Restoration of an 18th Century Banner with the Image of the National Emblem – a Cossack with a Musket

Restoration of an 18th Century Banner with the Image of the National Emblem – a Cossack with a Musket

In 2009, the Bogdan Gubsky Foundation successfully implemented a restoration project that ensured the preservation of a Cossack flag from the 18th century for future generations of Ukrainians. The banner has an image of the National Emblem – a Cossack with a musket – and is from the collection of the National Museum of History of Ukraine. This banner from the Lubny Regiment, is the only remaining one of this type (out of 170 Ukrainian Cossack Sotnya regiments and hundreds of banners from the 18th century), which has survived to this day in the state-owned collection of the Museum Fund of Ukraine. 

The restoration was carried out by specialists from the National Research Restoration Center of Ukraine throughout 2009.

The presentation of the restored banner took place on National Flag Day – August 23, 2009. After an intensive restoration process, the flag is still in the permanent exhibition of the National Museum of History of Ukraine in Kyiv. 

This flag was made in the middle of the 18th century as Hetman Kyrylo Rozumovsky had commissioned  banners with the national emblem ( Cossack with a musket) for all of the regiments of the Hetmanate on March 8, 1755. Most of them were lost or destroyed around the end of the 19th century, but one was kept in the Church-Archaeological Museum at the Kyiv Theological Academy. Before the Second World War, the flag was among museum collections in Kyiv, and then taken to Ufa in 1941 during the war.  The banner was finally returned to the capital of Ukraine in 1947.

The Cossack banner is made of blue silk with a painting on both sides of the fabric. It measures 161 × 110 cm. The Baroque cartouche depicts the National Emblem of a Cossack with a musket on the obverse side. The cartouche is framed with a symmetrical composition of cannons, timpani, powder kegs, cannonballs, flags, maces and a bunchuk ( a symbol of power and authority).  In the center of the reverse side of the flag (before restoration) is an image of a hand coming out of the cloud, holding a golden cross, surrounded by two angels. Under the cross is a religious text.

The banner has undergone two restorations: in the second half of the 19th century and in the 1960s. Measures were taken to prevent deterioration of the flag with the technology that was available then. However, over time, the glue deteriorated and the fabric began to come apart and crumble. It became impossible to exhibit the work due to the potential peeling and loss of the paint layer fragments. In addition, due to attempts at reinforcement of  the reverse side of the banner, 80% of the reverse side was obscured and therefore impossible to see. By the early 2000s, the banner again needed immediate restoration.

A new discovery was made during the restoration process.  There was an original image which was graphically reproduced on the reverse side of the banner: a hand holding a mace and the coat of arms of the Lubny Regiment, placed in a decorated cartouche. This image had been hidden for over two centuries and was now revealed for the first time. None of the previous historical studies published over the past 100 years mentions a two-layer “painting double”: the original layer where the mace was depicted, and later the painting layer of the cross.

     Thus, the 18th century Cossack banner, with the National Emblem – a Cossack with a musket – is now better understood with this new information and enriches our knowledge about the history of our country.