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(Viatka, Kirov toys), painted modeled clay figurines of people and animals, sometimes in the form of whistles (svistul’ki). The toys are a Russian folk craft in which mainly women are engaged and which has existed from time immemorial in the sloboda (tax-exempt settlement) of Dymkovo near the city of Viatka (now part of Kirov).
Whistles representing horses, riders, or birds originate in ancient magic ritual objects and are connected with holidays of the agricultural year. Later, having lost their magical significance, the figurines became children’s toys, and the production of them became an artistic craft. Until the 20th century, the making of these toys coincided with the spring fair, called svistun’e (first mentioned in written sources in 1811). At the end of the 19th century the craft declined, and Dymkovo toys were replaced by factory-made molded plaster figurines that imitated porcelain articles. In the Soviet period the craft has been revived. In 1933 an artel called Viatka Toy was organized (in 1948 it became a workshop of the Art Fund of the RSFSR). Today Dymkovo toys are used as decorative sculpture and are a popular Russian souvenir.
Dymkovo toys are modeled from local potter’s clay to which river sand has been added; the various parts are attached with liquid clay. After they have been dried and fired in an oven, Dymkovo toys are whitened with chalk dissolved in milk. Then they are painted with distemper (until 1953, with aniline pigments mixed with eggs; from four to ten or more different colors) and decorated with gold tinsel. In contemporary Dymkovo toys one can find ancient motifs as well as such late 19th-century motifs as figurines of gentry ladies, nannies, and water carriers. In the 1930’s the range of themes was broadened to include fairy-tale themes and scenes from contemporary life, and groups of figures on pedestals appeared, as well as large figures (over 30 cm). The massive, universalized, and somewhat grotesque forms are set off by frills and fluffy collars. The bright, decorative painting, with its vibrant and harmonious color combinations, includes geometric ornamentation (circles, squares, stripes, dots of different colors and sizes) and, being improvised, it strengthens the expressiveness of the modeling. The works of a number of women artists became well known: A. A. Mezrina, E. A. Koshkina, O. I. Konovalova, Z. F. Bezdenezhnykh, E. I. Penkina, and E. I. Koss-Den’shina.
REFERENCESRusskaia narodnaia igrushka, part 1, Viatskaia lepnaia glinianaia igrushka. Drawings by A. Den’shin. Text by A. Bakushinskii. Moscow, 1929.
D’iakonov, L. Dymkovskie glinianye raspisnye. Leningrad, 1965.
O. S. POPOVA