August 03, 2014

Unknown artist, Дом со львом/The Lion House

 this picture and the next three courtesy of Julia Terekhova
wall in the main room with the lion
the doorway leads to the bedroom

The Lion House, a small dwelling with fully decorated walls and ceilings, is a rather unique example of peasant folk art in southern Russia.

Located in the small community of Popovka in the Saratov area (west of the Volga river) and probably dating from the beginning of the twentieth century, the house has been decorated by an unknown person. It might be that the first inhabitant of the house was the artist or maybe a regional creator of icons has been involved.

Because of the troubled times in the region in the nineteen-twenties and thirties, it is difficult to ascertain the history of the house and its inhabitants.

Recently discovered and saved

In 2009 students of  Saratov State University discovered the decorations in the cabin which was uninhabitated at that time. An article in a journal about this came to the notice of Julia Terekhova, an art expert, restorer and cultural manager from St Petersburg, who in 2010 for the first time visited the site.

When she understood that the then owners planned to demolish the house (to use the leftovers to construct a sauna), she succeeded in buying it, putting the needed amount of money together with the help of friends.

walls of the main room, opposite the scene with the lion
above the window on the left St George, above the window on the right a cherubin
in between a kiot, a device to display an icon
on the ceiling an eagle

In this way in 2011 the house became a private museum. It was considered to move it to an open-air museum, but finally it was decided to maintain it in the socio-cultural environment where it originated, which, considering that this kind of art in many aspects is related to its social and cultural environment, is a praiseworthy decision.

The Lion House is meant to function as cultural centre. As Terekhova has said in an interview, it should be a platform where anyone can come and put in practice their idea, organize their event, keeping in mind that the event should have a public significance and will be attractive to other people.  

Over the past few years there have been camps with volunteers who help maintain the site by doing repair work. Creative activities have been organized for groups of children from children homes around.

a cherubin

The paintings depict eastern-orthodox characters  

A gift from a cultural fund, meant to help the Lion House to present itself as a msueum, has made it possible to create a sophisticated website, which is very informative with texts in english and an interactive virtual tour along the decorated walls.

Clicking these informative panels the visitor learns more about the background of the paintings, which in general depict eastern-orthodox characters, such as the lion (probably symbolizing Mark the evangelist), Saint George and the dragon, a cherubin, an eagle (probably symbolizing John the evangelist), a shepherd herding geese (who might be Saint Tryphon or the original owner of the house).

St. George and the dragon

Fretwork on the exterior

The (wooden) exterior of the house has decorations of fretwork, which has been discussed in a blog by Alexander Pakhunov ЗАПИСКИ О НАРОДНОЙ РОСПИСИ (Observations on folk painting)

This blog also reports that the exterior once was painted, particularly with the colors red, green and blue. In the course of the years the paint has faded away, but on some places traces of paint still exist.

Research on this issue will continu.

Volunteers and donations needed

The Lion House hasn't an official status as a museum and it doesn't get any financial support from public authorities to ascertain its continuity. For this support the museum depends upon contributions of interested people around, both in terms of donations and in helping as a volunteer in doing repair work etc.

All forms of support are welcome. Refer to the website.

A cultural centre added to the site

Adjacent to the Lion's House, financed by donations and sponsors, a building has been erected, opened november 2014, which will function as a visitor's and cultural centre where lectures and workshops can be held and where a library is available. The center is also especially intended to be used by the children of the village.

* Website of the Museum
* The museum's Facebookpage
* Slideshow of all wall paintings (must see !)
* Article (in english) in website Russia beyond the headlines, june 21, 2014\
* Report of a visit to the site on Yelkz.livejournal (march 2015, in russian, with a lot of pictures)
* Video by Saratov TV (3'01", uploaded july 2011, Youtube)

Unknown artist
Дом со львом (The Lion House)
5 Puskin Row
Popovka, Saratov area, 
Russian Federation
free to visit during opening hours

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your work of collecting these treasures for us to see.