The Russian style on banknotes4 2018

The Russian style on banknotes

In 1887, the Expedition of Storing State Papers manufactured new samples of paper money the state credit notes. They were made in the Russian style and became a result of a sexennial work of two artists Adolf Charlemagne and Nikolay Nabokov.
The first of them was a recognized master of historical and battle painting, the author of many pictures and drawings and the famous deck of satin playing cards; the other was an architect, an artist, editor of The Sketches of Architecture and Art Industry Magazine. Both had worked at the Expedition of Storing State Papers for many years and created a lot of interesting works. Nabokov was the author of a series of calendars issued at the Expedition at the turn of the 19th and the 20th centuries; Charlemagne designed a variety of sketches of paper money in the 1880s 1890s. However, the most popular works of the artists were the banknotes of the model of 1887.

It was no coincidence that they appeared. By the middle of the 1880s, in circulation there were credit notes of the model of 1866 with the portraits of the Russian sovereigns created as a result of reorganization of the Expedition of Storing State Papers at the beginning of the 1860s. They had been high quality and well protected for their time, but they got out of date 20 years after. Therefore, since the beginning of the 1880s, they had looked for a new banknote design. A lot of sketches of banknotes of different face values have been preserved; they witness how the creative process progressed. The majority of the sketches have one thing in common the style. It is the fashionable then Russian style with ornaments, architectural décor elements and writing of the 11th 17th centuries intertwining. It matched the artistic tastes of the epoch of Alexander III with an appeal to the history, culture and heritage of the Ancient Russia, forced Russification of the suburbs of the huge empire and erection of architectural monuments according to the samples of the ancient Russian architecture.

The new banknotes became a bright example of the style. As a result, there was no room for portraits of the Russian sovereigns or ladies characters of Russia (such variants were also projected). Instead, one can see knights armor, highly decorated portals, ornaments and inscriptions stylized according to the ancient Russian samples on these currency units. The banknote of every face value had its color traditionally: one rouble was yellow and brown, three roubles green, five roubles blue etc. It is interesting that these colors dominated the backsides of the banknotes filled with fewer details. Perhaps it was done for the sake of keeping the tradition and liberating the artistic freedom of the painters at the same time. Technical considerations might have affected it too.

Not all banknotes of 1887 had a long life; the 25-rouble note was replaced in 5 years after the start of their issue already (by the way, the new variant of the banknote of this face value was the first currency unit with Orlovs printing); the 5-and 10-rouble notes were replaced soon afterwards. The design of the remaining notes was changed a little in 1895 and 1898; however, the general composition and the main elements were preserved. The 1-rouble banknotes served longer than any other banknotes in the Russian style after the last modification in 1898, they remained unchanged and circulated until 1922.

Andrey Bogdanov,
The Exhibition Complex of Goznak

Translated by Tatiana Ugryumova
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