Information about Avenir Girshevich Griliches

Avenir Girshevich Griliches (1825 - 9 November 1905)

Avenir Girshevich Griliches (spelled also Avner; Russian: Авнер Гиршевич Грилихес) was born into a poor Jewish family in 1822 in Vilna - now Vilnius in Lithuania, then part of the Russian Empire. His father, Hirsch-Zvi Zelmanovich Griliches, was an engraver and specialized in tombstones. The family professed Orthodox Judaism; kashrut was observed in his house in Vilna and later in St. Petersburg. However, his son Abraham would later become a follower of Haskala. The signature of Avner Griliches is under the 1861 petition of Vilnius Jewish artisans to lift the ban on the life and work of Jews in some streets of Vilna. In 1865, the State Council of the Russian Empire adopted a law allowing, among other things, Jewish craftsmen to live everywhere in the Russian Empire.

Avner's only son, Abraham attended the Rabbinical School, and with it the Vilna Drawing School. In 1868, Abraham Avenirovich, after passing the exam in drawing, was accepted into the medal class of the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg. At the beginning of 1871, Avenir also moved to St. Petersburg, the difficult financial situation of his son improved.

Since 1870, the St. Petersburg Mint was in dire need of skilled workers. Learning about the vacancies from his teachers, Abraham told his father about this. On February 15, 1871, Avner Griliches was hired as an engraver with a salary of 30 roubles a month. In 1872 his salary was raised to 50 roubles. At this time, Avner begins to call himself Abner. He worked as a medallist, and also received an order from the Helsingfors Mint (Helsinki Mint) for the manufacture of dies for Finnish silver coins, which were subsequently to be used until 1917.

To become a medallist, Abner needed to receive the title of class artist. To obtain this title, he submitted several of his works to the academic exhibition in 1872: a portrait of the merchant N.O. Levinson in topaz, a mask cut out of steel by General V.I. Nazimov, and a portrait of Count E.P. Tyshkevich. The Council of the Academy of Arts awarded him the title of a class artist of the third degree with the condition of passing his exams in sciences. Abner, realizing that he had little chance of passing exams, wrote a detailed petition to the Academy Council, in which he told the circumstances of his life as a self-taught engraver without a specialized education from a young age burdened by his family and the impossibility of studying, in the petition he asked them to issue him a diploma without passing an exam. On October 26, 1872 the diploma was awarded to Abner Griliches "as a special exception." On January 29, 1873, he petitioned the mint to appoint him as medallist, and was hired as a junior medallist wo days later. After taking the oath at the request of the head of the mint and on the basis of an academic diploma, the Senate approved Avenir Griliches as a college registrar, the lowest civilian rank of 14th grade in the Table of Ranks. His brother Nohum-Leiser was hired to fill the post of engraver which became vacant when Abner was appointed to a new position .

Over time, both Griliches became senior medallists and rose to the rank of court adviser of the 7th grade in the Table of Ranks.

In 1901, Abner suffered a stroke, but continued to work. In 1905, his condition worsened; on November 9, Avner Griliches died after a long illness. He was buried in the Jewish cemetery in St. Petersburg.

The most outstanding works of Avenir Griliches are considered to be the reverse of medals in memory of the 50-year-old activity of K.V. Chevkin, the opening of Tomsk University, the anniversary of the Mining Institute, the anniversary of the Battle of Kulikovo; state seals of emperors Alexander IΙΙ and Nicholas II, eagles for coins of five roubles, one rouble, fifty kopecks and twenty kopecks.

Abner Griliches was the author of the die for the reverse of roubles issue of 1886 (the obverse with the portrait of the emperor was designed by his son, Abraham Avenirovich Griliches). His die with the double-headed eagle was accepted without competition and began to be used on the reverses of gold and silver portrait coins. His design was used on prototype portrait roubles of 1886, silver and gold national coins for mass circulation from 1886 to 1915 (except for gold coins of 5 roubles 1895-1911 years), pattern gold coins with a face value of 15 roubles, silver memorial roubles of 1913 in honour of the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty, gold donative coins in denominations of 25 roubles in 1896 and 1908, gold donative coins in 1902 in denominations of 37 roubles 50 kopecks - 100 francs.

It was only in 1986 when Yu. V. Nikolaev discovered - with very high magnification - that Avenir Girshevich Griliches incorporated his signature А.Г. (Russian for: A. G.) under the hoof of the hind leg of the horse of St. George the Victorious, which is in the shield on the eagle's breast .

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