Children's and Miniature Arms from the 16th
- 19th Centuries in the Hermitage Collection
The exhibition begins with examples of Western European defensive arms dating from the 16th-17th centuries. In its outward appearance - the forms, configurations and construction -children's armor copies the armor of adults and differs only in terms of the smaller sizes. Armor like this was used for instruction in the principles of the martial arts.
The same objectives were served by scale models. The exhibition displays two cannon cast in Italy in the 17th century. They are reduced-size operational copies of field artillery pieces of the period.
At the exhibition one can see works by masters from Tula, which was the celebrated center of armaments production in Russia. The art of the famous arms masters is amazing in terms of the perfect technical and artistic execution. In the elegant forms of children's and miniature arms and pistols, in the ingenious designs on the rifle butts and handles, which are highlighted by thin silver wire, we can easily appreciate the original creativity of the skilled Tula craftsmen.
Another center of arms production was Izhevsk, where a set of miniature operational models of the well known rifle by the outstanding Russian designer S.I. Mosin was made. Here we see the infantry, dragoons and Cossack versions.
Whereas Tula historically became a multifaceted center of arms production in Russia, Izhevsk acquired renown thanks to its excellent firearms and the city of Zlatoust in the Urals was celebrated for its various forms of swords and related blade weapons. Children's fencing rapiers, miniature sabers and broadswords with blades decorated in the finest engraving on a blued and gilded background and signed by the outstanding master designers and artists - all of this evokes delight at the talent of the creators.
One rare example of an attribute of daily military life on display in the exhibition is a child's drum which was given by the Empress Catherine the Great to her grandson, Grand Duke Alexander Pavlovich, the future Emperor Alexander I.
There is surprising wealth of types and shapes of items, as well as surprising diversity of decorative elements in works produced by arms producers in the Orient, the famous masters of Iran and India, Central Asia, the Caucasus and Turkey. There is a curious example of a child's version of defensive arms that is part of a set of Iranian armor dating from the 18th to early 19th century. This served to defend the body of a warrior and bore the well known name of "the four mirrors."
The exhibition has displays representing the longstanding traditions of choice and application of certain ways of decorating a weapon that existed in practically every historic region of the East.
A color catalogue of the exhibition with illustrations has been issued
by the State Hermitage Publishing House. The author of the catalogue and
curator of the exhibition is Yuri Aleksandrovich Miller, director of the
Arsenal Department of the State Hermitage.