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Floral Designs on Sacrificial Towels from an Old Believers’ Prayer House

https://doi.org/10.17746/1563-0110.2020.48.4.125-134

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Abstract

We reconstruct the semantics of fl oral compositions on commemorative towels, embroidered by women, members of the Old Believers Bespopovtsy (priestless worship community rejecting marriage) in Novosibirsk. The original vine motif, associated with the funerary cult, was transformed by replacing vines with more familiar motifs, such as flowers, berries, buds, etc. Certain designs resemble those found in late 19th to early 20th century embroidery manuals and on wrappers of cheap soap manufactured by Rallet, Brocard, etc. In most cases, however, there are no exact parallels. Some fl oral compositions are original: for instance, those showing vases with scrolls reminiscent of Jesus Christ’s monogram, and “vases” turned into letters on Our Savior’s icons. The results of the technological and stylistic analyses suggest that most sacrificial towels were made in the late 1800s and early 1900s, some in the 1940s and 1950s, and some may have been manufactured in places of the Old Believers’ former residence in northern and central Russia. Designs arranged in friezes or central fi gures, such as crosses, cruciate motifs, “vases”, or “vaults”, allude to the Old Believers’ fundamental values. Ritual towels evidence motifs on commercial embroideries creatively transformed by Old Believers according to their beliefs and traditions.

About the Authors

E. F. Fursova
Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, Siberian Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences
Russian Federation

Department Head

Pr. Akademika Lavrentieva 17, Novosibirsk, 630090



M. V. Vasekha
Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Russian Academy of Sciences
Russian Federation

Researcher

Leninsky pr. 32A, Moscow, 119334



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For citation:


Fursova E.F., Vasekha M.V. Floral Designs on Sacrificial Towels from an Old Believers’ Prayer House. Archaeology, Ethnology & Anthropology of Eurasia. 2020;48(4):125-134. https://doi.org/10.17746/1563-0110.2020.48.4.125-134

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ISSN 1563-0110 (Print)