Wooden sculpture of Russian North
At the same time from the Middle Ages in the north – in Kargopol, Kholmogory, Archangel, the Solovetsky and Anthony-Syisky Monasteries, in bigger villages of the Northern Dvina, the Pinega and the Mezen areas their own workshops existed, where skillful craftsmen worked, carving out of wood statues of saints, remarkable for epic Power and plastic expressiveness. The same masters created carved many-tier iconostases, adorned with ornamental and sculptural decor for many wooden and stone churches in villages, towns and monasteries on the vast territory of the region. Our region was also famous for small-scale works of plastic art. In trade centers, villages and monasteries many craftsmen lived, who executed with great mastery delicate miniature carvings on wooden, stone and bone icons, panagias (images worn round the neck by bishops), diptychs, triptychs and crosses.
With the passage of time the Russian North with its cathedrals, churches, old-believers, small and secluded monasteries, became the holder of extensive collection of wooden sculptures, small-scale works of plastic art, carved Sanctuary doors, iconostases and church utensils. This collection appeared to possess unique examples of high mastery of Central Russia artists and original specimens of wooden sculpture and ornamental carving of the Russian North as well. This art originated in pagan idols and on each stage of its development was strongly influenced by folk art traditions, peasant by nature artistic culture of the large agricultural region.
However, the fate of wooden sculpture and iconostasis carving is dramatic. More than once prohibited by Ortho-dox Church, decrees of patriarchs and Synod in the XVII-XVIIIth centuries wooden sculpture, large carved icons mostly have been preserved not in big monasteries and cathedrals for which they were intended and where being placed at first, but in chapels and churches of remote villages, in attics, cellars and lumber rooms of smaller monasteries. But much more later, in the XX-th century iconostasis carving suffered the greatest losses.
Mass closing of churches and monasteries in 1920-30-e caused their rapid destruction, taking to pieces numerous many tier iconostases, splendidly decorated with delicate gilded carving and Sanctuary doors with gorgeous ornamental and sculptural decor. Decades of selfless work of scientists, researchers, leading restorers of the country were required to reconstruct separated ensemles of church decoration, to gather, take out of remote regions and closed churches, restore and pass to museum’s repository hundreds of wooden sculptures and ornamental objects.
Many works of art are presented for the first time. The introduction and catalogue of published works of art provide information about the workshops and centers of wooden sculpture and carving and review the main trends and periods of development of this art.