Jewelry art in Ukraine 16th – 20th centuries

Jewelry art in Ukraine 16th – 20th centuries

Collection of articles by the goldsmiths of Ukraine presents the development of jewelry in the 16th – early 20th centuries. These objects can tell about ancient artists who often remain unknown. Every work reflects the era and style, its decoration retain a deep symbolism. Certain items associated with some important historical persons or events. For centuries these items belonged to a number of distinguished collectors, now in the museum they witness the history.

Secular jewelry makes a little part of the collection. Most of them were made by jewelers as ceremonial objects, often commissioned by the Orthodox church, also by wealthy parishioners, that is sometimes commemorated with an inscription.

Since the 16th century the jewelry, retaining some local traditions, developed mostly under the important influence of the artistic tendencies from the West.

In the 16th – first half of 17th century Lviv was the main centre for the jewelry production. The city emerged at the crossroads of trade routes between East and West in the time of the Rus. The first document recorded a goldsmith there in 1384. In the late 16th century there were 30 goldsmiths, together with foundry men and painters they had a joint guild. In 1600 the magistrate of Lviv adopted the charter of a goldsmith guild. To prevent fraud statute obliged jewelers to put on their gold and silver products a personal or familial hallmark (hmerka). Silver standard could not be lower than eleven. In 1678 appeared the city stamp of Lviv depicting a standing lion on the field.

In Lviv, among Armenian, Jewish, Polish and Ukrainian goldsmiths worked the masters of the Hungarian, German, French and Swedish origins. But the statute allowed the guild to accept only the catholic artists, so the most Armenian, Jewish and Ukrainian jewelers had to work out of the city workshop as “patchers”, who might do and sell some silver or gold product only after having paid some money contribution to the guild. By the first half of 17th century Lviv workshop counted 80 persons.

Lviv goldsmiths were famous for the production of insignia such as mace, ceremonial items, vessels, domestic items such as candlesticks, cups, dishes, plates, spoons, and decorations.

There, Eastern motifs were combined with Western elements. The goldsmiths decorated often weapons and horse bridle with precious and semiprecious stones (turquoise and often almandine) from the Middle East.
Military events in 1648-1654 led to decline of the jewelry art in Lviv. Inspite of all the city remained  a significant jewelry center  the time of the Polish Kingdom and later in the Austrian Empire, and  its works were renown in Europe.

During the second half of the 17th century the appearance of jewelry workshops in Chernihiv, Kozelets, Nizhyn, Novgorod-Siversky, Starodub, Romny, Hlukhiv, Baturyn, Ostrog, Kremenets, Kremenchuk and other towns, that responded to a growing demand for luxury items .

Then Kyiv resumed being the main cultural centre in Ukraine. The goldsmith guild was firstly mentioned there in 1503, later there was no record about it until 1794 - probably long time the goldsmiths worked in the icon-painters guild. The Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra had its own workshops but the most important commissions were made by the monastery to the jewelers who worked in Kyiv-Podil. It is difficult to identify early Kyivan masters who rarely inscribed their works during the 16th-17th centuries. The eighteenth-nineteenth-centuries items bear the maker's initials ( in Cyrillic or Latin), the city stamp with the inscription "KIOV", the finesse  (often "12" as the number of precious portion in total 24 parts of the alloy). Since 1780s the goldsmithry of Kyiv used the new stamp depicting Archangel Michael with a sword and a shield. In the early 20th century appeared the city hallmark with the inscription "Kiev."

There are known more than 200 names of Kyivan goldsmiths - everyone with his technical and artistic preferences. In their work the jewelers used traditional techniques such as casting, hammering, stamping, repoussé, chasing, embossing, engraving, gilding, enamel, niello, filigree.

The 17th century saw the urban development, reconstruction of the ancient churches and creation of the new ones, so the Orthodox Church demanded more precious items for its sumptuous decoration. The Kyiv churches were decorated thanks to the local silversmiths Iowan Ravych, Jeremiah Biletsky, Iowan Atanazevych, Matthew Narunovych, Theodore Levitsky who made various liturgical objects: decorations on icons, altar crosses, chalices, tabernacles, mitres, panagias, pendant crosses. Many religious books already printed had to be decorated with solver-gilt covers, often encrusted with semiprecious and precious stones, colored enamels. In the first half of the 17th century the book of Gospel had metallic decorations on the stub and the fasteners, and its covers were dressed in velvet that was also decorated with metal appliqué. Both sides had a central application and four corners.  In the center of the front cover was traditionally put the arch-shaped application with image of the Crucifixion flanked with one or two couples of Christian saints. And around it, on the four corners are depicted four evangelists, usually with their symbols, winged man, lion, ox, and eagle. Often the surface between the main applications is decorated with less rosettes of precious metal inlaid by stones or colored glass.

By the late 17th – early 18th century, the decoration usually followed the Baroque imagery, then Ukrainian jewelry flourished with embossed ornaments of acanthus leaves, flowers and fruits. On the display there the magnificent examples of this style by the leading Baroque goldsmith of Kyiv: I. Ravych, I. Biletsky, M. Narunovych, V. Moschenko, M. Lazarevych.
Some religious objects reflect the influence of architectural forms of that time: like a two- or three-storied belltower were made in the first half of the 18th century the silver tabernacles by Kyiv goldsmiths I. Ravych, S. Taranovsky, F. Levitsky.

Jewelery works were often richly set with pearls as well as the most precious stones, such as ruby, emerald, sapphire and diamond. Especially were luxuriously decorated mitres and panagias.

Many items were decorated with enamel medallions, that the goldsmith bought or ordered to the enamel-maker, according to the production with the required form and depicted plot.

