Amazing Hand Painted Eggs – Popular Folk Art Form of Russia
The old traditional art form of Russia is magnificently colourful and unique in its characteristics. Russian folk art has enhanced the life of local people for many centuries and still people use them as antique handicrafts to decorate their homes. Painting eggs in Russia is an ancient as well as popular Easter tradition. It is also called Pisanki derived from the Slavic root pisa which relates to writing.
The custom of making hand-painted eggs is countless centuries old. The delicate art of painting eggs is passed down from mother to daughter, generation after generation. In Russian folklore, the painted egg is the metaphor of sun and lightening and the symbol of renaissance in spring.
Selecting the prized eggs
The artists select the largest and whitest eggs from the most prized layers. Black beeswax taken from the hives in autumn is kept into a tin. The artists get ready with their miniature working tools.
Assembling special miniature tools
With the onset of spring the craftsmen get ready with their tiny copper foil funnels attached to wooden handles which are used to paint the eggs.
Painting the eggs
Painting eggs is a ritual in Russia. The artist sits down at a table with a dish of eggs in front. A cast iron pot full of glowing coals is used to keep the tin of wax hot while working. Many little foil cones filled with hot molten wax are kept in the tin.
An egg is picked up and designs are drawn on the egg with the wax-filled cone. Traditionally straight and wavy lines, triangles, spirals are used as for the drawing. A common popular design is to draw a two deer set among stars. Artists who are keeping this old form alive create so many different designs on this small surface that it is almost impossible to find two eggs alike. All these designs have a definite symbol or magic meaning. Painted ear of corn symbolizes a bumper harvest. Carpathian Mountain animals that local people consider as symbols of prosperity, like ponies, deer, goats, doves, hen etc. are used on the painted eggs in abundance.
The contours of the patterns are drawn with the molten wax and when the egg is dipped into a brightly colored paint like yellow, the designs drawn in wax are still visible in white.
After the first coat of paint is applied and completely dried, the artist again uses the wax-filled cone to draw the next set of design on the surface of the egg. The egg is again soaked in a pot filled with a different color like orange, and the yellow pattern is left under the second series of wax lines.
The artist repeats the process and dips the egg in darker colors like red, brown and black consecutively.
The painted egg is held over the coals and the swollen wax is wiped off with a soft cloth. The egg starts glittering with rainbow colors. Now all the intricate designs painted on the egg are clearly visible with perfect patterns and amazing color scheme.
Finally, the egg is covered with lard or a transparent lacquer so that the colors last. Inside the egg, the yolk will dry up but the egg will last long. Sometimes a needle is used to make a tiny hole in the egg and it is filled up with wax to make it less fragile.
Some of the ancient painted eggs lasted as long as few hundred years and the colors remained as bright as ever.
Copyright (2010) Sudarshana Maitra
Author name: Sudarshana Maitra
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