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Once ubiquitous in Russia, lace-like wood window frames known as nalichniki are now a disappearing art form. In an attempt to preserve the memory of this traditional craft for generations to come, Russian photographer Ivan Khafizov travels around the country and takes pictures of visually stunning nalichniki for his virtual museum, dedicated solely to the art of Russian wood window carving.
In 2007, as a full-time IT professional on a business trip in the Samara region, Ivan started taking pictures of beautiful wood window frames in the small city in which he was staying. With each new shot, he noticed that there were never two houses with similar nalichniki; however, as Ivan tried to look deeper into the matter, it turned out this topic had never been properly researched.
When exploring the subject on his own, Ivan discovered that these types of decorative wood window frames only exist in Greece, Russia and those areas around it. In other European countries, it was the doors that were decorated with carvings, not the windows.
Nalichniki started gaining popularity in Russia in the 17th century when glass windows became more common. First, they were purely functional and used to fill cracks between a log house and window panes, but gradually, they transformed into much more than that: wood window frames became an ornate decoration, a protective charm, a philosophy.
Approximately 100 years ago, almost every home in Russia had a face of its own, thanks to elaborate nalichniki, but as the number of historic log houses shrinks, so are the chances to preserve these pieces of Russian architectural heritage.
That’s why, in 2010, Ivan created the first virtual museum of window frames on Nalichniki.com, where he posted a collection of shots from 101 cities. Now the museum’s collection comprises 10,000 items, and Ivan, who is basically Russia’s only expert on the history of this craft, curates exhibitions, organises educational events and keeps searching for new pieces to complete his collection.
Ivan is planning to visit over 300 cities and publish a multi-volume book on the history of window frames in Russia, with the first part devoted to the ornate window decorations of the Central Federal District.
Ivan’s deepest desire is to gather enough material on window carving traditions of the Urals, Volga Region and Russia’s Far East to show how it changes from region to region.