Mezen painted boxes and home utensils are the most famous and popular Russian gifts and souvenirs from Russian North.
Mezen, it is the name of the traditional handpainting in the region of Arkhangelsk. It got it’s name after the Mezen’ river flowing into the White Sea, where villages produced painted utensils. The Mezen’s painting is the most ancient among other Russian applied art of the same kind. The craft has been originated at the time of the formation of the first Slavic tribes - Pagan times, before Christianity.
The Mezen painting brightly displays Slavic archaic notions about the world around. Its patterns remind pictures on the rocks at the coast of the White Sea. The Mezen’s painting differs from the other northern Russian paintings. It has graphic primitive drawing and bright decorative ornaments. The Mezen’s painting is also characterized by stingy color palette.
Craftsmen used only two colors – red and black. They put colors on the natural wood and then covered it with drying oil.
In spite of apparent simplicity the ornaments are very interesting. Geometrical lines - ancient slave symbols of the ground, sun and water are combined with the horses, deers and birds. It was ancient way to express different messages due to the fact that any symbol had its own meaning .
Here are the most favorite symbols of the Mezen’s painting. Red Deer. The Slavs believed that deer brings happiness and joy to people. Horses, also the frequent protagonists of the Mezen ornaments. Running in a circle of the red horses simbolizes changing seasons, living cycles, dying and reviving. Slavs considered horses to bring the Sun on the sky every morning. The craftsmen of the Russian North willingly portray a mythical bird called Sirin. In the Russian Folk Art this ancient Slavic symbol originated from Grecian cirens personifies bird of paradise and symbolizes kindness and happiness. The square in the center of the plate symbolizes sowed field. Boxes and other home utensils are also lavishly decorated with cross-shaped and solar signs – symbols of the Fire and the Sun.
Though for the most part the Mezen’s utensil produced for women, only men could be masters of the Mezen’s painting. Covering the utensils and gifts with the Mezen’s painting Russian craftsman wishes people strong health, hapiness and long life.
One can read these paintings as a book, and below is some meanings of ornaments: