Enamel articles are beloved and popular for centuries. They attracted by their bright colors, shining, surprising beauty and firmness. The masters used rich decorative possibilities of the enamel improving the technology. The earliest in Russia were cloisonné and grooved enamel, then the technique of casting, engraving and shaping was developed.
The northern cities of Veliki Ustyug, Sol’vychegodsk and Vologda became the biggest jewelry centers of enamel production. In the 2nd half of the 17th century Usolskaya enamel made by Sol’vychegodsk masters was very famous. After the decorative enamel appeared the Sol’vychegodsk masters created their special way of painting on enamel. The decorative painting was laid on the copper surface that favoured the cost of the articles and their assortment. The masters used a special method of color shading, painted fluffy vegetable compositions with tulips in the center as they became one of the most spread drawings in the decorative applied art of the 17th century. Usolskaya enamel was distinctive by its multicolor: red, lilac, yellow, green, brown, rose and blue colors composed the main palette of the pattern. The painting was made as a rule on a white background that amplified the sounds of the colors. Decorative drawings of birds, insects, mythological animals were well fit with vegetable ornaments, scenes from the Bible and moralizing compositions.
The art of Sol’vychegodsk masters of enamel made a great influence on the development of other jewelry centers including the Moscow center. The Sol’vychegodsk masters were sent to Moscow to raise the enamel production. The painted enamel articles were sent to the tsar’s and patriarchy’ chambers, they became precious decorations for the church and public.
But the growth of Usolskaya enamel art in Sol’vychegodsk didn’t last long. Even at the beginning of the 18th century when the city lost its economic significance, art of painting on enamel also faded. The painted enamel was replaced by one-color enamel – white, blue, green that fully covered the object. Shaped silver cover plates were fused into the enamel. At the end of the 18th century there was no more information about the existence of enamel production in Sol’vychegodsk.
In Veliki Ustyug city in the 30-40-s of the 18th century a local variety – «Ustyuzhskaya enamel» was founded distinctive by a big decorative peculiarity that couldn’t be found in other centers. The surface of the article made of copper was fully covered by one-color enamel, mostly white and was decorated with gold or silver figured cover plates. They were placed on the last layer of the enamel and during burning firmly stuck together. There were other methods as well. For example, in Ustyug the articles combined color enamel with filigree. Cloisonné of the 16-17 centuries was usually blue, green or brown on a white background.
The articles of Ustyuzhskaya color enamel made in baroque style had a form rich in plasticity and picturesque outline. The Ustyug masters by the time designed their own style that is distinctive by its rich vegetable ornament with lilies made by black, green and turquoise enamels on a white background. The halo and framework of the icons, crosses and other church utensils were decorated with such a delicate mosaic.