Countess Yulia Samoilova, daughter of Litta's stepdaughter, muse of the great Russian artist Karl Bryullov (1799-1852) over and over again represented on his canvases). In late 19th-early 20th centuries about 16,000 shoemakers lived in the settlement of Kimry; as for its economic significance and population, Kimry surpassed the neighboring towns of Kashin and Kalyazin. There were three tanning yards, tens of shops, a pharmacy, a bank, a free library, a college, a hospital, a photo studio, a barber's shop, the Central Troitskaya Square was paved with stones, at night streets were lighted with street lamps, etc. It is not by chance that there is a shoe on the coat of arms of Kimry--it made the town rich and prosperous.

 

The museum of local lore has one of the biggest collections of shoes in the world, it counts over 1,500 items--all of them are unique pieces of local craftsmen of the 18th-20th centuries. Visitors can see high boots of different purpose and fashion--"accordion like", fishermen's boots (made of coarse, uncolored leather), boots for soldiers and officers, children's boots made for one foot; gaiters, leggings, boots for workers, canvas slippers and elegant shoes--ladies' boots on lacing, coquettish "wineglass"-heeled shoes and many other models.

 

Old furniture, dishware, clothes, photos of the early 20th century also depict the lifestyle of tanners and shoemakers; a separate section of the exposition is dedicated to the creative life of a woodcarver Ivan Abalyaev, whose name was entered into the Global Encyclopedia of Naive Art published in Yugoslavia in

 
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1984 in a number of languages. The gifted self-educated sculptor was born in 1901 in the settlement of Nutroma (Kimry District) to a large family of a boot-and shoemaker operative. As a small child, he already knew how to make boot-trees (mainly from a lime tree); he made his first sculpture--a cat--when he was 15. Time passed, and the master approached the main topic of his creative life--everyday life of people in a small-size sculpture. And today we can admire very realistic and convincing multifigure compositions "The Cobbler at Work", "Dinner in the Handicraftsman's Family", "Kimry Shoe Market", and many others.

 

From 1936, the works of Abalyaev were regularly exhibited as a part of special arts and crafts exhibitions arranged by the local museum; in 1938 and 1939 his personal exhibitions were also held there. During the first half of 1941, the carver worked on a sculptural group "Meeting to Organize a Collective Farm in 1930", which became his last work: when the Great Patriotic War broke out, he was called to defend his Motherland and in winter 1941/1942 was reported missing. In addition to the museum of local lore, the creative heritage of this original sculptor who died young is also exhibited at the Tver State Unified Museum of History, Architecture and Literature and Art Gallery of the Tver Region.

 

The preserved fragments of spacious guest houses--an "old" guest house built in the late 18th century by chancellor Mikhail Vorontsov, the then owner of the district, and a "new" guest house built in 1914 in the neo-Russian style--are witnesses of a busy life in that prosperous settlement. Probably the Moscow Upper Shopping Center (present-day GUM--Main Department Store, 1890-1893, architect Alexander Pomerantsev), one of the biggest trade centers of Europe of that period, was taken as a prototype. For example, a three-storeyed central section of the Kimry "Temple of Mercury" was crowned with a pyramidal roof and two hipped towers (not preserved) on each side of the central roof.

 

In 1911, an ornate Cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Savior was constructed in the same style; today it is one of the most beautiful local monuments of architecture. It was founded above a healing spring that, according to churchgoers, can cure people. The solid cube of the main part of the building is crowned with five cupolas in the form of hips surrounded by keel-like arches. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the main Kimry cathedral, its façade was decorated with icons in the style of Byzantine mosaic made of ornamental and semi-precious stones: quarzite, lazurite, labradorite, etc. (the icons are made by an Israeli artist Dmitry Khrushch).

