Showing posts with label Kievan' Rus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kievan' Rus. Show all posts

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Goldwork Embroidery of Kievan Rus'

"Goldwork Embroidery of Kievan Rus'", a translation of Novitskaja, M.A. "Zolotnaja vyshivka Kievskoj Rusi." Byzantinoslavica, 1972(33), pp. 42-50.

The article in the original Russian can be found here:

Translation by Ivan Matfeevich Rezansky, OL (mka John Beebe)

[Translator's notes: This is a rough translation, although I've done my best to convey both the meaning and style from the original. Comments in square brackets are my own. The text contains some specialized vocabulary. I have attempted to translate these, but have also there indicated the original term in transliterated Russian, sometimes with additional notes, in brackets.

Goldwork Embroidery of Kievan Rus'

by Maria A. Novitskaja (Kiev)

This article was written by the famous Ukrainian researcher Maria Alekseevna Novitskaya (1896-1965), author of a series of works about medieval embroidery. The text of this article is printed from a copy that was typed by the author herself, provided by M.I. Vjaz'mitnaja.

Since ancient times, embroidery has served a large role in the life of all levels of society, serving to decorate both clothing and the household. It is of great interest to characterize as one of the forms of artistic creativity in different historical periods. 

The fragility of its materials and its poor conservation do not allow us to completely restore the general outline of all forms of embroidery, in particular for the earliest times. All the more valuable, then, are any remnants of embroidery, no matter how small, which have survived the centuries, been preserved to our time, and now emerge from the earth in archeological digs. 

There has not yet been a single study dedicated to goldwork embroidery of Kievan Rus'.(1) There is even an opinion that no works of Kievan Rus' embroidery have survived to our time.(1a) This is explained by the great fragmentation of discovered embroidery and their dispersion throughout multiple museum collections, as well as the dearth of publication.

The goal of this article is to give a short characterization of goldwork embroidery from Kievan Rus' based on Chronicle sources and archeological materials, and where possible, to reconstruct its ornamental composition, and thus to fill the gap which has existed to this day in our literature.

In the time of Kievan Rus', goldwork embroidery flourished in the lives of the feudal elite, and occupied such a significant role in their lives that the Chronicle even considered it necessary to mention these works of decorative art. For example, it emphasizes that during the sack of Putivl' by Izyaslav in 1146(2), "altar cloths"(3) and "church vestments, all sewn with gold" perished. In 1288, while listing the items which Grand Prince Vladimir Vasilyevich decorated churches built at various times, mentions "curtains sewn with gold" in Vladimir, and "veils of expensive fabric embroidered with gold and pearls" in Ljubomil.(4)

We can guess as to the quantity of embroidered examples based on the Chronicle story from 1183 about the fire of the Church of Our Lady of Vladimir, which destroyed "an uncountable number of robes(5) embroidered with gold and pearls which would hang on holidays in two streams from the Golden Gate to Our Lady, and from Our Lady to the master's hall in two brightly colored rows." This distance is more than a kilometer in length.(6)

From the excerpts above, it can be seen that goldwork embroidery was used to decorate both ecclesiastical items and secular clothes; in the second case, expensive embroidery acquired a purpose other than decorative: goldwork on the shoulders, as we know from the Chronicle under 1216, became as sign of belonging to the upper class.(7)

Portraits of the Grand Prince with his family from contemporaneous frescos(8) and miniature paintings(9) show that, in addition to the shoulder embroidery mentioned in the Chronicle, the edges of cloaks, cuffs, belts and hems of ceremonial outfits were also richly decorated.

Goldwork embroidery was also used on leather shoes: Daniil Romanovich, Prince of Galicia, had "boots of green leather, embroidered with gold."(10)

Historic materials also shine light on the question of where goldwork at this time was made, and even mention the historical persons who engaged in embroidery. In the 11th century, Anna-Janka, sister of Vladimir Monomakh and daughter of Grand Prince Vsevolod, having become a nun in the Andreevsky monastery in Kiev established by her father, organized there a school where young girls studied gold and silverwork embroidery.(11) This indicates that nunneries were one type of center of artistic embroidery.

V.I. Tatischev says about a different Anna -- Anna Vsevolodna, wife of Rjurik Rostislavich (1200) -- that she embroidered both for her own family, as well as for the decoration of the Kiev-Vydubitskij Monastery.(12) There is also data that in Greece, at the Ksilurgu Monastery on Mt. Athos in 1143, there were Russian epitrachelia and maniples.(13)

Undoubtedly, the feudal upper class, taking advantage of lower class labor, had artist workshops, for example, the famous court workshop of Grand Prince Andrei Bogolyubsky.(14) It's possible that, in addition to female goldwork embroideresses, these also employed men, especially for leatherworking (e.g., for shoes).

The archeological materials underline and enrich the few Chronicle details about embroidery. For this current work, I have used original works of embroidery located in museum collections,(15) as well as reconstructions from partially preserved examples published in archeological accounts.

These embroidered items come from 13 sources:

  • 19 fragments of embroidery from Kiev itself;
  • 23 from the Kiev region (of these, 5 from Belgorod, 8 from Shargorod, 6 from the village of Ochakov near Nabutovo, 2 from Romashki, 2 from Knjazhaja Gora);
  • 2 from Chernigov and the Chernigov region;
  • 2 from the Zhitomir region (Rajki);
  • 2 from the L'vov region (Starij Galich and Zvenigorod);
  • 2 from the Ternopil region (the village of Zhizhava);
  • 1 from Chersonesus
Table 1
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These items are very poorly preserved, with sizes of fragments ranging from 4 cm to 10-15 cm, or rarely as large as 25-30 cm. They come from, it appears, no fewer than 40 items of clothing. It is not possible to say with certainty exactly from which part of clothing these fragments originate. The archeological finds mention standing collars, belts, ribbons, and headbands. The fragments predominantly appear to be bands with widths from 1-5.5 cm.

