Russian Samovars - A.A. Lobanov Collection
The samovar uniquely symbolizes Russian hospitality, the special warmth and sociabilty shared among family, friends and guests, which acts as an antidote to daily challenges. Since tea first appeared in Russia during the middle of the XVIIth century,Russia has joined Britain in developing tea-drinking culture in Europe.
It is difficult to determine when, where and by whom the first samovar was designed but we know its origin and prehistory Russian craftsmen invented the samovar as a focus of tea drinking activities by adapting an ancient kettle-like device, used for centuries to brew "Sbitten" - a traditional Russian drink consisting of water or light beer, honey and spices. On a functional level, a samovar (translated as "self-boiler") is a cylindrical junk of water which, like a sbitten kettle, is heated by an internal chimney into which burning wood is placed. Unlike traditional kettles however, samovars feature faucets to dispense boiling water for brewing concentrated tea in a pot and for diluting the concentrate in individual cups.
Most importantly, samovars are placed on a table around which people can gather to enjoy tea, share camaraderie and take in the moist warmth generated by the samovar.
Samovars quickly became a new media through which designers expressed creativity, craftsmen displayed skill with copper and brass and owners expressed their status and taste. During its first century, the samovar was a symbol of upper-class wealth since tea was only available to the Tsar and his nobles, later to the merchants, who finally passed it to the common people.
As trade made tea affordable to more people, samovar designs blossomed from the traditional rounded cylinder to include such variations as "Vase", "Goblet", "Pear", "Wineglass", "Sphere", "Egg", and the coveted "Barrel". Each basic shape was a blank slate on which metalworkers could emboss patterns and shapes. During XVIIIth century, as travel increased, designers created traveling samovars which were smaller.
The XIXth century saw an early and successful form of arms industry re-orientation when the cannon factories of Tula in central Russia specialized in large-scale production of samovars during times of peace. For the first time, samovars became affordable to most households. These factories, run by families such as Batashov and Vorontsov, employed designers who created new and extraordinary styles. The best designs were entered into international competitions and thereby samovars became better-known in Europe and North America. Starting with the Rooster-Samovar's first prize at the Grand Prix of the Vienna World Fair in 1873 samovar designs won awards at competitions held in Paris, Boston, the Chicago Worlds Fair.
The problems and demands of the twentieth century meant that samovar manufacturing declined as an art, and gradually, mostly function remained. However, a few concerned enthusiasts sought to preserve this unique Russian heritage.
Chief among these was Andrey Lobanov (1943-1998). A native of Saint Petersburg, his work required extensive travel around Russia, which enabled him to quietly assemble over thirty years the pre-eminent private collection of Samovars in Russia. The collection contains 200 samovars and 200 related items, each representing the best available examples of a shape or design. Some have special provenance, such as a samovar that was to be a gift from the last Tsar to the Emperor of Japan.
The collection preserves a tangible record of samovar development and variety within the context of Russia's overall cultural development. It is the only Russian privately owned collection which can boast the honor of being separately exhibited in the State Hermitage, Saint Petersburg.
Since the first exhibition as a part of cultural program of Olympic Games in Moscow in 1980, the collection was numerously exhibited in main Russian museums (1980-2012). International recognition includes Paris (1984), Prague (1986), Bodo (1991).
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