Spectacular costumes from the Russian Empire: Europe

Russian Museum of Ethnography

Explore the collection of Emperor Nicholas II's art sculptures depicting the various ethnic groups living in the Russian Empire juxtaposed with the costume collection at the Russian Museum of Ethnography

The Peoples of the Russian Empire
In 1907, the Emperor Nicholas II commissioned the Imperial Porcelain Factory in St. Petersburg to create state of the art sculptures depicting the various ethnic groups living in the Russian Empire. He recognized the important role of documenting and celebrating the various ethnicities and costumes worn by approximately 200 ethnic groups living in the Russian Empire at the time. 

Who were the peoples of Russia depicted in the figurines?

The people and costumes depicted in the porcelain figurines were based on the First General Census of the Russian Empire carried out in 1897. The scientific achievements in the culture studies of the people in remote regions – Siberia, the Far East, and Central Asia, played an important role in the selection. The geopolitical interests of the imperial government also found their way to the approved list of people. As a result, the collection included sculptures of people living in territories adjacent to Russia.

The artistic principle

The basic artistic principle applied when creating the sculptures was to accurately reflect the anthropological characteristics and costumes of each of the people depicted.

In its fullness and reproduction accuracy of the types and costumes, it surpassed the previous works of similar nature. Nonetheless, some mistakes were made in the depiction of clothes in the project, though, most probably, it did not happen through the fault of the sculptor. The reason for these discrepancies was, perhaps, the lack of reliable ethnographic data at the time.

Who made the sculpture?

Pavel Pavlovich Kamensky (1858–1922), a famous sculptor, who had been the Head of the Property Shop for the Imperial Theatres for many years, was entrusted with the direction of creating the sculptures. The models were moulded by the craftsmen of the Imperial Factory: A. Lukin, P. Shmakov, I. Zotov, A. Dietrich, and others. The majority of the figurines were painted by M. Gertsak, an artist. The creation process for the entire collection of figurines lasted from 1907 to 1917.

Pavel Kamensky (1858 – 1922) born on April 16, 1858, in Saint Petersburg. Having completed his course at the Military Gymnasium, in 1874-1885 Pavel Kamensky studied at the Academy of Arts.

In 1907, Pavel Kamensky was invited to join a large project for creating a series of figures The Peoples of Russia. Until his last days, the sculptor continued working on this project. Currently, Pavel Kamensky is known to have carved 74 sculptures.

The costumes from European Russia

European Russia

Russia is not proportionately populated between the smaller western portion (almost 25%) of the country that is considered part of Europe, and the larger eastern portion (more than 75%) that is part of Asia. European Russia contains about 77% of the country's population. This territory makes up 38% of Europe. Its eastern border is defined by the Ural Mountains and in the south it is defined by the border with Kazakhstan. This area includes Moscow and Saint Petersburg, the two largest cities in Russia.

Young Russian women's festive costume
Arkhangelsk Gubernia (Governorate)
The second half of the 19th century

The difference between the costume and its figurine depiction:

The costume features a gauze shirt with fine yellow-red floral ornament; the figurine depicts the shirt with a gold embroidery design, which is more typical of the Olonets tradition. Povoinik, a headwear often covered with a kerchief, is a required element of the festive costume; the figurine does not feature the headwear.

The kerchief is typical for the Arkhangelsk region and often worn during festive events. However, it is missing a povoinik, a headwear underneath a kerchief, a required element of the festive costume.

Young Russian women's festive costume
Tula Gubernia (Governorate), Yepifansky Uyezd
Late 19th/Early 20th century

The difference between the costume and its figurine depiction:

Nagruden, the solid shoulderwear, is quite short in the costume, which is in line with the Tula tradition; the figurine features a longer shoulderwear item typical of the Tambov women’s costume.

Nagruden, the solid shoulderwear, was sewn of woolen or half-woolen fabrics with a delicate decoration.

Russian women's festive costume
Ryazan Gubernia (Governorate), Skopin Uyezd
Late 19th/Early 20th century

The figurine erroneously named "Velikorosska from Don".

Young Russian (Semeyskaya) women's festive costume
Zabaykalskaya oblast
Late 19th/Early 20th century

Semeyskiye are the Old Believers of Siberia, the settlers from Western Belorussia

The way of tying the kerchief had its own peculiarities in this local tradition. The colour of the kerchief indicates that the costume belongs to a young woman.

Saami (Lapps) women’s festive winter сostume
Arkhangelsk Gubernia (Governorate), Kolsky Uyezd
Early 20th century

The difference between the costume and its figurine depiction:

Kangi, deer fur footwear decorated with coloured rags and beads, was typical of a women’s festive costume of the eastern Saami (the Kola Peninsula). However, the figurine depicts fur footwear of a different cut, it was for everyday use, and typical of the western (Scandinavian) Saami. Moreover, the neck of the figurine is covered with a scarf unusual for this tradition and more in line with the Norwegian Saami traditional costume.

It is a fur footwear for everyday use. It is typical of the western (Nordic) Saami.

Saami (Lapps) men’s everyday сostume
Finnmark (Norwegian Lapland), the Porsangerfjorden (the Southern Part)
Early 20th century

The difference between the costume and its figurine depiction:

Olmay-kafts, woolen shoulderwear worn over other shoulderwear items both in summer and in winter, formed the basis of a men's everyday costume. The sculpture depicts a fur coat, which does not correlate with the summer leather footwear. The Saami wore the massive sheath with a hunting knife on leather belts only, while the figurine features a woven belt. The accessory seen on the neck of the porcelain figurine could not be part of the men’s clothing as it is a women’s handbag used for storing sewing necessities.

The men's winter headwear is a hat of milling fabrics lined with the fur base.

Ukrainians (Maloross) women’s сostume
Poltava Gubernia (Governorate), Zolotonoshsky Uyezd
Late 19th/Early 20th century

The shirt was decorated by hand embroidery around the neck and ruffles. There are many options of its design.

Ukrainian (Maloross) men’s сostume
Poltava Gubernia (Governorate)
Late 19th/Early 20th century

The difference between the costume and its figurine depiction:

The belt in the traditional men’s costume in Podnieprovie was typically homespun and made of multicoloured worsted and woolen yarns, or braided and made of red woolen yarns. The belts could be produced of fine wool at a manufactory, have a width of up to 40 cm, and be green, blue or red, with lengthwise contrast stripes along the edges. The figurine features a yellow-blue belt. Such a variant was also available.

It is a yellow-blue belt has a width of up to 40 cm with lengthwise contrast stripes along the edges.

Estonian women’s festive costume
The Governorate of Livonia, Moon (Muhu) Island, Mella Village
Late 19th/Early 20th century

The difference between the costume and its figurine depiction:

A käised, a short blouse fastened with a metal fibula, was typical of the Estonian women’s festive costume in the Moon island. The sculpture features a jacket with no ethnic specific signs. A required item in the costume was a belt, which is absent in the figurine. Tanu, a coif, was the typical women’s headwear; the headwear in the figurine is not associated with any particular ethnic group. As a rule, the festive clothing included shin guards and socks, not white stockings, as is in the figurine.

A metal fibula was typical of the Estonian women’s festive costume in the Moon island.

Credits: Story

The Russian Museum of Ethnography
http://eng.ethnomuseum.ru

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