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Book and cover

Book and cover

  • Place of origin:

    Russia (made)

  • Date:

    1760-1780 (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Silver-gilt, niello, chased and embossed, sewn textblock with endbands, printed on handmade paper in ink

  • Credit Line:

    The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

In all Christian denominations gospels have been adorned with precious, beautifully designed and crafted covers. The Orthodox Church is no exception: silver-gilt covers can be found from medieval times since gold symbolises the glory of heaven. Gospel books play a crucial role in the orthodox liturgy. They are carried in procession to the Royal Gate at the centre of icon wall and shown to the congregation by the priest before entering the sanctuary behind it.

This precious cover protects a copy of the gospel in Old Church Slavonic with a Cyrillic dedication to Empress Catherine the Great of Russia. The pages of the volume show traces of continued use, subsequent neglect and conservation in fairly recent years. The silver-gilt cover in contrast appears to have been in need of restoration already in the Nineteenth century. In addition to the 1777 assay mark and mark of goldsmith Fyedor Petrov, a mark currently attributed to Nineteenth-century goldsmith Alexei Kvasnikov can be found on nearly all parts of the cover.

Sir Arthur Gilbert and his wife Rosalinde formed one of the world's great decorative art collections, including silver, mosaics, enamelled portrait miniatures and gold boxes. Arthur Gilbert donated his extraordinary collection to Britain in 1996.

Physical description

Silver-gilt cover, with a gospel book manuscript inside, chased and embossed with rococo motifs and set with five niello plaques.

Place of Origin

Russia (made)


1760-1780 (made)

Materials and Techniques

Silver-gilt, niello, chased and embossed, sewn textblock with endbands, printed on handmade paper in ink

Marks and inscriptions

Moscow town mark
on front and back reliefs and straps

1777 Moscow assay mark A A
on front and back reliefs and straps


Depth: 100 mm

Object history note

Provenance: private collection, Netherlands; Henri Dullaert of Demandt & Dullaert, Amsterdam, Dec. 1995.

As so often with religious artefacts originating from pre-Revolution Russia, most of the history and provenance of this object are currently unknown. It is likely that it is one of the many objects that were sold by the USSR government in the 1920s and 1930s and subsequently found their way into Western collections. This volume was bought by Sir Arthur Gilbert for the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection in 1995. His interest in Orthodox religious art predates this acquisition by nearly two decades when he acquired two sets of splendid silver Sacred Gates from around 1784 (Loan:Gilbert.94 & 97-2008).

Descriptive line

Gospel book with silver-gilt and niello cover, Russia, second half 18th century


Gold; Silver


Gilding; Niello; Chasing; Embossing

Subjects depicted

Tree of Jesse; Christianity; Religion (concept)




Metalwork Collection

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