BOLSHEVIKS- Members of a political party which formed a branch of the Russian Social Democrats. This group believed in using revolutionary actions to convert to complete socialization and gained power during the Russian Revolution in an attempt to set up a workers' state.
CHASING- In this process the item to be worked is backed with soft pitch (that will give somewhat, yet will provide a degree of support) and a design is then molded upon its surface by the blows of various hammers and punches. The result is a raised decoration upon the surface of the item. For an example of chasing, see the Presentation Icon with Saint Andrew icon.
EMBROIDERY- a method of decorating a cloth background by stitching thread onto it or affixing small metal beads to it. Oftentimes silver or gold thread was used in the creation of higher quality embroidered pieces. Other materials commonly employed are silk, linen, velvet, wool, pearls, and other precious stones. For an example of embroidery, see the Madonna and Child liturgical cloth, in the Hulmer Collection.
ENAMELING- A process of melting colored glass onto a metal object, forming pictures or designs. The of the enamel is changed by varying the amounts of various metal oxides that impart color to the glass. One popular style of enameling is cloisonne enamel. In cloisonne enameling the area to be enameled is divided up into many small "windows." Each window can receive a different color of enamel and thus a multi-colored enamel picture can be created. For an example of cloisonne enamel, see the Presentation Icon with Saint Babylas icon.
ENGRAVING- The application of decoration by chiseling out the intended design, figures, or words directly from the metal's surface. Greater precision and detail is achieved in engraving than in chasing, but the resulting decoration is recessed into the metal unlike the decoration on chased objects. For an example of engraving, see the Presentation Icon with Saint Babylas or the Presentation Icon withSaint Andrew.
FILIGREE- A design of metal wire and beads usually applied to the surface of a silver or gold object. Oftentimes the wire used is twisted, notched, curled, or plaited to make the overall design more interesting, intricate and thus more beautiful as well. The wire and beads are attached to the article by soldering with a flux which ensures that the metal flows smoothly at the solder joints. For an example of filigree, see the traveling icon.
GILDING- The plating of a metal base with gold. Gilding can be achieved in four different ways. In the first, which is called water gilding, gold leaf is applied to the object's surface and is secured in place with a mordant (adhesive). The second process, friction gilding, is achieved by polishing the metal's surface with the ashes of a rag that has been impregnated with a gold-chloride solution. The gold in the rag ashes comes out of solution when the ashes are rubbed on the metal and thus plates the metal. The third gilding technique and the one that is almost universal today is known as electroplating. In this process gold is deposited upon the item by running a carefully controlled electrical current through a solution of gold salts in which the object to be plated has been immersed. The final gilding method and by far the one that yields the best results is fire gilding. In fire gilding an amalgam of mercury and gold is evenly applied to the object's surface. The object is then heated until all the mercury has boiled off, leaving a thick and even layer of gold behind. Although this method is far superior to any of the others it is not used much anymore because of the extreme toxicity of mercury vapors. The Icons in the Hulmer collection that are gilded were most likely done so either by electroplating or fire gilding. When an item is referred to as being "silver gilt" it means that the icon is solid silver that has been gilded with a layer of gold. For an example of gilding, see the Presentation Icon with Saint Andrew icon.
HALLMARKS- A series of small punch-marks that are applied to gold, silver, and platinum jewelry, tableware, etc. to indicate the fineness of the precious metal used, the place of production, the maker of the item, and sometimes the date of manufacture. Objects of gold and silver are never made out of the pure metals because they are too soft and easily damaged to last for long. Therefore silver is usually mixed with copper in order to harden it and gold is mixed with a combination of silver and copper which not only toughens it, but allows it to keep its distinct, deep, yellow color. The gold and silver hallmarks found on Russian pieces are based on a standard of 96 parts. This means that a stamp of 96 represents absolutely pure gold or silver. Commonly used finenesses found on Russian silver are 84, 88, 91. These finenesses correspond to 87.5%, 91.6%, and 94.7% fine respectively. In comparison, sterling, the time hallowed English standard for solid silver, is 92.5% fine. The finenesses of Russian gold is usually somewhat less than that of silver; 56 (58.3% fine or 14 karat) and 72 (75% fine or 18 karat) are the two most widely used gold alloys in Russia.
ICON- Religious items made from metal or wood that are generally thin and rectangular in shape and usually depict Christ, the Virgin Mary, the Saints or scenes from their lives. Icons were not themselves worshipped but instead represented the higher, spiritual world and were meant to facilitate meditation, contemplation, and worship. In the traditional method of making an icon, picture space is chiseled out of a wooden panel, leaving a surrounding frame. The surface is prepared with a canvas underlay, onto which layers of gesso are applied. The colors are tempera, with binders of egg yolk and a local beer known kvass. A final varnish layer (olifa) was applied to enhance and protect the colors, but within fifty years would turn opaque, rendering venerable icons black and invisible. Many of these would then be repainted. In modern times three or more layers might be cleaned away to reach the original paint surface. This technique is best seen on the Saint Nicholas icon.
METROPOLITAN- The leader of "an ecclesiastical province" belonging to the Eastern Orthodox Church; the metropolitan had his headquarters in one of the large cities of Russia: Moscow, St. Petersburg, etc.
OKHLAD- Metal icon covers that only allow the hands and face of the underlying icon to be seen. The use of okhlads grew out of the ancient practice of covering the frames of icons with precious metals and stones out of honor. In the fourteenth century, as the wealth of the church and veneration of icons grew, crowns and collars of precious metals began to appear on the Virgin and Christ. By the sixteenth century in Russia, a covering called a riza was developed to fit over all of the pictorial field except the figures. By the eighteenth century, a metal okhlad would leave only the flesh tones of the painting exposed. The okhlad served to protect the icon's surface from the accumulated soot and smoke of burning candles. In later centuries, the covering was thought to protect the image from profane eyes. The outline of the image under the okhlad is usually repeated in a form of relief on its surface. Eventually, the custom of covering contributed to the degeneracy of iconography. Indeed, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries what was hidden by the okhlad completely disappeared as the painters began to paint only the hands and faces of figures. The removal of the covering would reveal a vacuous swirl of plain paint around a head of Christ and His hands, a sad document of the decline of a majestic, religious craft. For an example of an icon covered with an okhlad, see the Virgin and Child icon.
OLD BELIEVER (also called a RASKOLNIK)- A "dissenter" from the Russian Orthodox Church who became a member of one of the various schism groups that developed during the seventeenth century anti-church reform movement. Our Icon Easter Egg was made for a congregation of Old Believers.
RASPUTIN- A monk who was a confidante of Tsarina Alexandra, Tsar Nicholas II's wife. He was believed to have had great power over the Tsarina and, thus, power over the Tsar. He was killed by those who felt that he had too much power.
TSAR- A king, ruler, or emperor who had absolute authority over his or her people and land. In this case, it is used as the title for the Russian ruler. The name is also used by the Greeks (Caesar) and the Germans (Kaiser).
WOOD CARVING- A decorative technique in which a design, picture, figure, etc. is chiseled in relief into a piece of wood. Relatively soft woods such as cherry and walnut are usually employed in wood carving because they are the easiest to work with and allow the greatest amount of detail to be shown. For an example of wood carving, see the traveling icon.
Home |  Madonna |  Saints |  Christ |  Easter Egg |  Fabergé Timeline |  Russian History |  Eric Hulmer |  Iconostasis |  Festival Icon |  Typological Art |  Gallery |  Glossary |  Links |  Credits
This page has been researched and created by Benjamin Allison, with additional research provided by Kristen Magee and Amelia Carr.