Pirosmani, kula and karkara. Five exhibits of the Georgian collection of the Museum of Oriental Art

February 28

The collection of items related to the culture of Georgia in the Museum of Oriental Art is very diverse. It is represented by works of fine and decorative and applied art (such as, for example, jugs made of metal, daggers, household items, and clothing). For five most outstanding exhibits go to mos.ru.

“Family feast” by Niko Pirosmani (1907)

“Family feast” of Niko Pirosmani a Georgian self-taught naive painter is the central exhibit of the permanent exhibition of the fine arts of the Caucasus, Central Asia, and Kazakhstan and, perhaps, one of the artist’s main works. In general, Pirosmani created many works dedicated to a feast; a feast is a very important element of Georgian culture. Pirosmani attributes to it a completely symbolic meaning, it becomes something like a religious rite – it is no coincidence that the picture resembles to some extent “The Last Supper”. The artist created an ideal world in which all people are brothers. Alongside with the feasting people, he depicted a voluminous wineskin with wine, a table covered with a white tablecloth with a blue glow, and shoti – traditional Georgian bread in the shape of a boat.

“Family feast” like many of Pirosmani’s works is painted on an ordinary kitchen oilcloth. The poor artist could not afford the canvases, while oilcloth was very dense and the paint spread well to it. He used black oilcloth mainly and thanks to the background his works acquired a deep sacred meaning.

Pirosmani lived very hard: until the age of 20 he was in the service of a wealthy family; later he worked on the railway, and then he opened a dairy shop. He used to make shop signs for various trade establishments which helped him earned money. However, creativity was the main thing for him: he painted portraits of people, animals (endowing some with magical features), and feasts loved by Georgians.

For most of his life, the talented artist remained unknown, and only in 1912, six years before his death, poet Ilya Zdanevich and his brother, artist Kirill Zdanevich, paid attention to his creative work. They bought many of the Pirosmani’s paintings and compared them with the works of the famous French naive painter Henri Rousseau. Ilya Zdanevich wrote the article “The Artist of natural gifts”, which was followed by the Futurists exhibition in Moscow where his paintings were shown to public. Pirosmani became world famous only after his death.

Niko Pirosmani. Family feast. 1905–1907

Karkara jug ​​(XIX century)

The silver karkara jug is a frequent participant in the traditional Georgian feast. It is very beautiful: several tubes intertwined with each other provide it a curved shape. Wine, passing through those tubes and the faucet that unites them, when poured into glasses, “sings” (the sound resembles the cooing of a dove).

The vessel is decorated with finely executed patterns and fairy tales scenes which depict scenes of herbivores being tormented by predatory beasts, magic kings, musicians and so on. Each medallion has its own plot.

Karkaras come in a variety of sizes, from miniature to fairly large ones. There is an assumption that the bizarre shape of the vessel is due to a pumpkin, the cut stem of which twists when it dries. But there is also a legend: King Heraclius, who ruled Byzantium in the VII century, during a feast learned about the attack of the Persians, in a fit of anger he twisted the neck of the jug and swore an oath to defeat the enemies. Having victoriously returned, he decided to keep this shape of the vessel.

The collection of the Museum of Oriental Art features another very outstanding old jug – marani, which consists of many communicating vessels. This jug was passed from hand to hand during the feast – each participant made a toast and drank from it.

Karkara (wine jug). Georgia. XIX century

Kula vessel (XIX century)

The shape of this wooden vessel, set in silver lining, is rather unusual: it looks more like a small drum. Interestingly, it makes sounds similar to drums when used. It was believed, by the way, that this sound tuned the soldiers before the battle in a fighting mood.

The vessels were divided into two types – for general use (they stood on tables during feasts) and individual ones. Kula belongs to the latter – it is a travel item similar to a flask. Such a vessel could be plugged with a cork which was attached on a thin chain, and carried along.

The collection of wine vessels in the Museum of Oriental Arts is quite extensive. In Georgian culture, there are more than 30 forms of wine vessels; they are made of silver, cupronickel (an alloy of copper with nickel), wood, and ceramics. Many legends, rituals and traditions are associated with the deep respect of Georgians for the vine, which is often depicted on such vessels.

Kula (separate wine vessel). Georgia. XIX century

Wine flask (XIX century)

On the wine flask, on can see scenes of jewelry decor made with fine elaboration of details. The image in the medallions is not repeated: on one side there is a dancing satyr (he is accompanied by fabulous creatures dancing and playing musical instruments), on the other – his head minted in close-up. It is believed that satyrs – cheerful goat-legged demons of fertility – unite the world of nature and people.

In the medallions, among the leaves and flowers, there are figures of warriors, each provided with weapons and armor and having distinctive features. All details are very finely worked out. In the upper part of the body, a ruler sitting on a throne in a rich robe, surrounded by soldiers and servants, in the lower medallion, the master minted a figure of a galloping unicorn.

Wine flask. Georgia. XIX century

The forged handles of the flask are made in the form of snake heads, and the legs are in the form of the heads of fantastic animals. The neck of the flask is the head of an owl which many peoples consider a symbol of wisdom (just like the vine is a symbol of the world tree from which the world was created).

The plots and characters depicted on such objects for the most part date back to antique ancient cults in which the relationship between nature and man plays a large semantic role. Georgia was one of the first among the countries of the Caucasus to adopt Christianity – in the IV century; however, even in the ХХ century, Georgians turned to ancient themes. This is due to the very rich history of this land; earlier the territory of Georgia was occupied by Greek colonies traces of which are still found by archaeologists. Also, the country was for some time in vassal dependence on the Roman Empire. Echoes of ancient culture are still used by Georgian jewelers and vessel makers.

Wine flask. Georgia. XIX century

Jugs in the form of male and female figures (1961)

Tableware made of metal, especially silver, decorated with exquisite decor, was worth its weight in gold. Such things could only be afforded by very wealthy families; it was a manifestation of wealth. But clay is a more democratic material, and it was used by ordinary folk. Potters passed on their skills from generation to generation. By the way, in Georgia it is believed that it is in an pottery vessel that wine and water acquire a special aroma and taste.

Classic folk jugs have very simple shape. But in the ХХ century, the rich centuries-old traditions were adopted by modern masters who began to create something of their own - wonderful decorative samples. Wine can be poured into such pottery vessels made in the form of a man and a woman in national costumes, but still, first of all, they serve as decoration. In the ХХ century, such vessels became widespread.

Jugs in the form of male and female figures. Georgia. 1961

The maestro potter has created an amazing folk image with the help of soft rounded shapes, plastic lines and gentle play of multi-colored sparkling glaze. The costumes are depicted very close to reality. The women’s national costume is distinguished by its brightness, grace, and a lot of small details. Georgian dresses are long, decorated with gold bullion fringe, beads, pearls, and embroidery. An must-have attribute (here it is clearly seen) is a belt with long ends, emphasizing the waist. It was made of velvet or silk.

When it comes to a man’s suit, then this is chokha - an outerwear resembling Circassian coat. A mandatory attribute is depicted on a leather belt – a dagger made of damask steel which a man always carried with him.

The vessels are closed with lids in the form of national hats which are knitted of soft bright yarn.

The collection of the Museum of Oriental Art features plenty exhibits of decorative and applied art of Georgia – these are elements of Georgian costumes, household items, felt, and bladed weapons. For example, Georgian daggers are rather large with a wide blade, massive and brutal. As a matter of interest, those were made not only by Georgian bladesmiths, but also by alien Dagestan craftsmen who combined elements of the culture of both countries.
Source: mos.ru

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