© museum-nt.ru/ Nizhny Tagil Museum-Reserve "Gornozavodskoy Ural"
© museum-nt.ru/ Nizhny Tagil Museum-Reserve "Gornozavodskoy Ural"

Tagil trays: floral masterpieces on iron in Nizhny Tagil

4 minutes to read

Dostoevsky wrote that beauty would save the world. People have always strived for beauty - whether it is a person, nature, or housing. Due to the desire to decorate life, Gzhel, Khokhloma, Tula samovars, and other folk crafts developed in Russia. I want to invite you to admire the trays from Nizhny Tagil -  floral masterpieces on iron.

The history of the trays

The Zhostovo tray is widely known, while the Tagil tray is less so. However, the latter is 100 years older. The tray craft originated in Nizhny Tagil more than 250 years ago. One of the main reasons for the birth of the iron tray was the manufacture in Nizhny Tagil of the high-quality metal brand "Old Sable." This brand was known far beyond the borders of not only the Urals but also Russia. The manufacturing of Old Sable and the presence of qualified artisans who brilliantly possess the skills of working with iron turned these trays into must-have objects of each household.

© museum-nt.ru/ Nizhny Tagil Museum-Reserve "GornozavodskoyUral"
© museum-nt.ru/ Nizhny Tagil Museum-Reserve "GornozavodskoyUral"

With this trend, tea parties became fashionable. At first, large metal trays were used for domestic needs, only to be later painted for beauty. The metal paintings were immediately put on stream - a school was opened at the Demidov Metallurgical Plant to transform students into master painters. Even foreign masters were invited here to be taught this beautiful art form.

Painting techniques

The founders of the tray business are the Khudoyarov artists. In the house where they lived, there is now the History Museum of Tray Crafts. The Khudoyarovs invented “crystal lacquer," which gave volume and depth to the artwork. The secret of lacquer is simple: the most accurate dosage of components, including linseed and hemp oil. Just like that, the heyday of an unusual type of painting began - paintings on metal

© museum-nt.ru/ Nizhny Tagil Museum-Reserve "Gornozavodskoy Ural"
© museum-nt.ru/ Nizhny Tagil Museum-Reserve "Gornozavodskoy Ural"

At first, scenes from the Bible were depicted, and then the very “fly-letter” appeared, with which they still write. A fly painting is when two paints are drawn on a brush, so the stroke is called double, although the movement with the brush is one. This brushstroke is universal; with this technique, artisans can paint everything - flowers, berries, leaves, trees, birds, animals, or people.

© museum-nt.ru/ Nizhny Tagil Museum-Reserve "Gornozavodskoy Ural"
© museum-nt.ru/ Nizhny Tagil Museum-Reserve "Gornozavodskoy Ural"

The hight of the tray industry occurred in the middle of the XIX century. The paintings of this period can be divided into two types: realistic and folk primitive, similar to the popular print. Primitive paintings were applied to inexpensive products that diverged among the peasants of the surrounding villages and factory workers. Trays made of high-quality metals, with realistic drawings - historical plots, beautiful landscapes - were acquired by wealthy people.

Flower paintings

Flowers are the primary motive for the Tagil tray paintingsDaisiescloversbellsforget-me-notsviolets, and peonies weave in a fancy pattern, creating a summer mood. But most of all, artists liked to portray a rose, which is considered the queen of flowers. In folk tales and legends, flowers endow with secret witching power. Flowers are the embodiment of beauty. They are beautiful but short-lived. To extend flowering, to stop a beautiful moment of prosperity, and to make changeable beauty always accompany a person - the masters from Nizhny Tagil strove for this.

© museum-nt.ru/ Nizhny Tagil Museum-Reserve "Gornozavodskoy Ural"
© museum-nt.ru/ Nizhny Tagil Museum-Reserve "Gornozavodskoy Ural"

The History Museum of the Tray Crafts

The History Museum of the Tray Crafts, Nizhny Tagil
The History Museum of the Tray Crafts, Nizhny Tagil

The History Museum of the Tray Crafts is part of the Nizhny Tagil Museum-Reserve "Gornozavodskoy Ural." It has a rich collection of exhibits dating from the 18th century to the present. Here you can see how a piece of art is born from a piece of metal

© museum-nt.ru/ Nizhny Tagil Museum-Reserve "Gornozavodskoy Ural"
© museum-nt.ru/ Nizhny Tagil Museum-Reserve "Gornozavodskoy Ural"

Tagil craftsmen were able to make not only trays. Other unique creations of their hands are also presented in the museum. I especially liked the elegant little table box made of copper. In the center of the countertop is the Russian Empire's coat of arms and a portrait of Catherine the First. The coats of arms of Russian provinces are located on the edge of the table box, and on the inside of the lid, there is an emblem of the Demidov clan. 

© museum-nt.ru/ Nizhny Tagil Museum-Reserve "Gornozavodskoy Ural"
© museum-nt.ru/ Nizhny Tagil Museum-Reserve "Gornozavodskoy Ural"

In the 18th-19th centuries, painted Tagil chests were very popular at Russian fairs. They were bought as a gift for newlyweds. On the walls of these chests are scenes depicted from family life, inspired by sentimental German novels.

© museum-nt.ru/ Nizhny Tagil Museum-Reserve "Gornozavodskoy Ural"
© museum-nt.ru/ Nizhny Tagil Museum-Reserve "Gornozavodskoy Ural"

Colorful souvenirs

The traditions of the old Ural masters are continued today, and to buy a painted tray in Nizhny Tagil is very easy. There are specialized tray shops in the city. By the way, they are much cheaper than the trays from Zhostovo. Also, you can paint a tray for yourself if you attend a master class. You can sign up for a course in the Nizhny Tagil Center of Crafts. In any case, Nizhny Tagil trays- floral masterpieces on iron - will add bright colors to your life.

Nizhny Tagil Center of Crafts, Nizhny Tagil
Nizhny Tagil Center of Crafts, Nizhny Tagil

The author

Natalya Lisovskaya

Natalya Lisovskaya

Hi, I'm Natalya, a journalist from the ancient Siberian city of Tyumen, in the Ural Federal District. I love my Siberian land, its rich history and the harsh and majestic beauty of its nature. I hope you will fall in love with it too, after reading my stories.

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