During the late 17th - the mid 19th century the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra was the main centre for the enamel production. Its palette is dominated the colors of cherry, pink, lilac-pink, warm yellow and blue. Some examples are notable thanks to a dark-brown enamel coat of background. Very rare names of enamellers are known as the artist usually left his signature on the back side of a painted piece.

Many religious items are inscriptions commemorating their commissioners who represent the Cossack top commanders, whose status increased especially after the anti-Polish uprising of 1648-1654. The Zaporozhian Cossacks were the main support to the orthodoxy in Ukraine.

Many funds were given in favor of the Orthodox Church by the Hetman Ivan Mazepa. The Hetman supported rehabilitation and construction of more than 20 churches, he offered many valuable ceremonial objects. To name the cultural accomplishment, in architecture, literature, and also goldsmithery, achieved for twenty years of his reign, there is used a term of "Mazepa Baroque".

From the numerous gifts by the Hetman Mazepa, there is the sumptuous silver-gilt decoration for the Dihtiarivka Lady icon, for which was built, also at the Hetman’s expense, a stone temple of Pokrova, Intercession of the Theotokos. In the bottom of the icon decoration was embossed with exuberant acanthus leaves around Ivan Mazepa’s coat of arms. The hetman’s emblem is not well seen now, evidently it was hidden due to a procedure of anathema organized by the Muscovite tsar in 1708, while the icon disappeared later, in the early Soviet period, and the church of Pokrova, empty, has been standing in a dilapidated condition.

In 1760th years appeared the Rococo style. Free composition, asymmetry, curved lines, curl and shell patterns were apprehended for their metalwork by K.Chizhevsky., I. Atanazevych, J. Velichkovsky, D. Lubech and other Kyivan goldsmiths. Although the most provincial masters did prefer baroque motifs.
In the late 18th the Europeans turned again to the classical style, but that fascination did not influence much the Ukrainian artists. Nevertheless, in Kyiv, such goldsmiths as F. Korobka, I. Yaroslavsky, I. Vynnykovsky, G. Protsenko created some neoclassical examples shining by polished silver surfaces with clear-embossed garlands on them.

In the second half of 19th century appeared the workshops with technical equipment for mass production. 1851, in Berdychiv, Izrael Zahoder opened the factory, which production came in demand even abroad.
In 1878, Joseph Marshak opened his workshop in Kyiv-Podil. Soon it moved in the new respectable centre of city, in Khreschatyk Street, where it grew into a big Jewelry factory. Marshak’s works were highly acclaimed at the international exhibitions in St. Petersburg, Antwerp, Liege, Paris. A wide range of exquisite gold adornaments and many interesting silver table wares, candlesticks, goblets, cups, etc. had been made in the factory until 1918.

In 1913, Kyiv had 38 jewelry shops and stores and most of them were located near Khreschatyk.
The following revolutionary changes adversely affected the jewelry art. Since 1930s until 1970s all Soviet enterprises of "Jewellirprom”  mostly worked for series production of low-cost Jewelry, decorated with guilding, enamel, niello, artificial crystals, gemstones, glass and synthetic materials, to satisfy modest ordinary citizens.

In the last quarter of 20th there were created interesting examples of Jewelry art and some of them are in the museum’s collection "Contemporary Jewellers of Ukraine".

Professional and amateur artists worked then on more creative manner in the Art Fund of Ukraine. Creative independence and search for new sources of inspiration, technical improvement, new artistic vision are proper to that heritage well represented by the artists from Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv, Kyiv, Odessa, Simferopol, Zaporizhia. Often deprived of precious metal the jewellers had to experiment with alloys (cupper-nickel, nickel-silver), titanium, and use unconventional materials to decorate their items.

In 1985 appeared the Kyiv creative team where the leading jewellers of Ukraine worked up new compositional, technical, and design solutions. Many works, often with poetical titles like "The False Color" and "The Tenderness" (by V. Khomenko), "The Cherry Chrysanthemum" (by V. Druzenko), evoke plants or animals - the nature is always the main source of inspiration to the artists.

Since the 1970's the Jewelers of Ukraine are known abroad thanks to their participation in international exhibitions. Well renown were in Jablonec (in Czechoslovakia) the leading Ukrainian artists V. Druzenko (Kyiv), E. Zhdanov, Y. Fedorov, O. Mihalyants, O. Pysmenny, T. Pysmenna (Simferopol). In 1990, the best works by contemporary artists of Ukraine from the museum collection were on display in Esztergom (Hungary).
The Museum of Historical Treasures of Ukraine organized temporary personal exhibitions to present the art by contemporary goldsmiths.

Ukraine became the land where lived large Armenian diaspora. The Crimea and the cities of Lviv and Kamianets-Podilsky were their main cultural zones. Working outside of their historic homeland, the Armenian artists offered the development of jewelry art of their living country. Wonderful filigree works are nice examples of their artistic performance.

The ancient Taurica peninsula is the land of a very special Crimean-Tatar culture that had absorbed the influences of numerous people who lived in that melting-pot in the south of Ukraine. The 20th century was very tremendous for the Crimean-Tatar people, who firstly saw an emergence of new cultural leaders, then their purge... in May 1944, in one night they all were exiled from the Crimea; their cultural witnesses also disappeared under the following Soviet rulers. Thanks to efforts by the museums of the peninsula, rare examples of intricate works by Crimean goldsmiths survived. These unique objects 

The museum has on display of gorgeous decorations from the festive Crimean-Tatar dress that survived and serves nowadays as one of cultural highlights from the 18th – 19th-centuries.

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