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Maria Filatova, a researcher at the State Museum of the Orient, talks about the main treasures of the collection.

The collection of items related to the culture of Georgia in the Museum of the East is very diverse. It is represented by works of fine and decorative and applied art (such as, for example, metal jugs, daggers, household items and clothing). Read the article for the five most interesting exhibits.

“Revelry” by Niko Pirosmani (1907)

“The revelry” of the Georgian primitivist self-taught Niko Pirosmani is the central exhibit of the permanent exhibition of the fine arts of the Caucasus, Central Asia and Kazakhstan and, perhaps, one of the artist’s main works. In general, Pirosmani created many works dedicated to a feast, a feast is a very important element of Georgian culture. In Pirosmani, it acquires a completely symbolic meaning, becomes something like a sacred rite – it is no coincidence that the picture resembles to some extent “The Last Supper”. The artist created an ideal world in which all people are brothers. Together with the feasting, he depicted a voluminous wineskin with wine, a table covered with a white tablecloth with a blue glow, and shoti – traditional Georgian bread in the shape of a boat.

“The Revelry”, like many of Pirosmani’s works, is written on an ordinary kitchen oilcloth. The poor artist had no money for the canvases, and the oilcloth was very dense, the paint applied well to it. Mostly he used black oilcloth, and thanks to the background, the work acquired a deep sacred meaning.

Pirosmani lived very hard: until the age of 20 he was in the service of a wealthy family, then he worked on the railway, then he opened a dairy shop. The production of signs for various trade establishments also brought income. However, creativity was the main thing for him: he painted portraits of people, animals (endowing some with magical features), feasts loved by Georgians.

For most of his life, the talented artist remained in obscurity, and only in 1912, six years before his death, the poet Ilya Zdanevich and his brother, the artist Kirill Zdanevich, paid attention to his work. They bought many of Pirosmani’s paintings and compared them with the works of the famous French primitivist Henri Rousseau. Ilya Zdanevich wrote the article “The Nugget Artist”, then the paintings were shown at the Futurists’ exhibition in Moscow. Pirosmani became world famous only after his death.

Karkar jug ​​(19th century)

The silver karkara jug is a frequent participant in the traditional Georgian feast. It is very beautiful: several tubes intertwined with each other give it a curved shape. Wine, passing through these tubes and the bell that unites them, when poured into glasses, “sings” (the sound resembles the cooing of a dove).

The vessel is decorated with finely executed patterns and fairy tales, which depict scenes of herbivores being tormented by predatory beasts, magic kings, musicians and so on. Each medallion has its own plot.

Karkars come in a variety of sizes, from miniature to fairly large. There is an assumption that the bizarre shape of the vessel is due to a pumpkin, the cut stem of which twists when it dries. But there is also a legend: King Heraclius, who ruled Byzantium in the 7th century, during a feast learned about the attack of the Persians, in a fit of anger he twisted the throat of the jug and swore an oath to overcome the enemies. Returning victorious, he decided to keep this shape of the vessel.

In the collection of the Museum of the East, there is another very interesting old jug – marani, which consists of many communicating vessels. This jug was passed from hand to hand during the feast – each participant made a toast and drank from it.

Kula vessel (XIX century)

The shape of this wooden vessel, set in silver lining, is rather unusual: it looks more like a small drum. Interestingly, during use, it makes sounds similar to drums. It was believed, by the way, that this knock set up the soldiers before the battle in a fighting mood.

The vessels were divided into two types – for general use (they stood on tables during feasts) and individual. Kula belongs to the latter – it is a travel item like a flask. Such a vessel could be plugged with a cork, which was attached on a thin chain, and carried with you.

The collection of wine vessels in the Museum of the Orient is quite extensive. In Georgian culture, there are more than 30 forms of wine vessels, they are made of silver, cupronickel (an alloy of copper with nickel), wood, and ceramics. Many legends, rituals and traditions are associated with the deep respect of Georgians for the vine, which is often depicted on these vessels.

Flask for wine (XIX century)

On the bottle for wine, we see scenes of jewelry decor, made with fine detailing. The image in the medallions is not repeated: on one side there is a dancing satyr (he is accompanied by fabulous creatures dancing and playing musical instruments), on the other – his head, minted in close-up. It is believed that satyrs – cheerful goat-legged demons of fertility – unite the world of nature and people.

In the medallions, among the leaves and flowers, there are figures of warriors, each of which has distinctive features in weapons and armor. All details are very finely worked out. In the upper part of the body, a ruler sitting on a throne in a rich robe, surrounded by soldiers and servants, in the lower medallion, the master minted a figure of a galloping unicorn.

The handles of the flask are forged, they are made in the form of snake heads, and the legs are in the form of the heads of fantastic animals. The throat of the flask is the head of an owl, which is considered a symbol of wisdom among many peoples (just like the vine is a symbol of the world tree from which the world was created).

The plots and characters depicted on such objects for the most part date back to ancient ancient cults, in which the relationship between nature and man plays a large semantic role. Georgia was one of the first among the countries of the Caucasus to adopt Christianity – in the 4th century, however, even in the 20th century, Georgians turned to ancient themes. This is due to the very rich history of this land – earlier on the territory of Georgia there were Greek colonies, traces of which are still found by archaeologists. Also, the country was for some time in vassal dependence on the Roman Empire. Echoes of ancient culture are still used by Georgian jewelers and vessel makers.

Jugs in the form of male and female figures (1961)

Tableware made of metal, especially silver, decorated with exquisite decor, was highly prized. Such things could only be afforded by very wealthy families, it was a demonstration of wealth. But clay is a more democratic material, it was used by ordinary people. Potters passed on their skills from generation to generation. By the way, in Georgia it is believed that wine and water acquire a special aroma and taste in an earthen vessel.

Classic folk jugs are very simple in shape. But in the twentieth century, the rich centuries-old traditions were adopted by modern masters and began to create something of their own, wonderful decorative samples. Wine can be poured into these earthenware vessels, made in the form of a man and a woman in national costumes, but still, first of all, they serve as decoration. In the 20th century, such vessels became widespread.

The master ceramist has created an amazing folk image with the help of soft rounded shapes, plastic lines and gentle play of multi-colored sparkling glaze. Moreover, the costumes are conveyed close to reality. The women’s national costume is distinguished by its brightness, grace, many details – Georgian dresses are long, decorated with gold braid, beads, pearls, and embroidery. An obligatory attribute (here it is just visible) is a belt with long ends, emphasizing the waist. It was made of velvet or silk.

If we talk about a man’s suit, then this is chokha – outerwear like a Circassian coat. A mandatory attribute is depicted on a leather belt – a dagger made of damask steel, which the man always carried with him.

The vessels are closed with lids in the form of national hats, which are knitted from soft bright yarn.

In the collection of the Museum of the East, there are many items of decorative and applied art of Georgia – these are elements of Georgian costume, household items, felt, cold steel. For example, Georgian daggers are rather large, with a wide blade, massive, brutal. It is interesting that they were made not only by Georgian gunsmiths, but also by newcomer Dagestan masters, combining elements of the culture of both countries.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is a translation. Apologies should the grammar and or sentence structure not be perfect.

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