All of the embroidery mentioned above was done on silk fabric of various colors.(16) The ornamentation on these colored surfaces was embroidered with gold and silver wrapped(17) threads (in one case, with wound metallic wire).(18)  

Almost all of the items we studied were worked in the "pierced" style ["v prikep"]. This method's peculiarity is that the metallic thread, whether wrapped [such as Japan gold] or drawn out [like a wire] is sewn through the fabric. On the front [obverse] side of the work, a stitch is obtained of about 7 mm in length (table I, illus. 1), and on the back [reverse], almost equal to the width of the thread (table I, illus. 2). On the obverse, each new row falls tightly, one after the next, such that each stitch begins in the middle of the previous one. This achieves a solid, almost "wrought" effect. The effect of the metallic brilliance and play of color was intensified by differing the direction of the stitches: the artisan arranged them in parallel rows (table I, illus. 4), or along the curve, following the shape of the picture [in Russian, called "shov po forme"] (table I, illus. 5 - fleurs-de-lys). For stems and narrow strips, they would also use stem stitch ["shov po jolochku"] (table I, illus. 5 - latticework). Enriched color combinations could be achieved by the artist sewing all details of the work, or by leaving the area between ornamental motifs unembroidered. For example, two embroidered items (table I, illus. 3, 4) from the crypt of the Church of the Tithes in Kiev(19), we can see how differently the triangles appear when they are completely filled with gold stitches, versus the colored triangles which are only outlined in gold. This difference can also be seen in the treatment of the stems. 

Table II
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In the studied embroideries, we encounter geometric, floral and zoomorphic designs. The most common of these is geometric (table II), composed from all sorts of circles, rings, rosettes, triangles, swastikas, crosses, and S-shaped whorls.(20) Braided motifs predominate, and were very common and characteristic for this time. From particular motifs of braids, formed by bent and intertwined stripes, we can see figure eights, triangles, rhombi with braids in the corners, and more complex rosettes with overlapping figure eights, rhombi enclosed in a circle, et. al. (table II, illus. 14-19).

Floral designs are found less frequently, and have a stylized character (table III). Their main elements are triangular, heart-shaped, or elongated leaflets, round or square flower buds, spiral sprouts on straight or curved stems, and fleurs-de-lis(21), a favorite element in decorative art in medieval Rus' (table III, illus. 7).

A motif reminiscent of a wide-bladed leaf of a water lily, from the base of which grows a fleur-de-lis, filling in its surface, was very wide-spread in different forms of decorative art of the 11th-12th centuries. It was particularly frequently found on kolts(22) and on fresco paintings, for example, in Kiev's St. Sophia cathedral. There are two variants of this motif on our embroidered items: on a 11-12th century item from Belgorod(23)(table III, illus. 8), and on an embroidery from Chernigov(23)(table III, illus. 9).

Table III
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On an 11th-12th century embroidered item from Shargorod(25) we see a tree of life (table III, illus. 13) - a motif which comes from ancient times. In its interpretation, it is very similar to an analogous depiction on an embroidery from the Churkinskij burial mound from 12-13th century Nizhny Novgorod.(26)

On several fragments from the Mikhailov treasure(27), fragments of a complicated floral motif are preserved: thin, symmetrical shoots branch off from either side of a tall, spear-shaped stem. The lower part is enclosed in a keeled archway. In some cases, these motifs are united in pairs (table III, illus. 14) Another floral motif on an 11-12th century embroidery from Shargorod(28), which arises from a triangle, is made up of plump twisting curls (table III, illus. 15).

Zoomorphic ornament, in the form of birds and cheetahs, are seen only on 2 embroideries (table IV). Several miniature birds, filled in with gimp, are depicted on an 11-12th century embroidery from Shargorod(29). They are placed in diamonds, part of which are filled in with rosettes. The birds are embroidered in profile, sometimes with their heads turned back over their bodies. One wing is raised aloft. Sometimes, it ends in a curl. Similar depictions of birds were a favorite motif in 11-12th century ornament. 

We see analogies to this in an 11th century Kievan manuscript of the words of Grigorij Bogoslov(30), on the cover of the Juriev Gospel from 1120(31), on a 12th century bronze ark from the city of Vschizh by Master Constantine(32), on the cover of a 12-13th century gospel(33), on kolts and bracelets from the treasure cache found in 1824 in the Mikhailov monastery in Kiev(34), on bracelets from the Vladimir treasure cache(35), on the reliefs on a church in Pokrov on the Nerli, 1165(36), on St. Dmitrij Cathedral in Vladimir, 1193-1197(37), on St. Grigorij Cathedral in Juriev-Polskij, 1230-1234(38), et. al. 

Table IV
(click to expand)
The depiction of a bird very similar to ours is also seen on a 12th century embroidery from Vladimir on the Kljazma(39), and on a band from Staraja Rjazan', where the birds stand alongside sacred trees.(40)

Cheetahs form an integral part of a complex knotwork found in one of the 11-12th century graves from Belgorod(41), on the chest of the deceased. Rising sharply on either side of a fleur-de-lis growing from the knotwork, they give the entire composition a heraldic appearance. The cheetahs have small, upright ears, slightly open mouths, long, thin necks, and curved tips at the ends of their tails (table IV, illus. 2). We were unable to find an exact analogy of this motif in manuscript illumination, nor in carving, where the teratological style was particularly widespread(41a)

The composition of ornament depended on the form and size of that part of the clothing for which the embroidery was intended. Most frequently, as has already been stated, this was bands for edging cloaks and the hems of clothing, belts, for women's headbands, and as bands of trim; more rarely - as embroidery on chests or shoulders. 

Fragments of embroidery from Chernigov(42) allows us to reconstruct two compositions of identical motifs, intended for two details on clothing: one in the form of a square, and one of an elongated rectangle. The square embroidery has a centralized composition. It is made up of four identical motifs oriented toward the center (table V, illus. 1). A symmetrical arrangement of the same motif forms an elongated rectangle (table V, illus. 2).

