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House Wood Carving
November 13, 2009 15:34

Wooden houses of Old Russia were not considered full-fledged, if not decorated with wood carving. Building of wooden houses was supplemented with indispensable decoration of window and door cases, window shutters, eaves, and other parts of the house. A wooden house, a Russian izba (log hut) always embodied the idea of the family and kin, and protected man from evil powers, at the same time connecting one to the environment. House wood carving is sometimes called “ship carving”, which is based on a notion that carved decorations of houses were extended “to land” from wooden ships designs.

The preserved monuments of Russian wooden architecture provide evidence of high building craftsmanship, artistic skills and subtle taste of folk artisans. Masterpieces of old Russian architecture win admiration with simplicity and nobility of shapes, original solving of building challenges, and richness of interior trim.

The art of openwork woodcarving as a type of artistic processing of wood found extensive use in housing décor especially from the mid 19th century. During that time a wooden house (be it a round-log or a square-log construction) was decorated with an abundant pediment and platbands. The range of ornamental themes of openwork carving was broad – from simple geometrical shapes to images of people and animals. The geometrical and floral ornaments were not only decorative elements, but also served as talisman protecting the house and family from evil spirits.

Wood is a soft and pliable material with beautiful texture. Masters of woodcarving make an extensive use of these qualities of the material. In woodworking they can not only cut ornaments on the surface, but also process the wood from the inside. The technique of backspot facing allows cutting complicated elements, such as leafs and twigs, and make them as subtle and gracious, as the natural ones. It is practically impossible to do that with any other material. Especially beautiful are houses decorated with traditional relied carving against the golden brown background of wood colouring. Mordant and polishing add luster to it.

When selecting species of wood for making carved windowcases and platbands, window shutters and other decorations, it is essential to consider the texture of wood - the tracery that wood fibers make up. Birch, aspen and linden are not so textural, but the drawback can be compensated with the help of special chemicals and elaborate polishing that make the tracery brighter. The most vivid colours are peculiar to alder-tree (reddish-yellow colour), oak and ash-tree (fulvous and brownish), pear and apple-trees (pinkish- fulvous), larch (reddish-brown), and cedar (pinkish-ochre).

By the preserved monuments of wooden architecture one can judge about the art of old Russian joiners and carpenters, whose mastery is rooted in culture of ancient Slavs, the fact finding reflection in methods of carving and patterns of the most archaic ornaments. Archeological finds unearthed in Novgorod date back to the early 11th century and prove that relief carving was used in ancient Russian architecture. Among these finds there are several architectural details decorated with carving, in particular, a house column embellished with carving in the form of intertwined branches.

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Wooden houses of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries recalling of towers from Russian fairy-tales, have been preserved in Yaroslavl, Vologda, Kostroma, Ryazan Regions. Their unusual lightness and grace is added to by openwork decorations that frame the window cases, roof, porch, and gates. Every province used to have its own masters and traditions of artistic design of the house, so the house wood carving has its own distinctive peculiarities in every region of the country. Hence are the names – Yaroslavl ornament, Vologda carving technique, Kostroma pattern. In Northern regions of Russia houses were decorated with sawn or plated carvings, whereas sculptural and dumb carvings were rarer.

One of the most early examples of carved décor of house of softwood with the influence of classicism are some parts of the decoration of the Sheremetevs’ Palace (1769-1775) in Kuskovo Estate, built by their serf architect A.F. Mironov. Though the building material is saw timber, the palace is constructed following typical shapes of stone building of its epoch, with columns and frontons. Tympanums of the latter are decorated with relief wooden carving depicting flower garlands and military armature. Carved décor makes up beautiful symmetrical compositions harmoniously fitted into triangle and circular framings of the frontons.

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Look also: Ornamentation of Wood Carved House


Tags: Russian Wood Carving Old Russian House Russian Wooden Architecture   

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