Despite being one of the newest museums in Moscow, the Decorative, Applied and Folk Art Museum rightly ranks among Russia’s best museums. It comprises around 200,000 exhibits, including handicrafts, collections of ceramic and porcelain items, toys, interior and household items, and traditional clothes of peoples living in Russia. The biggest collection of ceramic works by the great Russian artist Mikhail Vrubel is kept here. In the museum workshop, visitors can try their hand at creating their own masterpieces.
The museum is located in an old mansion in the Garden RingRussian: Sadovoe koltso or Садовое кольцо, not far from the S. Obraztsov Puppet TheatreRussian: Teatr kukol imeni Obraztsova or Театр кукол имени Образцова. Close by are the A. Mirek Russian Accordion MuseumRussian: Muzei russkoi garmoniki imeni Mireka or Музей русской гармоники им. А. Мирека, the Glinka National Museum Consortium of Musical CultureRussian: Muzey muzykalnoi kultury imeni Glinki or Музей музыкальной культуры им. Глинки, and many houses and estates from old Moscow.
The museum was created using the collections of the Museum of Folk ArtRussian: Muzey narodnogo iskusstva or Музей народного искусства of the early 20th century as a springboard. Prior to being renamed, the museum was simply called “The Handcrafted MuseumRussian: Kustarnyi muzey or Кустарный музей”. As far back as 1885, the merchant and art patron Sergei Morozov opened a museum in Moscow which displayed peasant handicrafts, ranging from hand-crafted embroidery to works created by PalekhRussian: Палех, FedoskinoRussian: Федоскино, and KholmogoryRussian: Холмогоры artisans. Later, during Soviet times, interest in folk handcrafts grew again, and a specialized Scientific Research Institute of Art IndustryRussian: Nauchno-issledovatelskiy institut hudozhestvennoy promyshlennosti or Научно-исследовательский институт художественной промышленности was founded in order to enable their study. In 1981, its collections were transferred to the Ostermans’ estate in DelegatskayaRussian: Делегатская street, where a new public museum was opened. The largest collections of household items, ceramics, fabrics, crockery, and utensils subsequently developed here. The museum has since obtained priceless private collections such as the collection of art metal of G. Kubryakov, the collection of the fabrics of N. Shabelskaya and the collection of china of L. Utesov, M. Mironova, and A. Menaker.
The building itself is over 250 years old. The Boyarsmemberы of the highest rank of the feudal society in Russia Streshnevs were the first owners of the estate. Later, the Streshnevs’ ancestors gave the estate to their distant relative, Count Ivan Osterman. The house was restored and expanded in the 19th century. In the Soviet era, the building was nationalised and employed for public use, in particular, for the government of Soviet Russia. At the beginning of the 1950s, a three-storey annex was added to the house, and the interior of the house have only partially survived. Finally, in 1981, the estate was given to the All-Russian Decorative, Applied and Folk Art MuseumRussian: Vserossiyskiy muzey dekorativno-prikladnogo i narodnogo iskusstva or Всероссийский музей декоративно-прикладного и народного искусства. The estate’s vast territory of 2.0719 ha allows all manner of events to be held here.
In front of its southern facade, there is a cour d’honneur, or grand courtyard, where horse-drawn carriages used to arrive. Two long wings stretch from the main building, forming the historical part of the estate, built during Count I. Osterman’s time. These windows are linked to the house by means of two semi-circular galleries.
One of the central displays is the Russian folk art exhibition located in four halls on the first floor. It contains objects from the 17-20th centuries, skillfully created by Russian artisans. These objects include ceramic pots and jars, wooden skobkarirowboat-shaped vessels for drinking, spoons, spinning wheels, tables, and cupboards.
In the centre of the hall is a collection of womens’ national costumes. Each of these is characteristic of the province from which it comes, and the collection includes both casual and occasion wear. All the items ranging from window surrounds and cottage gables to tea spoons and postavtsy (a kind of small cupboard) are richly decorated with brushwork, embroidery and chiseling. Oriental motifs tinge Russian art; you will see fairy tale unicorns, lions, sirin birdsRussian mythological birds, and other fairy tale characters.
Every element of a costume or architectural detail was intended to be a means of magical defence against evil. Women’s wedding outfits, golden church embroidery, and the lace on display are particularly beautiful. The exhibition is full of revelations; you will find out what a rubelsmoother and sechkachaff are, how many different shapes a Russian kokoshnika kind of head band can have, what various spinning wheels look like, and much more.