An example of an unending motif which could be repeated infinitely in any direction (table V, illus. 3) is a latticework composition of an embroidery from Romashki(43). Fleurs-de-lis, embroidered along the shape of the design, are enclosed in diamonds, which are filled out in stem stitch. We find an analogous composition on the clothing of Tsar Nikifor and Tsaritsa Maria in a manuscript compilation of works by Ioann Zlatoust (1078-1081)(44) and in the ornament of the Miscellany of Svjatoslav of 1073(45).

Two types of composition are used for embroidery on bands of different lengths and widths. The principal difference between these lies in that the first type is made up of repeated, separate motifs or elements; in the second, a continuous unending ornament. 

Table V
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The first type of composition is simpler and more common. Its elements are placed either at a given distance from each other (table VI, illus. 1) or immediately next to each other (table VI, illus. 3), sometimes almost merging in their contours (table VI, illus. 7). Non-contiguous elements sometimes are sometimes framed, for example, in a 10th century embroidery from the Troitskiy burial mound in Chernigovschina(46) (table VI, illus. 2). Free space above or below between contiguous elements are often filled with dots, circles, triangles, (table VI, illus. 4-5). An embroidery from the village of Ochakovo(47), bordered with a simple braid (table VI, illus. 6), represents a relatively complex example of this variant. A particularly complicated variant of this composition is seen in illus. 7 (table VI), an embroidery from Ochakovo(48), where the contours of the framing around the crosses, interlaced figure eights, turn into a braid. This embroidery is like an intermediate link between the first and second types under consideration.

The second type of composition has 3 variants. The first is formed from wavy lines with with symmetrical shoots emerging above and below. The second is composed with the aid of broken, crossing and relatively wide bands. The third is a typical unending braid. 

As an example of the first variant of this type, we have the embroidery of two headbands. One of these was found on the head of a young woman in a 12th century grave from Starij Galich(49). The band is 2.6 cm wide and 31 cm long. The second headband comes from a treasure hoard found in 1904 in the Mikhailovsky monastery in Kiev(50). On the first headband, all lines of the design are done in solid, gold lines (table VII, illus. 1) with strokes of silk thread; the second (table VII, illus. 2) has only the outlines of the design, decorated with hemispheres, are drawn.

Table VI
(click to expand)
Analogous compositions of ornament were widespread on various forms of decorative artwork of the same time, for example, in the Nedel'nij (Arkhangelsk) Gospel found in 1902(51), on silver bracelets(52), on the clothing of Novgorod Prince Jaroslav (see the fresco in the Savior Church on the Nereditsa)(53), and finally, on Varlaam Khutyn's embroidered cuffs from the 12th century.(54)

As examples of the second variant of this type, we have two embroideries. The first is a 11-12th century item from Shargorod (table IV). Its diamonds are formed by two rows of intertwined bands which bend at an angle above and below. A second embroidery from the village of Zhezhavy(55), which according to archeological data dates to 900-1100. This item, as an exception to the norm, is overside couched(56). Its diamonds are formed by wide, ornamented bands (table VII, illus. 3); rosettes are placed on the edges of the diamonds. A significantly simplified analogy to this embroidery is found on an embroidery from Staraja Rjazan'(57)

The third variant is made from various kinds of interwoven, narrow, wavy "bands". For this type, it's necessary to note that in all cases, even when the braids were extremely complex, the artisan always carefully delineated each of the bands. The simplest braids are composed of an endless row of united circles or ovals, sometimes joined by knots. The most complex are enriched by additional motifs of braids and straight broken lines. 

Tables VII and VIII
On the embroidered item from Shargorod(58), part of the ornament is woven into square frames (table VIII, illus. 3), thanks to which, despite the continuity of the braid, it achieves a repetition of two different motifs. A detailed study of a poorly preserved fragment of embroidery, also from Shargorod(59), made it possible to reconstruct the relatively complex composition of its design (table VIII, illus. 4).

A 12th century embroidery from Chersonesus (table IX) has a relatively complex design. Its "bands" in an unending braid create several different ornamental motifs, between which are located rosettes from 2 interlaced figure eights. In addition, this wide band is framed above and below by a narrow border, the pattern of which is turned to one side. This embroidery, like the one from Zhezhavy, is also overside couched, and has the metallic thread laid not along the length of the design, but across its width; it passes back and forth from one edge to the other, where it is couched to the fabric.

Summarizing what has been said, it follows to note that the earliest of the embroideries we've looked at was dated to the 10th century, and the latest to the 13th. Later data are tied to the sack by the Tatar invasion of the same villages from which some of the embroideries we have studied originated. It's nearly impossible to date these items any more precisely.

Table IX
As has been said, nearly all the works were embroidered in the "pierced" manner [with the gold thread passing through the fabric], and only two using couching: one from Chersonesus, and the other from Zhezhavy in the Ternopolskij region. The "pierced" technique is similar to that used for embroidery with silk thread, but is inconvenient because it is difficult to pull the gold thread through the fabric without damaging it.

The German researcher M. Dreger, characterizing the technique of goldwork throughout the Middle Ages, emphasizes that almost all older northern goldwork was done using the "pierced" technique, while southern lands, such as Byzantium, typically used the couching technique. This commonality in the use of the "piercing" technique in Kievan Rus' and northern countries is quite naturally tied to the close relations Kievan Rus' had with Norway, Germany, France, and other lands, particularly through the female line. For example, Jaroslav the Wise was married to the daughter of Norwegian king Olaf, Ingegerd, and his sons to representatives of the German feudal aristocracy.

Thanks to permanent trade and military ties between Kievan Rus' and Byzantium, embroidery items were brought from there, along with luxurious fabrics. It is possible that the embroidery from Zhezhavy, and especially that from Chersonesus with the more complex designs and worked in couching, were likely works of Byzantine artisans.

As for the remaining items of embroidery, there is no reason to think that they were imported, as Russian women were famed for their goldwork embroidery. It is no wonder that the Chronicles mention them.

