On 4 February 2021, the ceremonial opening of the exhibition Russian Bone Carving Artworks of the 18th-19th Centuries. Gift of the Karisalov Family took place at the anteroom of the Armory Chamber. The exhibition presents a part of artworks donated to the museum from the Karisalov family collection, revealing the diversity of bone carving art in Russia in the 18th-19th centuries.
Philanthropist Mikhail Karisalov and the members of his family have gathered a remarkably comprehensive and outstanding collection of Russian bone carvings and studied the art of bone carvers; they took care of the collection fate bequeathing it to the museum. It includes works from the late 17th to the 19th century, and present all the complex types of bone carving, allowing us to study the development of this art, the evolution of forms and ornamental patterns under the influence of different styles.
General Director of the Moscow Kremlin Museums Elena Yurievna Gagarina said while opening the exhibition that this collection of bone carving artworks has no analogues in any Russian museum in terms of quantity and quality. “This is extremely rare and now almost forgotten art. We are presenting a small part of the collection, which numbers over 150 pieces. You will see the best and most perfect works here in the anteroom. The collection consists of items from the 18th century to the beginning of the 19th century. These are, indeed, quite rare pieces that need not only to be shown, but also to be cared for: furbished up, conserved, cleaned, and placed in conditions where they will preserve long, thanks to the temperature and humidity that are necessary for the bone”.
Mikhail Karisalov thanked the Kremlin Museums and Elena Gagarina for appreciating the work done by the Karisalov family. “I am pleased that the Moscow Kremlin Museums appreciated the collection and will give it the life of an entirely different level and meaning ... within the walls of the museum, educational mission, research, conservation, and popularization of which can't compare with the activities of a single collector or even a group. We had been gathering the collection for over three decades. It is very “our” thing, so very Russian. For many years I worked in Tobolsk, where high banks of Irtysh and Tobol rivers still push out mammoth tusks in late spring and early summer. And it is in Tobolsk where the craft still exists—more than 50 artisans of the Tobolsk bone-carving factory work there. The art of bone carving is also alive in Kholmogory”.
The core group of objects includes works from the 18th century to the first half of the 19th century created by Kholmogory masters, who skillfully combined bone carving traditions with new trends of the epoch. Guest of the exhibition will see jewellery boxes and caskets, faced with bone plates of different colours, decorated with relief images, desk cabinets, which thoroughly replicate bureaus and secretaries with drawers, folding tabletops, and hidden sections. Some of the works bear portraits of emperors and empresses on the decorative bone plates. Besides, Kholmogory masters worked on three-dimensional sculptures, creating miniature reproductions of monumental pieces of art such as a copy of the Peter the Great monument by E.M. Falconet, made of mammoth and walrus tusks. Visitors will also have a chance to explore the Kholmogory icons, which occupy a special place in the art of bone carving, and sculptural compositions dedicated to various biblical subjects.
The exhibition works from 10:00 to 18:00 daily except Thursday, in the anteroom of the Armoury Chamber. Entrance fee included in the price of the ticket to the Armoury Chamber.