The Gem Carvings of Konovalenko- Denver, Colorado

Following up on my last post regarding my at times overzealous interest in geology and pretty much all subfields therein, it’s only fitting to admit the #1 reason we decided to visit this particular museum over any others. We (and by that I mean ‘me’) had been undecided on which museums in Denver we were going to try and make it around to, since there’s a fantastic abundance of them (the Denver Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, Byers–Evans House, Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum, Museo de las Americas, Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art and of course the the historically interesting Molly Brown house museum) but a quick google search through the current exhibitions they had going on at the Denver Museum of History and Science had me 100% decided this was the one we would definetly have to make time to go see.

Specifically, it was the exhibition regarding the Russian folk life gem carvings of Vasily Konovalenko that caught my eye. I didn’t know it at the time, but the museum is home to the most significant collection of these gem-carving sculptures in the world- actually the only collection on public display outside of Moscow. I could probably wax poetic about these amazing works of art for pages on end but the thing that struck me the most when I first saw these carvings in real life was not only their beauty, but the sheer mastery of skill displayed in each of them. These are sculptures carves from gems, and not only are are they wondrously- almost magically-  gorgeous, they’re also engaging. Each carving tells a story and there’s not a single one that doesn’t draw you in with the magnificent play of colors and the forever frozen flexing of stone hands and candid features.

– a short video regarding three of the sculptures displayed at the museum and the background and history behind their beauty: A Stone Live On

– this is one of my favorite quick reads for a little more information on the artist behind these wonders.

The exhibit is in a very quiet part of the museum, tucked away in the back of the second floor, just off the Explore Colorado area, easily overlooked if you weren’t determined to find it. While we were there, people shuffled in, wandered around the glass cases and then shuffled right back on out, few really taking the time to look at each display or read the placards beneath them. On the one hand I was glad to have the room pretty much all to myself, to get the chance to look for as long as I wanted to at each carving and take photos from all angles….but on the other hand, I really wanted to rush up to each person that just walked away after a quick look-see and beg them to appreciate the beauty of each sculpture, to linger just a little bit longer. Of course, i’m not that big of a weirdo and eventually I too shuffled out- though I did end up buying a book at the giftshop below, called Stories in Stone , which I would very much recommend if you’re interested in the carvings but can’t quite make it out to Denver just yet.

And if you do get a chance to visit, I hope you give yourself the time to really enjoy this room and all the beautiful and compelling work it holds.


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