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Early 20th Century Russian Folk Art Embroidered Table Runner/Cloth
This lovely embroidered table runner is Russian, worked in the early part of the 20th Century. The phrase which appears as part of the embroidery at both ends of the table runner, translates as "Love me, don't leave me". I am told that this does not sound like "Old Russian". Also, the Cyrillic alphabet was modified to its modern form after the Revolution, by the Communist Government and this lettering appears to be modern Cyrillic. Interestingly, there are two calligraphic errors in the phrase, at one end of the runner. The fourth letter of the third word and the final letter of the last word, have both been embroidered in reverse, which may imply that the embroiderer was not familiar with either writing, or the new form - one can only speculate.
This table runner is very long, measuring 156" (13 feet) x 32" wide. It is made from one piece of a very sturdy hand loomed linen. The embroidery is 18" deep at both ends. Created entirely from cross stitch, using the four main colours of red, orange, blue and green. With a little black and brown used here and there, when needed.
These table runners were traditionally made for special events and were used as reminders of those events. They would be used on Saints Days and icons would be placed on them for veneration. Or they could be used to carry the traditional welcoming gifts of bread and salt to visitors, especially in the summer, when welcoming ceremonies would happen "al fresco".
There are several issues with this table cover. The linen is in amazing condition and will probably outlive all of us! But there are signs of age soiling in places at the fold marks and several rust marks, the worst of which is photographed. Also, the blue thread must not be completely colour fast and has "bled" slightly. A solution to all of the above would be to gently tea stain the whole piece, so these flaws would become a lot less noticeable, or have it professionally cleaned.
This table runner was quite difficult to photograph but fitted perfectly up and over a door! If you look at that particular photograph, you can see how this cover would make a wonderful pair of drapes for a rustic folk art/cottage decorating scheme, or two stunning and impressive large pillows. However, it could also be treasured as the beautiful, honest and authentic example of Russian history and heritage that it undoubtedly is.
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Kathryn A.M. Browne, Annapolis Valley, NS, Canada
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