 

The unusual destiny of this district settlement, more like a town and in the 19th century the center of a big tanning and shoe district, famous throughout Russia, predetermined its architectural image. Many industrial and commercial buildings were constructed, especially at the end of the century; rich Kimry residents built spacious many-room mansions in line with the metropolitan fashion both inside and outside. That is why local developers used to take as samples houses constructed by famous architects representing Russian and Classical eclecticism* or sometimes even erected buildings comprising several styles. Such is a house owned by the shoe buyer-up Gurdzhiev: décor of the first floor resembles West-European palaces of the 17th century, while the second floor is closer to Byzantine churches.

 

See: T. Geidor, "Diversity of Styles in Russian Architecture". Science in Russia, No. 5, 2009--Ed.

 
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In the early 20th century, a dominant trend in the architecture of Kimry became Art Nouveau*: it seems that no other Russian region can boast of so many different fancy elegant houses made of wood and brick, with high roofs, towers, balconies, doorsteps, and quaint windows of a strange form. The main peculiarity of these small two-or three-storeyed buildings constructed in the Silver Age style by local peasants, merchants and shoe buyer-ups is a combination of pleasant and useful characteristics, when utilitarian, practical served as a decoration at the same time.

 

Thus, a workshop or a shop was usually located on the ground floor frequently decorated with big round windows (called "Venetian" in Kimry and "roses" in the Orthodox architecture); the first floor was occupied by living rooms. Local residents preferred to use rectangular brick-size facing tiles called "kabanchik" to decorate stone buildings from outside, which is another peculiarity characterizing pragmatism of local residents. These tiles were easy to transport, were temperature - and precipitation-resistant, could be easily used with other construction materials, and besides, looked rather elegant: glazed covering with a lot of small cracks intensifies the play of light and shade, preserving its bright color for decades. The tiles decorate, for example, façades of the merchants' club, mansions of the Tikhomirovs and Sere-pyevs.

 

Another architectural curiosity of Kimry is a brick house owned by the Luzhin family--it is a vivid example of a creative style typical of the prominent national architect Fyodor Shekhtel (1859-1926), forefather of a bright, well-decorated and emotional "new style" known as the Moscow Art Nouveau. The ornamented pediment (end of the side wall) with an elevated hemispheric central part and two "wings" on each side; a very expressive huge balcony, overhanging the street, with fine forged

 

See: T. Geidor, "Russian Architecture of the Silver Age", Science in Russia, No. 6, 2009.--Ed.

 
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rails; a moulded six-pointed star over a garret window--a symbol of the pagan god Perun, a charm against lightning. It is worth saying that such symbols--pinnacles (decorative towers) embodying a flash of hope, creens (semi-abstract lilies) representing the idea of prosperity, etc.--were very popular among Kimry architects.

 

Near the stone house of the Luzhin family, there is a wooden house owned by representatives of this very family. The incredibly elegant, with a two-storeyed wooden tower, big round windows, the porch with thin finely-moulded columns, the house is decorated with an intricate carving resembling graphic vignettes typical of the Silver Age artists. Another charming "small palace" (as local residents used to call it) was built by rich peasants of the Rybkin family. It is famous for its big sophisticated elements of the external décor: the front façade of the ground floor is decorated with a "rose" window; other windows of the first floor and the attic are narrow, of a horseshoe form, with intricate casings; the house is crowned with a high hipped roof. There is a picturesque garden house decorated with an elegant carving linked to the main house.

 

This town is a real open air museum--it is full of unique houses distinct from each other. They combine traditions of wooden architecture and bright imagination, rich décor, asymmetrical compositions, free lines of carving, forming the specific "Kimry Art Nouveau" dominating in the architectural image of the district center even today. Some of these mansions were constructed in Kimry in the 1920s, though actually from 1915 they were no longer built anywhere in the country. The reason is unknown: perhaps, it was a leisurely and steady character of local residents, or their weakness for the "new style", but anyway, thanks to their efforts this town is a unique architectural reserve of the Silver Age, the only one in Central Russia.


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© Olga BAZANOVA () Источник: Science in Russia, №6, 2012, C.94-102

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