The embroideresses of Medieval Rus' skillfully and tastefully used various geometric, floral and zoomorphic motifs in their compositions, frequently preserving remnants of ancient symbols and motifs, such as swastikas, posettes, the tree of life, and heraldic  zoomorphic compositions. Geometric and strongly stylized floral ornament plays a large role, in particular the fleur-de-lis design.

Compositional schemes of embroidery obey the part of clothing that they were intended for. The rhythm of composition, always clear and crisp, could be based on smooth or uniformly rising and falling wavy lines, or on endlessly twisting braids. 

As a combination of the colored base fabric with gold or silver designs, sometimes emphasized by threads of colored silk or pearls, goldwork embroidery completely satisfied the medieval Russian artist's need for color and contrast. 

The examples of ornament presented here testify to the generality of embroidery techniques, as well as the particular character of ornament in different artistic centers of medieval Rus': Kiev, Chernigov, L'vov, Vladimir on the Kljazma, Novgorod, Staraja Rjazan', Nizhnij Novgorod, and other cities. Aside from this, the analogies presented here speak to the unity of ornamental style in embroidery and other different techniques of decorative art of medieval Rus'.


(1) {M.A. Novitskaja's articles "Haptuvannja v Kyiv'skij Rusi. (Za materialamy rozkopok na terytorii URSR)." Arkhelogija XVIII, Kiev, 1965, pp. 24-38 and "Dav'norus'ke haptuvannja z figurymy zobrazhennjamy." Arkheologija XXIV, Kiev, 1970, pp. 88-99, were published posthumously.}  This and later notes in curly braces were made by V.G. Putsko, who prepared this article for publication.
(1a) Lazarev, V.N. Iskusstvo Novgoroda. Moscow/Leningrad, 1947, p. 129.
(2) --. Polnoe sobranie russkikh letopisej [PSRL]. Vol 2, Issue 3. St. Petersburg, 1843, p. 27.
(3) Embroidered fabric which decorated the Holy Throne or Altar.
(4) PSRL, Vol 2, Issue 3, p. 223.
(5) ibid., p. 127. Porty. Secular clothing were often seen in churches, as it was custom for princes to donate them to the church "in their own memory". PSRL, Book 1, Issue 2, pp. 418, 463.
(6) --. Russkie drevnosti v pamjatnikakh iskusstva. Issue VI. St. Petersburg, 1890, p. 91. {In the opinion of N.N. Voronin, the Chronicle is referring to the northern "golden gate" and the southern gate of the cathedral doors, between which in two "wonderous rows" were suspended the fabrics of the cathedral sacristy. Voronin, N.N. Vladimir, Bogoljubovo, Suzdal', Juriev-Pol'skoj. 2nd ed. Moscow, 1965, p. 47.}
(7) PSRL, Vol. 1, Issue 3, p. 445.
(8) Kresal'nyj, M.I. Sofijskij zapovednik v Kieve. Kiev, 1960, illus. 102, 103. {Lazarev, V.N. "Gruppovoj portret semejstva Jaroslava." Russkaja srednevekovaja zhivopis'. Moscow, 1970, pp. 27-54.}
(9) Bobrinskij, A. Kievskie miniatjury XI v. i portret knjazja Jaroslava Izjaslavicha v psaltyre Egberta, arkhiepiskopa Trirskogo. St. Petersburg, 1902, pp. 11, 12, 15. {Lazarev, V.N. "Iskusstvo srednevekovoj Rusi i Zapad (XI-XV vv.)" XIII Mezhdunarodnyj kongress istoricheskikh nauk. Moscow, 1970, pp. 29-31, with lit. on p. 60; Logvin, G.N. "Miniatjury drevn'ogo kodeksu." Misetstvo, 1966(6), pp. 14-19.}
(10) PSRL, Vol. 1, Issue 3, p. 187.
(11) Gerebtzoff, N. Essei sur l'histoire de la civilisation Russe. Paris, 1858, p. 124; Odobesko, A.I. "Vosdukh s vyshitym izobrazheniem polozhenija spasitelja vo grob." Drevnosti Trudy Moskovskogo Arkheologicheskogo Obschestva, vol 4, Moscow, 1874, p. 7; Lazarev, V.N. Iskusstva Novgoroda. p. 129; {Svirin, A.N. Drevnerusskoe shit'jo. Moscow, 1963, p. 21.}
(12) Tatischev, V.I. Istorija Rossijskaja s samykh drevnejshikh vremen. Vol. 3, St. Petersburg, 1774, p. 329; Lazarev, V.N. Iskusstvo Novgoroda, p. 127.
(13) Lazarev, V.N. Iskusstvo Novgoroda, p. 127.
(14) Georgievskij, V.T. "Drevnerusskoe shit'jo v riznitse Troitse-Sergievoj Lavry." Svetil'nik.  1914(11-12), p. 5.
(15) State Historical Museum in Moscow, State Historical Museum in Kiev, Historical Museum in L'vov, Cherigov Historical Museum, Historical-Archeological Museum in Khersonesus. 
(16) The color of the silk has been lost; it has all taken on a murky-brown color.
(17) It is made from thin, narrow (around 0.3 mm) rows of metal, tightly wrapped around a core thread. [cf. modern "Japan gold" thread]
(18) Spirally-twisted flat wire. [Gimp, or possibly perl.]
(19) Karger, M.K. Arkheologicheskoe issledovanie drevnego Kieva. Kiev, 1950, illus. 95.
(20) See Kondakov, N.P. Russkie klady, Vol. 1, St. Petersburg, 1896, p. 66.
(21) Lily of the field is a motif which came from the East.
(22) Kondakov, N.P. Russkie klady, Vol. 1, pp. 59, 60; Istorija russkogo iskusstva, vol. 1, Moscow, 1953, p. 271.
(23) State Historical Museum in Kiev, inv. no. V-1783; See Polonskaja, N.D. Istoriko-kul'turnyj atlas po russkoj istorii. Kiev, 1913, table XV, illus. 12; Polonskaja, N.D. "Arkheologicheskie raskopki V.V. Khvojko 1909-10 gg. v mestechke Belgorodka." Trudy predvaritel'nogo komiteta XV arkheologicheskogo s'ezda. Moscow, 1911, illus. 53.
(24) Historical museum in Chernigov.
(25) State Historical Museum in Kiev, inv. no. V-2651.
(26) Spytsin, A. "Churkinskij mogil'nik." Zapiski otdelija russkoj i slavjanskoj arkheologii imperatorskogo Russkogo Arkheologicheskogo obschestva. Vol. 5, issue 1, illus 71.
(27) State Historical Museum in Moscow, OP-1093. See: --. Otchet Arkheologicheskoj Komissii, 1903, illus. 350.
(28) State Historical Museum in Kiev, Inv. no. 1381.
(29) ibid., inv. no. V-2310.
(30) Stasov, V.V. Slavjanskij i vostochnij ornament po rukopisjam drevnego i novogo vremeni. St. Petersburg, 1886, table XII, illus. 19, 27.
(31) ibid., table LIII.
(32) Rybakov, B.A. Remeslo drevnej Rusi. Moscow, 1948, illus. 56.
(33) Buslaev, F.I. Istoricheskij ocherk po russkomu ornamentu v rukopisjakh. Petrograd, 1917, p. 4 (illus 3), 22 (illus. 30); Stasov, V.V. Russkij narodnyj ornament. Issue 1, St. Petersburg, 1872, p. IX.
(34) Kondakov, N.P. Russkie klady. Table 1, illus 59, 60; --. Istorija russkogo iskusstva. Vol 1, p. 250.
(35) --. Istorija kul'tury Drevnej Rusi. vol 2. Moscow/Leningrad, 1951, illus. 213.
(36) --. Istorija russkogo iskusstva. Vol. 1, pp. 405, 411, 413, 439.
(37) {Varger, G.K. Skul'ptura Drevnej Rusi. Vladimir, Bogoljubovo. Moscow, 1969, pp. 288, 290, illus. 217.}
(38) {Bobrinskij, A.A. Reznoj kamen' v Rossii. Issue 1, Moscow, 1916, table 30, illus. 9.}
(39) Guschin, A.S. Pamjatniki khudozhestvennogo remesla drevnej Rusi X-XIII vv. Moscow/Leningrad, 1936, illus. on p. 29.
(40) Jakunina, L.I. "Fragmenty tkanej iz Staroj Rjazani." Kratkie soobschenvenija Instituta istorii materialnoj kul'tury. 1947 (XXI), illus. 36/3.
(41) State Historical Museum in Kiev, inv. no. V-1783. See: Trudy predvaritel'nogo komiteta XV arkheologicheskogo s'ezda, table XV, illus. 13.
(41a) {See: Kolchin, B.A. Novgorodskie drevnosti. Reznoe derevo. Moscow, 1971.}
(42) Historical Museum in Chernigov.
(43) State Historical Museum in Kiev, inv. no. V-2263.
(44) Lazarev, V.N. Istorija vizantijskoj zhivopisi. Vol. 2. Moscow, 1948, tables 138, 139.
(45) Istorija russkogo iskusstva. Vol. 1, p. 103.
(46) State Historical Museum in Moscow, exposition of the Department of Feudalism.
(47) Geze, V.S. "Raskopki na gorodische 'Ochakov' u derevni Nabutovo." Arkheologicheskaja letopis' Juzhnoj Rossii. 1904 (3), illus. 5.
(48) Spitsyn, A.A. "Nabutovskij mogil'nik." Zapiski otdela russkoj i slavjanskoj arkheologii imperatorskovo Russkogo Arkheologicheskogo obschestva. Vol. II, illus. 101.
(49) Pasternak, Ja. Starij Galich. Krakiv-L'viv. 1944, illus. 45. Located in the historical museum in Lvov.
(50) State Historical Museum in Moscow, OP-1091, no. 71. See: Archelogicheskaja letopis' Juzhnoj Rusi, 1903, table XVI, Illus. 3. Otchet Arkheologicheskoj komissii, 1903, illus. 350.
(51) Stasov, V.V. Slavjanskij i vostochnij ornament. Table CXXIV.
(52) Kondakov, N.P. Russkie klady. Vol. 1, illus. 89; Istorija russkogo iskusstva. Vol. 1, p. 272.
(53) Prokhorov, V. Russkie drevnosti. Issue IV, St. Petersburg, 1871, p. 44.
(54) Novgorod Historical-Archeological Museum-Reserve, inv. no. 1624. {Svirin, A.N. Ukaz. soch. Table XXIX, illus. 6.}
(58) State Historical Museum in Kiev, inv. no. V-2653.
(59) ibid., inv. no. S-57122.
(60) Chersonesus Historic-Archeological Museum, inv. no. 6292.
(61) Dreger, M. Künstlerische Entwicklung der Weberei und Stickerei. Vienna, 1904, p. 199.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

