village of Zhostovo outside Moscow
is a world-famous Russian folk art center. It's popular for
their painted trays decorated with bright bunches of flowers
on the black background. The skillful and talented masters of
Zhostovo have turned these domestic utensils into real masterpieces
The floral designs of Zhostovo trays display beauty of
nature and a cheerful, optimistic sense of life. Hand-drawn
flowers from the Moscow suburb are unique and famous throughout
the world for their color and beauty. Using a special double
brush technique, the artists in Zhostovo paint on a variety
of objects, but the large Zhostovo metal trays make for some
of the most spectacular art pieces.
tray has a very long history, more than 170 years.
first workshop of tray painted decoration was opened in 1825
by the Vehnyakov Brothers (former serfs). Soon tray painting
became an independent handicraft. The trays were very popular
and the business spreaded to some neighboring villages: Ostashkovo,
Troitskoe, Sorokino, Khlebnikovo, but only Zhostovo saved its
artistic merit at present days.
The craft appeared under the influence of painting
on metal. It was based on manufacture of lacquer articles
made of papier-mache. At the end of the 18th and the beginning
of the 19th centuries the articles made of papier-mache, such
as caskets, snuff-boxes, tea-sets, cigar-cases, appeared in
the villages called Danilkovo, Fedoskino,
the middle of the 19th century 12 workshops had already worked
continuing the traditions of Ivanovo chintzes, Fedoskino miniature,
village painters of chests and spinning-wheels.
Zhostovo artists created their own artistic system, their
There are two directions in the base of that system:
first is the studying of ornamentation of russian folk handycrafts,
and second is the assimilating of experience of realistic paintings
of style life of XIX century. That's where Zhostrovo artists
found the endless variety of themes and compositions for their
works, that is where they studied the secrets of colour and
oil painting technique.
style and methods of Zhostovo painted decoration have acquired
all traditions of folk art ornamentation and realistic still-life
painting. However, the tendency of painting bunches of flowers
became leading. Today, after more than 170 years existence of
the handicraft the village of Zhostovo turned into a unique
center of Russian folk art.
The Zhostovo trays are usually black coloured, but there
may be some different colours: green, blue, ivory black, different
shades of red and golden.
trays are decorated with gaudy, very beautiful flowers gathered
in bouquet. Sometimes artists could paint fruits, berries and
very rare animals and insects. Radiant, festively painting that
comes out of an artist's brush turns usual things into the beautiful
images that could always admire you. That's probably why Zhostovo's
trays were always used as an ornamentation: they were hung on
the wall or put on the shell. Many people also line to decorate
their modern houses with Zhostovo trays
to the Presidents Decree dated the 6th of November 1993,
Zhostovo folk was included into the State Index of the most
valuable objects of culture of the Russian Federation. Zhostovo
Decorative Painting Manufactory - it is the name of the
place where professionalism and talent of the handicraft masters
create a real marvel - Zhostovo trays, at all times a desired
present for every family.
Nowadays the works of Zhostovo artists are on display
at various exhibitions and museums not only in Russia, but in
many other countries as well.
technique of painting is kept and used till now.
Before the tray became a marvelous picture it is pressed
out of metal and its further technology is similar to Fedoskino
First the tray is grounded (prime coated) and is dread
at a temperature of 60-140oC degrees. After that it is lacquered
three times with black lacquer, every new layer is dried and
polished. Only after that the talented artist's hands could
touch it. Zhostovo artists similar to Fedoskino artists paint
with oil using Squirrel brushes.
Then, it was given to the painter. At first, the painter
draws the silhouettes of flowers and leaves, gathering them
into the bouquets. He never repeats all the details of the
painting twice. Every tray is original.
Then, a painter, using a soft brush, makes shadows, then
- long primer, then - highlights. After all, he draws carefully
all details and binds a bouquet with background by slim volutes.
In conclusion, a gold tracery is painted on the trays
bead; the tray is covered by 3 layers of light lacquer and polished.
Zhostovo artists paint very quickly and accurately. While
working an artists holds the tray on his lap and rotates it.
He is kind of looking for a balance between the painting, the
shape and the size of a tray.
Zhostovo trays have very different Shapes (there are
some 30 shapes) oval, right-angled, guitar shaped, octahedral,
scalloped and other.
The painting of flowers is very realistic, but artists
never repeat accurate shapes of natural flowers, although
they know the colour and the structure of the flowers very
good. As a rule their flowers are more juicy, more splendid
and colourful, than flowers, artists find the convincing verisimilitude
combining imaginary with natural, that is so typical for any
folk handycraft. They create the picture of joyful, festively
In spite of strict traditions, the painting of every
artist is very individual,every artist has his own manner,
his favourite themes and compositions, his favourite flower.
To learn more about Zhostovo Trays click
Books: "Masterpieces of Russian Folk Art: Zhostovo
Painted Trays", Author: I. Boguslavskaya, Interbook,
The book is full of color pictures showing different
style trays and has an 18 page introduction describing the art
and its history. A very nice and professionally done book for
your coffee table.