The process of formation of the Armoury’s equipage collection is closely related to the Moscow Kremlin - the centre of administrative, political and cultural life of the Russian Empire. For long ago it hosted artistic workshops and storages.

Yet in 1341, the letter of Ivan Kalita’s sons mentioned ‘the Stables Way’ as a so-called office, that later on at the late 15th century was transformed into the Stables Prikaz. Besides, the workshops and chambers with finished products, the Stables Prikaz was in charge of the decoration of tsars processions, service for the Russian and foreign embassies and actually for the tsar’s stables. According to written sources, the building, where the office had been located, placed also the artistic workshops and ‘the chambers’ with the finest horse harnesses. The archive documents of the 16th century mention ‘the saddle, the sleigh and the heavy carriage chambers’ and the Russian and foreign equipages kept on the Kremlin territory. In the 16th century the Moscow Kremlin became the centre of Russia’s artistic life. The finest artists and craftsmen were trained or invited here as were foreign specialists. According to the documents of those days, in the 17th century, the carriage-building in Russia grew and developed further and the workshops of the Stables Prikaz still remained its centre. The equipages were stored at the Carriages’ Yard that had spread from the Prikaz building near the Borovitskie Gates almost till the Troirskie Gates. In the second half of the 17th с, it was so chock-full that one more court for the equipages - the Moscow Coach (Kolymaga) Yard - was built close to the Kremlin. The ‘Inventory of Various Stables Items and Treasury’ of 1706-1707 that contains references to the earlier non-extant Prikaz documents has the full list of the equipages, that were in the Kremlin in 16th – 17th cc and at the Moscow Coach Yard from the moment of its establishment. The inventory lists carriages of Russian and foreign production different in type and employment: koptans – little izbas (country houses) on sledges, large two- and four-seater coaches (kolymagas); kolyaskas which had appeared in the early 17th c, ‘half-carriages’ the upper part of which consisted of two sections; covered sledges (vozoks) and sleighs. Close equipages on wheels are called in this inventory the carriages. The word ‘carriage’ itself came into use in Europe in the 16th c, and in Russia – around second half of the 17th c.

According to the extant ledgers of that time, the majority of the equipages built at the royal court were placed in the storages of the Prikaz. The equipages and precious horse harnesses were a part of the wealthiest tsar’s treasury, that was successively refilled due to the increasing complexity of ceremonial feasts at the royal court of the 16th-17th cc: coronations, pilgrimages, birth and interment of the Moscow sovereigns’ family members. Apart from the Russian ones, the treasury collected foreign equipages from Poland, England, Holland, Germany, Denmark. Brought to Russia by foreign embassies and trading agents as diplomatic gifts, they were produced in the workshops of large artistic centres in Western Europe and were of high value at the tsar's court. Besides, the source for the replenishment of the Stables treasury were the production orders for carriages made through the residents from abroad. The Stables treasury was also refilled by the property of the disgraced or perished boyars, who had no heir apparent. That was the way how the treasury acquired the ‘kolymaga’ of the Russian work of 1640-ies. It came down to Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich as the closest relative after the death of boyar Nikita Ivanovich Romanov, state personality of that time. Later on, this unique equipage had become a part of the Armoury Chamber collection.

A high volume of work was made in the workshops of the Stables Prikaz in the second half of the 17th century. The ‘Inventory of Various Stables Items and Treasury’ of 1706-1707 proves this fact: 313 equipages located at the Kremlin Carriage Yard are on the list. 290 of them were produced by the masters of the Moscow Kremlin. The description of these equipages shows that their artistic merits were equal to the best European samples also present here at that time. Both Russian and foreign masters had worked in the workshops of the Stables Prikaz – the centre of the Russian carriage-building with an unquestioned authority. Their tight creative contact contributed to the expansion of the West European art influence on carriage-building: by the 1640-ies, the combination of Russian national traditions and the artistic style of the Western Europe in the Russian equipages became more often. In this respect, the Russian equipage of 1640 from the collection of the Armoury Chamber is of special interest. Its decoration reflected the artistic tendencies of the day – a thick ornament of squares, made of copper gilded nails with convex decorative nail-heads, and baroque ornament on metal decorations. At the same time, it shows features found only in Russian-made equipages of that time, namely, the square form of the body and the pattern of braid used in the décor together with floral ornament in plain wood carving. By the end of the century, the consistent approach towards all-European stylistic trends becomes more evident. The new types of equipages were created, their constructions and technique were upgraded, the stylistic decoration methods of the west European workshops were widely used.

During the whole 17th century the carriage-building continued to develop technically. Initially, the equipages’ bodies rested directly on the axle, did not have either doors, or a seat for the driver. In the first half of the 17th century the window panes were made of mica, which was replaced in the second half by small ‘windows of crystal’, and in the last quarter of the century by plate glass. According to the ‘Inventory of Various Stables Items and Treasury’ of the 1706-1707-ies, the carriages with doors were already known in the middle of the 17th century. A good example is the Russian-made carriage dating back to the 1640-ies on display in the Armoury. The introduction of a driver’s seat, which appeared in the late 1620-ies and early 1630-ies, increased the speed. And ten to twenty years later footboards for footmen began to appear on rich carriages. Thanks to an important constructional improvement which suspended the body on leather straps between four uprights, like a cradle, the bumping in transit was greatly reduced. And in the second half of the 17th century the axle-pivot was invented. The pole which ran along under the body connecting the fore and rear parts of the undercarriage became curved at the front in the form of ‘two iron arches’ or a crane-neck, although translated literally the Russian term ‘swan-neck’. The wheels revolved freely under these arches, thanks to which the carriages could make a much sharper turn. The appearance of this mechanism also affected the size of the front wheels. They were now only half the size of the back ones, because they had to swirl under the crane-neck. This ratio of the wheels proved to be the best for stability and ease of movement.

The ‘grand carriage’ is known approximately from the 1670-ies. It is a four-seater horse-drawn vehicle with a fairly large body narrowing towards the base, doors and windows, a seat for the coachman, a crane-neck and an axle-pivot. The body is low and suspended on straps, which perform the function of springs. The back walls of the body splay out slightly and the front walls forward, while the backs of the seats slope, creating added comfort for the passengers. Alongside improvements in construction, there was also increased attention to the artistic treatment of equipages. The 17th century witnessed the flowering of national artistic schools of carriage-building in many European countries. The carriage workshops attracted architects, artists, sculptors, and masters of decorative art - carvers, jewellery-makers and embroideresses. An important role in the decoration of Russian equipages played the carved reliefs, elements of round sculpture, painted images. The workshops of the Stables Prikaz had closely collaborated with other artistic workshops of Moscow. Painting, carving, joinery and ironmongery works were frequently carried out by masters from other workshops. The equipages were upholstered in smooth and patterned velvet, embossed leather that was covered with bright paint of different colours and sometimes gilded. Thus, the carriage was becoming a complex work which harmonically combined various branches of art and reflected stylistic revolution. This is rather hard to trace, however, as very few have survived and the handful that have were frequently renovated, because they were expensive and consequently had to serve for a long time. Vehicles of the 16th and 17th centuries form a compact group in the Armoury, but number only four in all. Artistic expression together with appurtenance to famous historical personalities made them cherished national relics. These are English heavy carriage (kolymaga) of the late 16th century presented to Tsar Boris Godunov by King James I, the Russian-made kolymaga of Boyar Nikita Ivanovich Romanov and two small amusement carriages, made in the Stables Prikaz workshops.