"A Polovtsy Khan, or...?"

"A Polovtsy Khan, or...?", a translation of Otroschenko, V., Rassamakin, Ju. "Polovetskij khan ili?..." Znanie -- sila. 1986(7), pp. 30-32.

The article in the original Russian can be found here:*=p1GdZuj%2B1BO1kyl%2Fw%2FV0jp%2F1jBR7InVybCI6InlhLWRpc2stcHVibGljOi8vdWcwL3NhV3ZhSEl0eG4zL1RJV1FrVElIM00vU0RlZFpPRDdCMDloS2daMD0iLCJ0aXRsZSI6ItCX0L3QsNC90LjQtS3RgdC40LvQsCDihJY3IDE5ODYucGRmIiwidWlkIjoiMCIsInl1IjoiNTczOTA0NDY4MTUzNjA4NzEwMCIsIm5vaWZyYW1lIjpmYWxzZSwidHMiOjE1NDg2ODg0MDIzOTB9

Translation by Ivan Matfeevich Rezansky, OL (mka John Beebe)

[Translator's notes: This is a rough translation, although I've done my best to convey both the meaning and style from the original. Comments in square brackets are my own. The text contains some specialized vocabulary. I have attempted to translate these, but have also there indicated the original term in transliterated Russian, sometimes with additional notes, in brackets.]

