Russian traditional ship sculpture
The tradition to decorate ships with sculpture goes back to hoary antiquity. Militant sailors, seeking to crush the morale of the enemy even before the battle, attached to the stem heads of ferocious monsters, and unseen dragons. They were so frightening that, upon return to their harbor, not wanting to frighten the relatives, sailors covered the sculptures with deflated sail. Ship noses were decorated with carved wooden figures of animals, birds, and each had a certain meaning. For example, standing on back paws lion symbolized courage, grandeur and generosity. And preparing to jump leopard meant courage. A rapidly running horse symbolized power and speed; bull – fertility and prosperity; wing-spread Eagle – power and insight; bantam-cock – readiness for battle; and fish – vigilance. Brightly painted and even covered with gold leaf, flying over the waves figures were pride of ship. And only most experienced sailors could care for them. Their daily duty included daily cleaning them from sea salt, washing, and tinting. Besides, captured in the ship fights sculptures considered a valuable trophy. In honor of the victory, these sculptures, attached to a specially built triumphal column, dubbed the rostral (from the Latin word rostrum – the nose of the ship).
In Russia, the first rostrum column appeared in the 70s of the XVIII century, when the squadron under the command of Admiral GA Spiridov coming from the Baltic to the Mediterranean Sea, has gained a number of outstanding victories over the Turkish fleet. However, the Russian sailors could not then seize bow sculptures from the enemy ships – and not because of lack of courage. Take, for example the famous Chesma battle that occurred on June 26, 1770. Russian navy attacked, smashed, burned, drowned and turned into ashes the enemy without any trophies! To celebrate this victory in 1778, architect A. Rinaldi erected Chesme column in Tsarskoye Selo. Six symbolic sculptures decorate carved from the pink marble column.
Anyone who visited Leningrad (St. Petersburg), could admire the majestic rostral columns on Vasilevsky Island. Built in 1805-1810 by the architect Thomas de Thom, they devoted to the memory of the glorious victory of the Russian fleet in the Baltic, Black and Mediterranean Seas. And next to these well-known columns in the building of the former Stock Exchange is the Central Order of the Red Star Naval Museum. It is one of the oldest in the country, where it is possible to get acquainted with the history of the appearance of nasal pieces on Russian ships.
In Russia, carved ornaments, including sculptures, have become an integral part of ships centuries ago. Since the beginning of the XVIII century, wood carvings richly decorate sailing ships of the Russian Navy. These woof carvings are complex multi-relief compositions on mythological themes, and gilded images of military attributes – banners, drums, laurel wreaths, barrels of guns and pyramids cores, and garlands of oak branches.
According to the sculptural decoration, some ships did not concede to palaces. Nevertheless, the main decoration remained nasal figure. Its purpose was to support patriotic morale of the sailors in the campaigns and battles, constantly reminding them of the glorious victories of people. For example, nasal figure of battleship “Do not touch me”, carved in wood by famous sculptor Rastrelli in 1724. It was a half-length portrait of Peter 1, under whose leadership the Russian army and navy won a historic victory in the Northern War of 1700-1721.
Often, nasal figure depicted a man whose name the ship bore. For Frigate “Dmitry Donskoy”, NS Pimenov – a professor of the Academy of Arts, made a sculptural portrait of the legendary leader of the Russian troops in the Battle of Kulikovo field. The figure of a mighty warrior, carved from oak, decorated the nose of the frigate “Oslyabia”. Full of dynamics, power and voltage, it reminded mariners about the heroism of the hero of the Battle of Kulikov. This sculpture by Pimenov, removed from the ship, can also be seen in the museum.
Sailing battleship “Azov”, built in 1826 in Arkhangelsk, was decorated with three-meter figure of a warrior wearing a helmet and battle armor, in a short cloak billowing behind him. History has preserved the name of the engraver – N. Dolganov. Like the name of the ship, bow sculpture reminded mariners about the historic victory of Russian troops – the capture of the fortress of Azov in summer 1696 and the exit of Russia to the Sea of Azov. The crew of “Azov” proved to be a worthy successor to the heroic traditions. In October, 1827 under the command of Captain of First Rank MP Lazarev, then illustrious admiral in the Mediterranean Sea, he boldly came into the battle with a few enemy ships. In a fierce battle in the bay the battleship received more than 150 holes, but destroyed six large enemy ships.
Many ships were called the names of the heroes of mythology, which also corresponded to the nasal sculpture. The stem of the brig “Mercury” adorned sculpture of the mythological patron of trade. The frigate “Urania” decorated sculpture of muse of astronomy. Some ships bore the names of the representatives of the fauna. Accordingly, they were strengthened with the allegorical figures of a lion, lynx, bear, bison, buffalo and even a snake – a symbol of eternity.
In the 1970s, from the Baltic Sea was raised overgrown with barnacles and algae statue of a woman in full growth. The study showed that the cut of spruce sculpture ship laid at the bottom for more than three centuries! Skilled craftsmen created figures, and the most prominent sculptors helped develop craftsmanship. For example, famous sculptor PK Klodt performed nasal ornaments for corvettes “Bogatyr” and “Vityaz”, depicting strong in spirit, mighty heroes of Russian epics. Besides, he is the author of sculptures “Buffalo”, “Bison”, and “Boa”.
Many bow sculptures distinguish high taste, harmonious proportions, based on sketches by the famous sculptor M. Mikeshin, the author of the monument installed in Novgorod – Millennium of Russia. For a frigate named after Dmitry Pozharsky, he carved distinctive sculptures of Russian magistrates, full of confidence and indomitable strength. In addition, he created a sculpture for the nasal vessels bearing the names of admirals GA Spiridov, PV Chichagov, SK Greig and M. Lazarev. Besides, all of them have an amazing portrait likeness in the appearance of naval commanders. By the way, people painted sculpture in natural way: flesh-colored exposed parts, black hair, and various bright colors of clothing.
In the times of the Soviet Union, to stem of the ships attached relief images of a five-pointed red star – the symbol of the Armed Forces of the world’s first socialist state. To the stern began to attach the State Emblem of the USSR. In the grim years of the Great Patriotic War sailors decorated their ships with combat signs of distinction. And on submarines, or torpedo boats in the center attached figure which referred to the number of sunk Nazi ships. On minesweepers in the center of stars indicated the number of destroyed mines. On the trunks of naval guns applied the stars, number of which meant the quantity of the defeated enemy objects, and downed air crafts.
Russian traditional ship sculpture
scanned images, magazine Art