Zhostovo painting – Metal trays that you can’t take your eyes off

Zhostovo painting (Жо́стовская ро́спись) is the Russian folk art craft of painting on forged metal trays. It originated in the village of the same name, Zhostovo, located in Moscow region.

Zhostovo painting – Metal trays that you can’t take your eyes off

A brief history of the craft

Things went well, and after five years, the production of metal trays decorated with paintings increased in Zhostovo and the surrounding villages. The favorable geographical position of the village provided the masters with a permanent market to sell their products and buy raw materials.

In 1861, serfdom was abolished in the Russian Empire. At the same time, many villagers began to open their production following the example of Vishnyakov. Very soon, there were already 12 large family productions, and even a tray painting school was established. At the same time, the name “Zhostovsky” got stuck to the craft.

In the 20’s and 30’s of the last century, the masters of Zhostovo had a hard time, since the trends propagated by the Soviet authorities were at odds with the specifics of local art. However, the artists were able to resist the changes introduced from above and directed their new ideas to deepen the traditional craftsmanship.

In the 1960s, a new stage of development began in the history of Zhostovo which continues to this day. The unique works of Zhostovo artists began to attract attention at numerous exhibitions in Russia and abroad. Trays from everyday life turned into works of art, and the craft gained a unique status.

Everything in the village of Zhostovo reminds people of the industry. Painted trays are even used instead of house number plates.

A USSR stamp depicting an example of Zhostovo painting
A USSR stamp depicting an example of Zhostovo painting

Motives and nuances of production

The main motive of the Zhostovo painting is a flower bouquet. Large and bright flowers are in the center, small flowers and shadows are on the edges to give the illusion of volume. The metal powder and gold added to the paints make the picture glow from the inside.

The painting is usually made on a black background, but sometimes you can find red, blue, green and silver samples.

Produced trays are divided into two groups: for domestic purposes and for decoration. The form of trays can be absolutely any: round, octagonal, oval, combined, etc.

Historically, trays were forged by hand. Currently, the production of part of the trays is mechanized, the rest are still made by hand forging.

Zhostovo tray
Zhostovo tray. Source: Wikipedia.

After forging, the preparation of a tray is being prepared for painting: degreasing, filling, polishing, priming and coating with black enamel.

The technology of painting on black enamel came to Russia from the east more than 4 centuries ago. Russian masters adapted the sophisticated technology of the East to the materials available to them, and improved it achieving high quality products.

Usually one master works on several trays at once. Everyone has their own set of brushes for painting, suitable for him.

Artists and blacksmiths always have ideas about new forms of trays that could continue the classic series of Zhostovo products. This constant search for new and creative initiative makes the craftsmen produce modern, sought-after artistic products without falling into kitsch or tastelessness.

You can enjoy the beauty of the craft (and even buy something if you are located in Russia) on the site of the factory.

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