A Polovtsy Khan, or...?

by V. Ostroschenko and Ju. Rassamakin

In 1982, in the 6th issue of the journal "Knowledge is Power," we described the discovery on an extremely rich tomb of a medieval nomad found in a burial mound in the city of Chingul' [jeb: in south-east Ukraine] on the banks of the Molochnaja River. At that time, while acquainting our readers with the circumstances of the discovery, we expressed our theories about which of the Polovtsy khans from the late 12th-early 13th century may have been buried in this mound. Without exact dates for many items from the mound, the authors of the hypothesis could not yet take all details into account.

Köten Khan?

First, a short recap about the Chingul' grave. A wooden sarcophagus stood at the bottom of a spacious, deep grave. In it, the skeleton of a solidly built male, dressed in a sumptuous, gold-fabric kaftan of Byzantine silk with three silk belts decorated with gilt silver buckles. On the chest was a thick chain made from an alloy of silver and gold, and the legs were bound with a golden cord. His fingers had rings with gems, and the right hand grasped a straightened gold torc. On this left were a sabre, a sheathed bow, a quiver with arrows, a shield, a helmet, and 3 knives. The helmet, shield casing, the rays on the quiver, and knife handles were gilded. Near the shoulders were a silver and gilt chalice and incense burner. Amphorae were placed around the sarcophagus, and around the grave pit there were five Arabian horses with bridles and saddles. The bridle straps were decorated with gilt silver. 

S. Krug obtained additional information through the examination of the skeleton. The interred male was about 40-50 years old, tall, sturdily built, and Mongoloid -- but his Mongoloid features were few and smoothed over, as was characteristic for pagan burials burials of the 12th-13th centuries on Ukrainian lands. The occipital part of the skull there was a dent and two healed scars from sabre cuts, and the crown was pierced by a five-sided hole. 

These were the collected data. But, who was he?

We began our investigation by dating the items in the burial mound, paying particular attention to the belts. Craftsmen have always changed the form and decoration of their works according to the fashion and tastes of their customers. Our task was made easier by a study of famous belts from the 13th-14th centuries, collected, dated and published by German researcher I. Fingerlin in 1971. Two buckles from the Chingul' burial mound with multi-colored enamel insets and images of beasts, according to set, date to the first half of the 13th century; a third dates to 1230-1289. Thus, the three could have coexisted sometime in the 1230-1240's. It was during these 20 years that European knights girded themselves with belts with similarly decorated buckles. 

1-3. Limoges buckets with enameled, decorated mounts similar to the buckles of the Khan's second and third belts. First half of the 13th century.
1-3. Limoges buckles with enameled, decorated
mounts very similar to the buckles of the
Khan's second and third belts. First half
of the 13th century
4-6. Western European buckles similar to the  buckle on the first belt. Third quarter of the 13th century.
4-6. Western European buckles similar to the 
buckle on the first belt. Third quarter 

of the 13th century.

7. The Khan's oldest-dated buckle.  Dated 1230-1280.
7. The Khan's oldest-dated buckle.
Dated 1230-1280.
8. Belt mount from the second quarter of the 13th century, which helped clarify the date of the mound.
8. Belt mount from the second quarter of the
13th century, which helped clarify the date
of the mound.

Knight belt findings are important not only for dating purposes, but also as a category of items related to the Polovtsy. Belts were found in large numbers and varieties in Polovtsy (Komans, Kuns) graves in Hungary. In this manner, our search found not only landmarks in time, but our glance also was drawn to Hungary. But, let's leave for now these widespread parallels and look instead at the Polovtsy steppe at the beginning of the 1330s...

There is no peace among the Polovtsy. Hunting is a entertaining sport on the steppe, and a secondary source of power. But, the beloved son of Köten Khan of the Durut Mangush tribe does not return from the hunt. Soon, one of the khan's confidants brings him the woeful news of his son's capture and death at the hands of Akku, bull of the Toksoba tribe. The Durut tribe vows to avenge themselves against the offender and decimates Akku's army. The wounded Taksoba leader sends his brother to the Mongols with a complaint against the Durut and requesting help. The Mongols were monitoring the situation on the steppe, attentively responded to the request , sending a force of 30,000 men against Köten.

Such Mongol raids were typically reconnaissance missions. The Mongols took active steps to conquer the Polovtsy steppe only after 1235, when in the city of Karakorum, they decided "to take possession of the lands of the Bulgars, the Asovs, and of Rus'." This list of nations cited by the Persian author Juvayni does not mention the Polovtsy, whom the Mongols considered their "serfs and stablemen," obliged to submit to their blood masters. But, the Polovtsy did not even think of submitting. One of the most active leaders of the resistance against the Mongol invaders was Khan Köten Sutoevich.

It's clear that our attention was drawn to the colorful figure of this intransigent warrior against the eastern invaders. He is attractive because Köten was a relative and ally of the powerful Princes of Rus' Mstislav the Daring and D of Galicia, as well as King Bela IV of Hungary. Had Köten been buried in the Chingul' mound, this would explain why so many objects of medieval Russian and western European objects were found here. This first guess, however tempting at first glance, quickly fell apart.

Why? In 1239, the Mongol horde campaigned against Crimea, pushing the opposing Polovtsy further and further west. Köten, not wishing to surrender to the mercy of the victors, negotiated with Bela IV about the resettlement of the Polovtsy in Hungary.

9-10. Belt mounts from the second quarter of the 13th century, which helped clarify the date  of the mound.
9-10. Belt mounts from the second quarter of the13th century, which helped clarify the date
of the mound.

