Zhostovo trays

Old Russian folk handicraft of painting on metal trays in a village of Zhostovo, Moscow Oblast

Zhostovo tray
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The appearance of Zhostovo craft is associated with Lukutinski lacquer miniature on the papier-mache, which was manufactured in a near-by village of Fedoskino and the Ural handicraft of flower painting on metal. 

pinterest button Peonies Russian Handicrafts Guide, CC BY-SA 3.0

In 1825, the local peasant and miniature painter Osip Vishnyakov founded the factory, where the trays were made of papier-mache with the genre and floral motifs.

Subsequent development of the Zhostovo painting handicraft was stylistically related to porcelain and enamel painting techniques, used by factories near Moscow, flower motifs on printed cotton, produced by the Ivanovo factories, and Lukutin (Fedoskino) miniature.

In the late 19th – early 20th century, the Zhostovo painting handicraft fell into decline. During the Soviet times, it was brought back to life after a number of artels had united themselves into one called 'Металлоподнос' (Metal tray) in 1928. 

Today, it is called the Zhostovo Factory of Decorative Painting.

Painting Features

Since Zhostovo art painting was originated from Fedoskino, a characteristic feature of this craft is a picturesque manner of performance.

pinterest button Tulips Russian Handicrafts Guide, CC BY-SA 3.0


The image normally rests on the smooth background, preferably of black colour, however, in some cases the background could be white or other.

Image colors are peculiar with their softness and roundness of the motif.

Zhostovo tray motif
pinterest button Zhostovo tray motif Russian Handicrafts Guide, CC BY-SA 3.0

Three or four large flowers (rose, tulip, dahlia, and sometimes more modest pansies, vines, etc.) are surrounded with a scattering of smaller flowers and buds, interconnected with flexible stems and light «grass», i.e. small twigs and leaves.

Zhostovo tray
pinterest button Zhostovo tray Russian Handicrafts Guide, CC BY-SA 3.0

The image looks volumetric, it appears to the viewer as if it comes from the depth. A little «sunk» in the background of the flowers seems tender, as the angles and turns of beaters are given very tactfully.

Zhostovo tray with a rowan
pinterest button Zhostovo tray with rowan Russian Handicrafts Guide, CC BY-SA 3.0

The top often ends by two or three continuously and widely divergent branches, which curves follow the shape of the item itself. Easy patterned lace from various «grass» surrounds the bunch at the edges, inscribing it in a smooth background.

How Zhostovo trays are born

Manufacturing Technology

Zhostovo painting is a handicraft of painting on metal trays, preliminary coated with a few layers of priming (putty) and oil varnish (usually, black).

Painting is done in a few consecutive energetic and firm strokes with a soft brush and oil paints, richly diluted with linseed oil.

The most widely used motif of the Zhostovo painting is a bunch of mixed garden and wild flowers, which is simple and laconic in its essence. The edges of a tray are painted with a light golden ornament called уборка (uborka). A finished tray is then covered with three layers of light lacquer and polished to brilliance.

When creating trays the standard form metal sheets are tailored into specific workpiece size. There are also hand-forged trays.

The trays are made by farriers by old artisanal tradition: the shape and size of the tray depends upon the creative variation of the farrier.

The bracket is cut by the slitting shears, then by using a hammer and anvil the necessary shape is hammered out, and is drawn.

The edge of the tray is rolled, but before the reinforcing wire laid, and then the edge is smoothed on the anvil with a hammer.

How to Distinguish a Factory Tray

The genuine trays manufactured in the Zhostovo factory have two oval stamps on the reverse side, one says 'Zhostovo factory decorative painting', as the other depicts simbol of a bell and a brush.

In collections

Creations of Zhostovo craftsmen are in the collections of Laura Bush, Jacques Chirac, Queen Elizabeth, the  king of Spaine Juan Carlos II, and the top public officials of Russia.