Artistic chasing — the oldest craft of Uzbekistan

The origins of arts and crafts go back centuries. Modern craftsmen and masters, carefully preserving and continuing the traditions of decorative and applied art, creatively developed it, enriching it with new compositional ideas embodied in metal to perfection. Their works were distinguished by a variety of artistic forms, a wealth of creative imagination and technical techniques. Each work reflects the wisdom, poetic impulse, the soul of the peoples of Uzbekistan.
In a rich and diverse applied art of Uzbekistan an important role is given to the toreutics — the art of embossed art processing of metal products. When it comes to the toreutics of Uzbekistan of ancient and medieval times, then it refers to the production of art objects made of metal at that time in the cities of Central Asia, which were located on the territory of modern Uzbekistan.

Coinage — artistic processing of copper, which is considered one of the oldest forms of folk art, and has long been popular among the local population. They were appreciated for their decorative qualities, hammered copper utensils were exhibited in niches, as part of the ornamental decoration. Bukhara, Khiva and Kokand were considered to be the centers of production of ornamented copper products.

Uzbek chasing represented the various techniques of engraving, the more deep engraving is called kandakori. Less deep, clean engraving — chizma, also was used Welt chasing — the Shin bet. Together with coinage, engraving and embossing, often used mobile, enamel, precious and semi-precious stones, colored glass and wax. The entire surface of the processed object is covered with geometric and floral ornament. The most popular and often used on old products decorative elements were inscriptions, which were executed in Arabic script, and sometimes letters in different combinations. The most famous were the chased products of Bukhara and Khiva masters, who were distinguished by the beauty and plasticity of forms, the rigor of the ornament motifs and the depth of the chased.
In the ornament of modern chiselers, began to appear new figurative elements, in the form of a Bodom (almond), koshbodom (two-way almond), stylized cotton boxes and other national ornaments.

The toreutics in the number of unique samples, a kind of masterpieces of different eras, thematic abundance of motifs and the diversity of artistic and technical means and methods of toreutics in Uzbekistan significantly surpasses other branches of artistic crafts. Thanks to the continuity that has developed over many centuries of tradition in toreutics, developed their aesthetic canons, and reached a high level of perfection of craftsmanship. Works of toreutics, most often became sources of distribution of new art products as metal products were in great demand in trade.

Looking at the path of the historical development of toreutics of the peoples of Uzbekistan, we see the combination of the disparate traditions. Central Asian metal works have always had an artistic originality of style.

Local masters — chasers of copper, created their works of various metals: gold, silver, copper, bronze and brass. The toreutics of antiquity and the early middle ages was represented by the products of silver gilt, and starting with the XI century in Central Asia and the near and middle East, the main products of craftsmen become products of copper and its alloys. For many centuries, artistic canons were developed and techniques of technical execution were improved.

Many collections of copper minted products of Uzbekistan are in the State Hermitage in St. Petersburg, in the State Museum of arts of Uzbekistan in Tashkent. Unique samples of Uzbek masters of the XIX – XX centuries are kept in the Museum of applied art in Tashkent, Samarkand, local history museums of Khiva, Bukhara, Kokand and in many cities. There are a number of private collections in Uzbekistan and abroad.

Especially popular among them were richly decorated, inlaid elegant water jugs, which had different names and differed in their silhouettes and shapes. In the collections there were all sorts of bowl-shaped vessels for water and other liquids, various household items, vessels for storing all sorts of little things, boxes, devices for smoking, snuff boxes, writing sets of pencil cases and ink tanks, a lot of lamps, hunting drums and others.

No less popular in the decoration of gold and silver products were cult and mythological subjects of ancient Iranian, Hellenic and often local Central Asian origin. They include images of mythological and epic heroes, various deities, images of fantastic creatures and real birds and animals.

The development of toreutics in the XVI-XVII centuries can be judged from the information of written sources of that time and images on miniatures. Shields, helmets, sabers and daggers, which are decorated with rich chased pattern and overhead decorations made of precious metals survived till now. Wide belts were intended for noble grandees and commanders. The leading centers for the manufacture of weapons and armor were Bukhara, Samarkand, Khiva and the city of Fergana Valley. The art collections of Uzbekistan in the 18th and early 20th centuries are widely and fully represented in the museum collections.

The methods of drawing the pattern were the same everywhere and were reduced to the following types: chased, engraved and open-cut. Often richly ornamented metal utensils, served as a decoration for the interior of wealthy citizens, being an indicator of the viability of its owner. Products of copper embossing were created by craftsmen of three specialties, braziers made molds, tinned, foundry casting vessels and parts of forms, that is, handles of vessels, cupolas on the lids, nose tips and hinges, engravers decorated products with fine embossing and engraving.

Chasing — thin handmade work, which is done with quite a simple tool — kalam (pencil). Types of kalams are very diverse and applied depending on the nature of the ornament and technology of drawing a pattern. At the same time in a set of tools there is a hammer and objects for grinding of a surface of a product after stamping (randa and maskal — type of files). To apply the outline of the pattern on the surface of the product, experienced craftsmen coiners who know a lot of patterns, without resorting to the preliminary application of the outlines, applied the pattern immediately with a chisel.
A common explanation of the Uzbek ornamental motif is “islimi” and its varieties, which consist of climbing stems, patterns, flowers and leaves. Patterns “islimi” are used in filling medallions, rosettes, geometric shapes and various friezes.

Geometric ornament bears in the chasing often the payload, since most geometric patterns taken from the motifs of architectural decoration. This was due to the fact that in the past there were a specialty of the ornament artist named nakkosh, who comprised patterns for architects and embossers.

The General process of development of the style of Central Asian coinage, was accompanied at the same time by the formation of its local schools, fully developed in the XIX century. Especially famous at that time chased products of Bukhara. The products of the masters of Bukhara chasers were distinguished by restrained elegance of forms, classical balance of proportions and stability of ornamental motifs. In the products of these schools felt the rigor of the system, which indicates a deep and rich traditions. Bukhara’s chasing underwent less changes than other schools and preserved many ancient forms and traditional patterns. At the beginning of the XX century masters of Bukhara began to make new in the form of silver products in imitation of imported factory products: vases for fruits, sugar bowls, kettles and many other household products. Bukhara was considered the largest center of regional coinage.

Artistic metal is the most ancient craft of Uzbekistan that has come a long and difficult way. Today, ancient art is gradually acquiring a new life. The main value of Uzbek coinage was that its best designs reflect the richness of the creators’ souls, their poetic feelings and ideas about the world, nature and beauty that have developed over the centuries in the popular worldview.