The negotiations took place in the Autumn of 1239, and soon the immigrants occupied a key position in the royal court. As P. Golubovskij writes: "The king gives preference to the Polovtsy at meetings and councils, and Köten's daughter Erzhebet (Elizaveta) becomes an heiress to the throne. The interests of local magnates are severely infringed, and for the common people, the presence of these restless, plundering nomads brings a heap of trouble. An anti-Polovtsian conspiracy ripens: Köten is accused of colluding with the Mongols and Russians, and by decision of the royal council, he and his family are thrown into prison. Köten tries to explain himself to the king, but the conspirators are one step ahead of him. The Hungarians and Germans break into the prison, seize the prince's entire family, immediately behead them, and throw their heads through a window to the crowds."

Thus, the khan died, but the battle-worthy horde he brought with him to Hungary remained. This was of particular importance to us, for the man interred in the Chingul' burial mound must have visited Hungary - so many objects that belonged to him are associated with it.

The execution of the Polovtsy elite occured in Pest early in 1241, and by the 10th of March, Bela IV had received news that the Mongols had invaded Hungary via the "Russian Gate" (the Veretsky Pass). The person who gained the most from Köten's death turned out to be Batu Khan. 

11. Scabbard cap(?) [oboinitsa] for a bone-handled dagger,  decorated with the image of a fantastic bird or Siren.
11. Scabbard mount(?) [oboinitsa] for a bone-handled dagger,
decorated with the image of a fantastic bird or Siren.

And what about the Polovtsy? They were paid off in full for the death of their leader. The royal army was defeated, and the enraged nomads, burning towns and villages, rushed to the Balkans and the Bulgarian border. As they killed, they would remind each of their victims: "This is for Köten!" The Polovtsians' sequence of actions suggests that this invasion of Bulgaria was probably conceived by Köten and that not all of the Polovtsy leaders were executed. It was they who led the horde on to the next war, leaving behind an acute shortage of professional soldiers.

In the Balkans, the 1240s were marked by the confrontation of 3 forces: the Crusaders of the Roman Empire who seized Constantinople in 1204; the Greeks of the Nicene empire; and the Bulgarians, who were strengthening their own kingdom. Each of them tried to attract the Polovtsy to their side, while the nomads sought to sell their services to the highest bidder. There are well-known examples of Polovtsy women marrying important nobles of the Roman Empire, who would have owned knight's regalia. Items produced in western Europe thus could have come to one of the leaders of the horde as wedding gifts (dowry) for one of these daughters. This possibility is described by Hungarian historian A. Palochi-Khorvat, as well as Soviet researcher B. Marshak.

After the aforementioned events in the Balkans, some Polovtsy returned to Hungary, while others of the Golden Horde were forced to return to the steppes, and a third appeared in Rus'. And thus our story has a Russian angle.

Tigak Khan?

In the hot summer of 1248, near the town of Pozhga (now Bratislava), King Bela IV meets Prince Daniil of Galicia. With undisguised admiration and in quite some detail, a chronicler described the ceremonial garb of the Russian prince: "Daniil himself rode before the king, according to Russian custom. The horse beneath him was a wonder, with a saddle of burnished gold, and arrows and sabre decorated with gold other decorations worthy of astonishment: a case of Greek tin, sewn about with wide gold lace, and shoes of green leather embroidered with gold." This description is extremely interesting. Prince Daniil's outfit in this description is almost identical to the kaftan of the Chingul' khan.

12. Bow case (gilt-silver), recreating the shape of the bow.
13. Albarella - a vessel of Syrian make with underglaze painting. Manufacture of such vessels ceased in 1258.
14. Belt mount from the second quarter of the 13th century, which helped clarify the date of the mound.

Relations of the princes of Galicia with the Polovtsy throughout the first half of the 13th century were friendly, despite these dramatic turns of history. After the first blow of the Mongols in 1222, Köten rode to Galicia, to visit his son-in-law Mstislav the Daring, bringing along many gifts from the steppe, to seek aid from the Russian princes. Mstislav heard this petition not only because of political considerations, but because he previously had himself spent 2 years at Köten's headquarters, and it was only with the aid of his force that, in 1221, he was able to suppress an uprising in Galicia by boyars united with the Hungarians. Later, his son-in-law Daniil, together with the hand of his daughter Anna, grand-daughter of Köten, would carry on the tradition of friendship with the Polovtsy.

In the year of Mstislav's death (1228), strife erupted anew in the principality of Galicia. Daniil and Köten found themselves in different camps. The prince sent an ambassador to the Khan with the following address: "O father! Turn away from this war and make peace with me." Köten left the coalition arrayed against Daniil and left for "the Polovtsy lands." Subsequently the prince and khan acted as allies in the endless internecine feuds. All of this allows us to draw a conclusion about the special status between Daniil and the Polovtsy, and explains why he took the Polovtsy horde under his protection in the mid 1240s.

In the winter of 1251-1252, Daniil marched on Lithuania with his brother Vasil'kij and his son Lev, "and with Polovtsy, along with the ambassador Tigak." Daniil's ambassador, of course, must have been from the royal family, perhaps a close relative of Köten. If so, then he could well have owned a gilt helm of Russian make or Daniil of Galicia's Byzantine tunic, as described in the Chronicle, perhaps received as a wedding gift.

The reader has already certainly guessed our intention to test this theory: could Tigak be our Chingul' khan?

Having twice raided Galico-Volynskij Rus', both on the way to Hungary and back, but also having failed to capture Daniil himself, who had been warned by a faithful Polovtsy named Aktay, Batu entered into extensive negotiations with the prince. Conditions eventually required Daniil to journey, having first obtained a promise of safe conduct, to Batu's headquarters on the Volga in 1246 and concede subjugation to the "patronage" of the Golden Horde. The Horde dramatically increased Daniil's prestige in the eyes of European monarchs, who were afraid of new invasions by the Mongols. The following decade was marked by a series of military, political and diplomatic successes for the Galician prince. In 1254, the legate of Pope Innocent IV, Abbot Opizo, crowned Daniil. In those years, the prince held a fairly independent policy toward the Golden Horde, in any event, as the Chronicle notes, "not fearing Kuremsy" (the governor of the westernmost regions of the Horde). It was in those years that Daniil could afford to keep Tigrak in service to the Polovtsy.