The last hall showcases Russian folk toys: the Dymkovo toyRussian: dymkovskaya igrushka or дымковская игрушка, the Abashevo toyRussian: abashevskaya igrushka or абашевская игрушка, the Bogorodskoye toyRussian: bogorodskaya igrushka or богородская игрушка, the Arkhangelsk toyRussian: arkhangelogorodskaya igrushka or архангелогородская игрушка. Each of these toys tells the story of Russian life and culture better than any words ever could. The collection of bone carvings is particularly interesting, as it presents the leading bone carving regions: Kholmogory, ChukotkaRussian: Чукотка, YakutiyaRussian: Якутия, and others.
In the four porcelain halls, the best items produced in the Soviet era are exhibited. Many of these were given to the museum by famous actors, including the legendary singer Leonid Yutyosov and the Mironov-Menakers family of actors, who collected Soviet porcelain propaganda. For instance, there is a huge dish called “1st May CelebrationRussian: Prazdnovanie 1 maya or Празднование 1 мая”, a plate with an inscription saying “He who does not work, shall not eat” with Lenin’s profile on it, and a marvellous panel picture entitled, “Discussing Stalin’s Constitution in a KishlakRussian: Obsuzhdenie stalinskoy konstitutsii v kishlake or Обсуждение сталинской конституции в кишлаке”.
Another four halls on the ground floor are occupied by the permanent exhibition “Russian Lacquer ArtRussian: Laki Rossii or Лаки России”, which opened in 2013. The majority is dedicated to the lacquer works by Fedoskino craftsmen. This exhibition contains works by artisans of the 1920-1980s including Vladimir Krylov, Aristarkh Dadykin, Ivan Bakanov and others. Iconographic traditions in fine art are showcased in such works as: “Izba-chitalnyaRussian: Изба-читальня”, «274 Days on Floating IceRussian: 274 dnya na l'dine or 274 дня на льдине”, “The Salute of the MotherlandRussian: Salyut Rodiny or Салют Родины”, and others. The window cases feature jewellery boxes, snuff boxes, sets of stationery, glasses and all manner of other containers. There are also icons painted by artisans of KholuyRussian: Холуй and MsteraRussian: Мстёра.
The museum houses a vast collection of 18-19th century furniture, art made of glass and bronze, ceramics, and metal. A unique vase produced by Ovchinnikov’s company made in the cloisonné enamel technique, engraved cups from Elizabethan times and as well as the times of Catherine II, items from the “Kabinetsky‘Office’” dish set of the Imperial Porcelain Factory and the Order tea sets of Gardner’s factory, and a series of porcelain sculptures entitled, “The Peoples of RussiaRussian: Narody Rossii or Народы России” are amongst just some of the masterpieces displayed here. Most peoples’ eyes are drawn to the collection of ceramic works by Mikhail Vrubel. These were made in the workshops of the Abramtsevo estateRussian: usadba Abramtsevo or усадьба Абрамцево. Even the Tretyakov GalleryRussian: Tretyakovskaya galereya or Третьяковская галерея‘s collection of his works is not as extensive as this one. You can see his famous sculptures which illustrate Russian fairy tales and a fabulous fireplace made of glazed tiles.
In the museum, you will also see a collection of 20th century furniture made to the design of Sergei Malyutin, Viktor Vasnetsov, Alexander Golovin, Sergei Konenkov and other artists who worked in the Art Nouveau style. Also on display is the famous arm chair by V.P. Shutov called “Arch, Axe, and GlovesRussian: Duga, topor i rukavitsy or Дуга, топор и рукавицы”, with its chiselled inscription on the back saying: “Fair and softly goes far”. There are also items of furniture built in the national style dating back to the late 19th century in Mamontov’s Abramtsevo workshops.
MUSEUM’S EDUCATIONAL ACTIVITY
For over 10 years, the museum has run an awareness campaign through its educational centre. The range of its activities is not limited to various guided tours, as the emphasis is placed on developing visitors’ ability to think creatively. You can try your hand at creating a masterpiece of your own in the workshop. There is a “Musical ParlourRussian: Muzykalnaya gostinaya or Музыкальная гостиная” in the museum, too; you can take part in a folklore performance, listen to a balalaikaa Russian stringed musical instrument, and enjoy both classical and modern music pieces. For school students, the museum offers various interactive programmes as well as experimental creative studios aiming to familiarize children with the techniques and materials traditional in Russian artwork.
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