Exhibition of Old Russian Painting and Folk Art from the Private Collection of Alexander Gulko

Alexander Gulko was born in the Sheksna settlement of the Vologda region on May 19, 1963. He graduated from Vologda Polytechnic Institute in 1985 as a civil engineer. Alexander Gulko participated in the following exhibitions: “Russia, Rus’, Guard yourself” (Cherepovets, 2003); “The Image of St. Nicholas the Miracle Worker” (Vologda, 2004); “Masterpieces of Old Russian painting” (Moscow, 2009); the action “Night in the Museum” (Vologda, 2009), “Her Majesty the Doll” (Vologda, 2009).

Presented exhibits from the private collection of Alexander Gulko testify that collecting has become his life-work which he does with enthusiasm and very professionally. The most important is that the collector cooperates with restorers. Therefore we can note not only a high level of the oeuvres of the Old Russian painting and folk art, but also their professional restoration. Some of them can be referred to very rare works concerning their painting and preservation. As for the icon “Apostle St. John the Theologian” dating back to the first quarter of the 15th century, it can be placed among the masterpieces of the Old Russian painting.

St. Nicholas the Miracle Worker is one of the most venerated saints in Russia. His image could be seen in every church and every house. Three icons of St. Nicholas were presented at the exhibition.

Besides, it included hand-written and printed books, such as the manuscript of the 17th century “Extract from the books of right faith”, the 19th-century manuscript with miniatures “Apocalypses”. “Anthologion” – is a printed church book which contains services for the feasts of the Lord and the Virgin Mary and services of saints from the Menaion. “Convolute” is a collection of three German printed books of the late 16th – early 17th centuries.

The exhibition also presented articles which were used both in the town and in the village. They demonstrated traditional directions of folk decorative and applied arts which were widespread in the Russian North and occupied a significant place in the collection.

One of the most interesting exhibits was undoubtedly a festive shawl of 1875 which belonged to peasant woman Lukeriya Okrepilova (an inscription on its edge testified it). The pattern was embroidered in gilded silver threads with the use of hammered thin wire. The laid work embroidery technique was applied to make some large elements. For other elements and the inscription, chain-stitch and gimped embroidery were used. A wedding headdress of northern peasant women also attracted visitors’ attention at the display. It was decorated with laid embroidery in silver threads. A thick base made of flax cord was put under the embroidery and the pattern was in relief, as if it were stamped.

Women’s headdresses made by skilled needlewomen of the Kargopol district showed the art of gold-stitch embroidery in the best way. They were wonderfully embroidered in woven gold, pearls and beads.

Towels refer to the ornamented articles. A large woven wedding towel was richly decorated. It was as long as the wall in the house. This towel was given to a fiance at the match-making ceremony. It meant that the girl was betrothed and then the fiance threw it to his relatives. This towel decorated icons during the wedding and was fixed to the shaft-bow of the carriage on the way to the church. Towels adorned wooden houses making them festive and beautiful with their bright patterns. They were used to embellish icons in the Red corner, were put on the windows and mirrors. The bride’s hand-made articles which demonstrated her skillfulness and diligence were displayed in the house before the wedding. One of the festive towels from the collection of Alexander Gulko was exhibited in the museum.

Embroidery in pearls was known in Russia since the 10th century. Pearls were imported from the East and extracted in many Russian, especially northern, rivers and in Lake Ilmen. Their quality was the same, but local pearls were smaller. Headdresses of the 18th-19th centuries were mainly embroidered in pearls. Women wore them till the first quarter of the 20th century. But not every family had such headdresses which were adorned with pearls. They were handed down from mother to daughter. Beads were also used to decorate headdresses. There were usually several rows of threads or nets made of beads or pearls which were sewn to the lower edge of the headdress. For instance, the displayed kokoshnik dating back to the second half of the 19th century was adorned with an upper net made of pearls and four nets of beads.

Visitors could also see pearl earrings coming from the Kargopol district of the Olonets region in the same showcase. River pears, horse-hair and foil were used to make them.

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