Gorokhovets carpentry toy

Gorokhovets carpentry toy

Carpentry has long been the leading business of the Gorokhovets district, which was the leader in the number of forests on the Vladimir land. Local carpenters  –  yakushy  –  were known far beyond the Gorokhovets land. It is no coincidence, that until today the visiting card of Gorokhovets  became samples of wooden architecture of the late 19th century, decorated with luxurious carvings.

In the middle of the 19th century, in some villages of Gorokhovets district carpentry wooden toys were manufactured, which were almost the only joy of the village children. Such toys were also called "slivers" ("schepnaya"), as they were carved by an ax from the waste of carpentry – slivers and wooden choks. Exclusively men, carpenters-virtuosos, who perfectly knew the ax and understood the artistic possibilities and properties of wood, especially its soft rocks (linden, aspen), were the only masters of toys. The masters tried to put all their skill and invention into the toy. To interest children, they even came up with constructions that performed simple movements (for example, all the details of the "wheelers" during the game were set in motion one from the other).

The forms of toys, sometimes archaic and coarse, were prompted by life itself. Masters depicted what they saw around – animals, birds, women with children and cats in their arms. But since carpenters often worked in cities, they tried to reflect urban details in toys with a grain of irony. For example, women were portrayed as ladies, in bell-shaped skirts and urban blouses, instead of traditional sarafans, with kokoshniks on their heads. Many local residents were engaged in carting on a large postal-trade road connecting Gorokhovets with Moscow and Nizhny Novgorod. Therefore, a widespread plot of toy-makers were troikas with coachmen, horses harnessed to carts, or even simply individual horses on wheels.

 Gorokhovets toys were painted quite brightly, with the predominance of red, orange and yellow tones. The artists painted in detail the bright plumage of hens and cocks. Even traditional Gorokhovets horses are red-orange. It is believed that this symbolically reflected the faith of our ancestors that the solar disk is moving across the sky with the help of fiery horses.

The favorite ornament decorating a carpentry toy was a large petal rosette, which can often be seen in the decor of carvings on the cornices of houses and platbands. In addition, the patterns on the toys consisted of small dots, strokes, straight and wavy lines. The pictures were bright and expressive. The technique of coloring is very interesting: a clean wooden toy was covered with a layer of levkas (ground from chalk mixed with glue), as in icon painting, then painted and covered with linseed oil, for shine and a characteristic shade.

Gorokhovets carpentry toy is a rare kind of folk wooden sculpture. Today, there are very few original samples of this toy. This is due to the fact that no one seriously took this toy. It was made hastily for children's fun, and not for sale. In comparison with skillful carpentry carving, which was in demand in many regions of Russia, the toy was not of great value. Carpentry toys were used utilitarily and exclusively within the framework of their village: they were played by local children and, when they came into disrepair, were thrown out "as unnecessary." Therefore, the Gorokhovets carpentry toy has reached our days only thanks to the efforts of collectors. Today samples of an old Gorokhovets toy are presented in the Art and Pedagogical Museum of Toys in Sergiev Posad, in the State Russian Museum, in the Museum of Decorative and Applied Art in Moscow.

Today the art of the Gorokhovets carpentry toy is preserved in the work of individual masters - V.A. Yelshenkov, A.Yu. Klimovich. They are reviving the technology of making an unusual wooden toy as an intangible cultural heritage that has absorbed the wisdom of many generations.

At present, the restored carpentry toy is represented in the expositions of the Gorokhovets Historical and Architectural Museum. Within the framework of the events organized by the museum  – Yakusha Day, Merchant's Day, Gorokhov Day  – master classes on carving and painting of the Gorokhovets toy are held. This, not similar to any other products, carpentry toy can be purchased as an original souvenir from the Gorokhovets district.

Author: V. Korolkova