Masters of "heads" and "tails"1 2016

Masters of "heads" and "tails"

After more than a century-long break, the only medallier class in the country has been re-opened in Saint Petersburg

Medalliers are those who invent and embody coins, jubilee roubles, medals in metal. There are very few specialists of the kind in the country. The main problem of recruiting the unusual guild has been the absence of a specialized educational center. This October, a workshop for nurturing future artists of heads and tails was opened within the territory of the Saint Petersburg Mint, at the Peter and Paul Fortress. The State Institute of Painting named after I. Repin and Goznak were the project initiators.

The first group consists of three third-year students of the Sculpture Department of Repins Institute. Alexander Vasilievich Baklanov, a Peoples Artist of Russia, the author of all the present Russian coins from 1 kopeck and up to 10 roubles, became the supervisor of the class. He has initiated the class re-opening for the last few years.

I came to the Mint as an ordinary painter one day, said Alexander Baklanov. It took me a few years to master the profession! How have we prepared specialists until recently? I looked for young people interested and invited them to study, we started from the very beginning. For example, a sculptor, an architect, a theater artist, a designer work together with me now. However, the orders appear continuously, our job is uninterrupted. We cant explain to the customers that we have no employees, so we try to find the best possible way out. We designed and modeled over 100 kinds of commemorative coins only last year; this year, already 90. Therefore it is extremely important for the artists to master the new profession still at the institute.

Among the subjects of the new course, according to Mr. Baklanov, there are general ones sculpture, drawing, composition. As well as profile subjects engraving, properties of materials, heraldics. The students will be engaged in general modeling at first. Later on they will pass to delicate shapes, like coins and medals, only larger. The wax relief thickness may comprise 2 to 5 centimeters at the first stage. At the last one, it cant be more than 3 millimeters!

The medallier business as an art appeared in Russia two centuries ago. Before then, they only stamped flattemed pieces of silver and copper. Catherine II proposed the first program of educating medal artists. And it provided excellent results, the graduates formed a constellation of outstanding craftsmen! Fedor Tolstoy, the author of the series of medallions in honor of the victory in the Patriotic war of 1812 that received all possible European prizes, was among them for example. The beginning of the 19th century itself is considered the golden age of the Russian medallier business.

The silver age the 1870s is connected with the name of Anton Vasyutinskiy, the author of numerous well-known works, including the commemorative medal issued on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the House of Romanov, gold roubles of the 1890s, and later on kopecks and chervonets coins of the 1920s. Representatives of this generation passed their knowledge to the new recruitment of the Mint during the soviet time.

The old men who taught me had worked with the pupils of Vasyutinskiy, explained Alexander Baklanov. They first of all taught the employee morale accuracy and exactness are very important here. As well as such niceties as the wax recipe that we still use for our sketches modelling. Or the shape of the stack an instrument we process relief models with. I hardly apply my pupils stack now. But it is always on my desk

Alexander Vasilievich explains that the most important thing about the medallier business is not only the technique but the thought clarity too. One should be able to reflect an event or an epoch in a small image. How the Greek coins take ones heart! They are absolutely plain, but one cant take his eyes off them! It means that the artist has put something really important into the small piece of metal, something greater than he himself is.

Source: Ogoniok Magazine, October 2016
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