Showcase 11. Niello and carving in the second half of the 17th century

Showcase 11 demonstrates precious articles decorated with carvings, as well as silver nielloed utensils. In 1662, Greek goldsmiths Konstantin Manuylov and Philip Pavlov came to Moscow from Constantinople; that occasion had an influence upon the development of the technique of niello in Russia. Through their jewellery workshop, many artists have acquired mastery of niello ornamentation. Among various vessels of Russian tableware, one can find an outstanding utensil of an unusual form called stavets—a small cylindrical bowl with a lid. It is considered to be used for serving fluid diet, i.e. soup, compote. This vessel was widely used in monasteries. At tsar’s court it was mainly made of gold and was used for desserts. Stavets was a personal utensil, which was affirmed by an inscription engraved on it. The nielloed stavets of Peter the Great bears such an inscription and a delicate foliate ornamentation too. The surface of the silver beaker made in the late 17th century is covered with delicate nielloed background and long lustrous damascened undulating plants with magnificent leaves and flowers. In contrast with the ornamentation of the previous centuries, as Russian foliate design began losing its stylized character and became more natural and detailed. The ornament on the sides of the beaker presents birds sitting on branches; dynamic figures of animals represent the Baroque style. A silver plate on display represents the late 17th-century style. The beauty of this artwork is based on the contrast of the silver-gilt surface with the velvety smoothness of niello work. Floral motifs including stylized pomegranate seeds adorn the plate—this type of decoration appeared in Russian works in the second half of the 17th century, influenced by Eastern design. A thin gold inlay is applied to the bottom of the plate, bearing a laurel wreath roundel with a coat of arms. In comparison with Western Europe, coat of arms appeared in Russia relatively late. In 1673 Austrian Emperor Leopold I designed a special form of coat of arms for Russian families. The emblem on this plate says that it belonged to boyar Bogdan Matveevich Khitrovo.

Drinking bowl (stavets) Lidded stavets (drinking bowl) Beaker (stakan)Beaker (stakan) Plate (tarel') Loving-cup (bratina)