Batu Khan died in 1255. Instead of the low-initiative Kuremsy, one of the best generals of the Chingizids, Burudaj-bahadur, arrived in the west with "a great force. In 1258, south-western Rus' was fully incorporated into the sphere of Tatar-Mongol rule," notes V. Pashuto. And what of the Polovtsy? The Chronicles do not mention anything further of them. In the opinion of several historians, they returned to the steppe under the auspices of the Golden Horde.

We mentioned only a few of the lurid events in the medieval history of the peoples of Eastern Europe of these three decades. In the cycle of endless wars, conspiracies and destruction when many cities were exterminated, along with entire peoples defending their honor and wealth, it is difficult to track the fate of a single person. We attempted this with all care, and came to the conclusion that in the Chingul' mound is buried one of the Kötenovichi, most likely Tigak Khan.

In conclusion, starting in the 1240s, power over the Polovtsy steppe transferred completely into the hands of the Mongolian aristocracy. In the colorful phrase of G.A. Fedorov-Davydov, "under the dense row of Mongolian nomadic feudal lords in Desht and Kypchak, the old feudal nobility was no longer visible - it had lost its meaning." The collection of items in the Chigul' burial mound allows us to "discern" the remnants of a Polovtsy nomadic tribe which, judging by the archeological materials, had not yet been fully exterminated or evicted from the steppe. Interested in returning the Polovtsy to their own nomadic place in order to restore the economic order that was destroyed by the war, the leaders of the Golden Horde somehow made contact with the leaders of the Polovtsy emigration, making certain concessions. Tigak's horde was no exception in this respect. In 1282, after the battle of Khood with the army of the Hungarian king Lazlo Polovtsov (himself, Köten's grandson), part of the Polovtsy left to join the Golden Horde. Oldamur Khan led the Polovtsy army in this fight. P. Golubovskij writes, "in 1285, the Polovtsy together with the Tatars made an attack against Hungary and ravaged the whole country all the way to Pest." Undoubtedly, the Polovtsy units in this army were led by their own leaders. 

As we see, the historical information placed in the Chingul' complex reveals itself to "perusal" and promises new discoveries. 

1. X-Ray of a surviving part of the first kaftan.
1. X-Ray of a surviving part of the first kaftan.

A. Elkina, Restorer:

Over the last four years, we have extracted a lot of interesting information from the remnants of clothing preserved in the Chingul' burial mound -- mostly fragments of goldwork embroidery. We are employees of the State Research Restoration Workshop of the Ministry of Culture of the Ukrainian SSR. There are now no more "unknown objects" -- all of the fragments have found their places in one of six kaftans decorated with goldwork embroidery and brocade bands. Of course, the clothes were not completely preserved, and we had almost completely decayed pieces; but, two of the six kaftans can be reconstructed in full detail.

The first is the one in which the noble warrior was clothed. The kaftan was sewn from a thick, glossy crimson silk with inserts of goldwork embroidery on a dark blue foundation. An embroidered strip decorates the entire front, from top to bottom. Richly embroidered strips of embroidery run from the shoulders to the elbows, and bands of embroidery run around the ends of the sleeves. The ornament of all the details is the same: a grid with gold plaques at the intersections, and inside the cells are goldworked circles with the faces of angels or beautiful girls, enameled on Russian golden inserts. The kaftan collar and round headcap are lined with gilt plaques, decorated with gems. All of the patterns are decorated along the contours with tiny river pearls. Beneath is a gold-fabric band. There are not enough words to describe this outfit, it is so luxurious. 
2. Fragment of embroidery and drawing
of the sleeve of the first kaftan.

The second kaftan was more difficult to recreate. Recently, having reached some previously unidentified remnants, we discovered a small fragment of embroidery. Folds and concentric arcs were decorated with gold. Arcs -- after all, this was part of a circle. We measured the diameter and realized that the circle was a halo! The halo was around the head of the Savior of Edessa. Of course, only the Savior could decorate the chest of a warrior. The Savior of Edessa was embroidered on the most ancient of Russian banners. One of them is preserved in the Armory.

This kaftan was just as luxurious as the first. But importantly, it differs by having a Slavonic inscription upon it: "[I]ona vopyj" - "Screaming Jonah" (per B.I. Marshak).

What can be said about this noble warrior's clothing? It is all sewn from expensive imported materials - silk fabric from Constantinople and wrapped golden threads of Byzantine production. But the work - goldwork embroidery trimmed with pearls, the ornament, and the Slavonic inscription - are of medieval Russian origin. Similar items are known from celebrated Russian treasuries from pre-Mongolian times. These clothes were designed by artists and carried out by skilled craftsmen in the courts of the great Russian princes shortly before the invasion.

S. Vysotskij, Doctor of Historical Sciences:

3. Complete reconstruction of the first kaftan, made by
A. Elkina on the basis of her extensive research.
4. X-ray of goldwork embroidery on the second kaftan.
To the leftis visible the inscription: "[I]ona vopyj."
My opinion diverges a bit from that of other historians and of Alla Konstantinovna Elkina. Judging by the theme of the imagery on the second kaftan (or more correctly, on the vestment), the clothing was created in full or at least in part in one of the medieval Russian monasteries by order of a certain Iona -- a wealthy individual, possibly a royal individual named for his godfather. The clothes were given by him as a gift to a church in one of the cities in southern Rus' near the Polovtsy steppe. As a result of nomad raids on the city and plunder of the church, the vestments fell into the hands of the khan and were buried with him.

And, what new information can our science teach us from the discovery of the fabric with the inscription? Together with information on the development and distribution of writing in Rus', received as a result of the study of birch bark letters from Novgorod and graffiti in Kiev, the inscription on the fabric sheds light on yet another facet of the cultural development of Rus' -- the history of medieval Russian embroidery. It proves that in pre-Mongol times, medieval Russian embroideresses achieved great skill in their art, and also that some of them were literate.