- Project Runeberg -  Impressions of Russia /
162

(1889) [MARC] Author: Georg Brandes Translator: Samuel Coffin Eastman - Tema: Russia
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originality could be exhibited in the treatment of the head
and countenance of the holy persons, they strove, in
consequence, to make amends by encircling these heads
with golden halos, inlaid with pearls and precious stones,
and engraved with the most delicate appreciation of art,
and by ornamenting the breast of the image with plates
inlaid with gold and silver in blazing designs, and
worked in niello with arabesques. Some of these halos
and breast-plates from the sixteenth century, with small
green leaves and small blue flowers inlaid in the gold
matte, or with green in different shades, enclosed by
white lines, and with single black leaves and black
geometric lines in the gold, are of a beauty, of a
fascinating, inspiring loveliness, of which no description can
convey any idea.

The common houses, built of the trunks of trees,
remind one of the manner of building in Switzerland
and Norway. Kindred material has produced kindred
forms, even if the peculiar Russian stamp is easily
recognizable. Thus even before the time of Peter the
Great, Russia had fully developed its artistic peculiarities.
In so far as the foreign invasion which ensued
did not place itself at the service of these peculiarities,
it only succeeded in retarding or stopping their development
until the national spirit in this century took a
new start in artistic as well as in other domains.

The nineteenth century has brought an art of painting
to Russia for the first time. Catharina collected
pictures in the Hermitage, and founded an academy of art
in order to obtain artists for her empire as other
countries have them. But what they painted, they never
sold. The rich Russian of her day bought only foreign
pictures; and, in order not to make an utter failure, the
native artists then began, as well as they could, to

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