An artwork by Hew Locke for Runnymede, Surrey, UK to mark the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta. Commissioned by Surrey County Council and National Trust.

A combination of images depicting the Emancipation of the Serfs (1861) by Tsar Alexander II. Serfdom was the feudal system that tied Russian peasants irrevocably to their landlords. The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Moscow was to have commemorated the event, but it was never finished due to the Russian Revolution of 1917.

Based on the 1914 painting by Alphonse Mucha depicting serfs in front of St Basil’s Cathedral on Moscow on the day of their emancipation, but with St Basil’s replaced with an image of the enormous Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Moscow, and a label in Cyrillic.

the-abolition-of-serfdom-in-russia-1914.jpg!Blog
The Abolition of Serfdom in Russia, Alphonse Mucha, 1914

Hew says of this part of The Jurors that it is like a riddle. The edges of the chair has numerous marks, like visual clues, and even the main image is a combination of two different sources.

Serfdom is condition of hereditary bondage, often little different to slavery, which developed primarily during the Middle Ages in Europe and lasted in some countries until the mid 19th century (and in some areas persists today). In 1857, the number of private serfs was 23 million out of 62 million Russians. It was abolished in 1861 and the reform was commemorated by the construction of the aforementioned cathedral.

The marks around the edges of the chair include tally marks, like those marked up by prisoners on cell walls or those in hard labour conditions in whatever private space they might be able to occupy.

There is also a small drawing of balaclava, which gets its name from the Battle of Balaclava, fought near Sevastapol in 1854, Russia’s main port on Black Sea when it was worn by British and Allied forces. Recently the garment has become associated with Russian feminist punk rock group, Pussy Riot.

Pussy Riot
Pussy Riot. Photo: Igor Mukhin

The name Andrei Sakharov and various numbers are scratched into the surface of one edge. Andrei was a soviet dissident, a former nuclear phycisist turned human rights activist. The numbers refer to the life and work of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, author and critic of Russian totalitarianism who helped to bring public attention to gulags and Russian forced labour camps.

Photography by Tom D Morgan - www.tomdmorgan.com
Names and tally marks from Emancipation of the Serfs as part of The Jurors. Photo: Tom D Morgan

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Designed & Built by Fiasco Design

© Surrey County Council & Hew Locke 2015