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The treasures of the Special Storage

Why the Special Storage? What does comprise the uniqueness of this storage? The necessity of special storage for particularly valuable objects appeared from the very beginning of museum collections’ formation.   The donations to the Royal Family from the nobility of peoples inhabited the Russian Empire were ones of the first “dwellers” of the room-safe. These are the Buddhist cult objects, austere Caucasian arms embellished with silver, luxurious glittering with gold and precious stones weaponry  and harness from  the gifts of  Emir of Bukhara and presentation dishes for bread and salt made by talented Russian jewelers.  Later in the Special storage the collections on various peoples given to museum by the Emperor Nicholas II in 1902-1915 appeared.

Further with formation of collection valuable objects from well-known collectors acquired by museum personal in expeditions or bought from private persons came here for preservation. From 1930s the objects containing precious metals were constantly starting to be given to the collection from all the museum storages. From that time the presence of precious metals, gems, and pearls is the only criterion for admitting an object in collection. That’s why the artifacts of the Special Storage are so diverse both in respect of their ethnic affiliation and importance of separate objects in culture of various peoples. These are jewelry, utensils, cult objects, festive harness and arms.

Judaic Cult Objects

The museum has unique collection of the Judaic cult objects, the most valuable of them one can see on exhibition. The set of objects related to the ceremony of reading the Torah (the sacred scroll) – the main relic for Jews are particularly interesting. They include the Crown of Torah, crowning the scroll of the sacred book, the shield of Torah tass – silver plate with hole, where inscription explaining which chapters of the Bible should be read in certain festive days was inserted, and pointer for the Torah yad made in shape of hand and richly decorated with niello ornamentation.

Moreover, the collection includes ritual goblets, boxes for relics, mezuzah, godeses – chests for incenses, which are used in the end of the festive day of Shabbat. At first such chests appeared in the Middle Ages were made in shape of small Gothic towers, and from the XVIII century in shape of flowers, animals and birds. The Hanukah candelabrums with eight  lamp branches  are also displayed in the Special Storage. The lamps were of different shape from simple spoon-like ones to complex filigree construction.  They were used for the Feast of Fires Hanukah lasting eight days. Many of these objects have seals (most frequently Polish) and date to  XVIII – early  XX cc.

Russian Pearl

The collection of the Special Storage helps to know all the diversity of the jewelry of the peoples of the Russian Empire. Most of the adornments of Russian collections are buttons, earrings, and headdress embellished with pearl. The fresh water pearl got in Varzuga, Kem’, Pinega and other rivers in North Russia was the favorite material for adornments. All the woman and maiden headdress of our collection are richly embroidered with fresh water pearl and golden thread, some are decorated with gems and string of pearls stringed on horse hair or flax thread. Headdresses have a lot of variants typical for certain governorate or district of the north-western part of the European Russia.

In collection all the types of Russian earrings of XVI-early XX cc. are gathered. In XV–XVII cc. the type of earrings in shape of interrogative sign was the most widespread.   Depending on number of small bars they were called "odintsi", “dvoichatki” and “troichatki”. The massive silver earrings were related with culture of Novgorod in XVI-XVII cc.  The convex relief images on the both sides are covered with filigree ornament, enamel, inlays of colored glass or stone.  The earrings in form of small basket appeared in late XVIII – early XIX cc, under the Barocco style influence.  The earrings in form of butterflies or bows with pear-like and grape-like pendants were also popular. Small fresh river water pearl was also used for making these earrings. In folk adornment gems were replaced with colored glasses, beads rhinestones; however, pearl was preferred in all times. 

Buddhist Rarities

The Russian Museum of Ethnography has unique relics of Buddhist art.  These are the objects of ritual small-sized sculpture, vessels for consecrated water, prayer drums, shells decorated with silver and used as musical instruments and other elements of the Buddhist altar furnishing.  Most of these artifacts were presented to the members of the Royal Family by Kalmyk and Buryat deputations. They include such masterpieces of the Buddhist sculpture   as the images of goddess-saviors— White Tara and Green Tara, the goddess of longevity Usnisavijaya — the mother of all Buddhas, conventional images of the Universe — mandalas. On the exhibition the mandala in shape of metal dish also used for gathering alms during temple service is presented. The collection of gifts there is an exclusive silver presentation dish, indispensable attribute of gala state solemnities. It was presented to the Emperor Alexander III by the day of his coronation from the Don Kalmyks.

Jewelry of Kazan Tartar

The jewelry of Kazan Tartar is extremely diverse. These are all kinds of earrings, braid adornments, bead strings, necklaces, clasps, belt buckles, shoulder bands, and rings.  Kazan was the center of jewelry production.  This art reached its golden age by middle XIX century. The jewelry was made mainly of silver, sometimes gold was used. Gilder, embossment, casting, engraving and filigree technique were widespread. One of the most specific adornment of Kazan Tartar was should band. It was worn by both young girls and old women putting it on the left shoulder under the right hand. Small box with a prayer –extraction from Quran was often sewn to the shoulder band. Своеобразны и изысканны воротниковые застежки — непременное украшение богатой мусульманки. The indispensable adornment of rich Muslim woman – the collar clasps are original and exquisite. In these adornment apart of the topazes, amethysts, turquoise, malachite, corneal, agate beloved by Tartars large number of colored glass in-lays were used.  

The Gifts of Bukhara Emirs to the Royal Family

The diplomatic relations between Russia and the states of Central Asia were forming throughout centuries. They implied indispensable exchange of ambassador gifts and presentations. The set of gifts was constant: robes, belts, costly fabrics, horse harness, and gala arms. These were the best examples of the high Central Asian applied art. One of the most prestigious gift was the robe — the sign of particular respect to receiver. The exhibition presents velvet upper robe decorated with genuine pearl. These robes were worn without belt and the lower was belted with luxury belt with gold plates and inlays of turquoise and gems.  The filigree chest completely covered with small inlays of turquoise and almandine cabochons is also displayed here. Among the festive horse harness the exhibition demonstrates horse blanket decorated with gold embroidery and silver small buckles. In the court of the Bukhara Emir men made gold embroidery which considered to be very respected profession.   

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