Russian Silver-Gilt, Cloisonné and En Plein Enamel Box
Feodor Rückert, Moscow, 1908-1917, retailed by Marshak, Kiev
Rectangular, enameled throughout with shaded varicolored stylized flowers and vegetal forms on blue and brown grounds, the hinged cover centering a shaped reserve painted en plein with a detail of A Knight at the Crossroads by Viktor Vasnetsov. Length 3 15/16 inches (10 cm).
Commissioned by the renowned Russian art patron, Savva Mamontov (1841-1918), A Knight at the Crossroads was completed in 1882 by the Russian artist, Viktor Vasnetsov (1848-1926). Vasnetsov was a pivotal figure in the late nineteenth-century revivalist movement, which explored historical subjects through the use of folkloric imagery and reawakened public interest in Russia's past. A Knight at the Crossroads is one of the artist's most important and most popular works in the genre. Now part of the collection of the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, the work is an interpretation of the traditional Russian legend, or bylina, The Three Journeys of Ilya Muromets. The mounted knight, or bogatyr', is depicted in historically accurate armor standing before a stone inscribed: If you go straight ahead, there will be no life; there is no way forward for he who travels past, walks past or flies past.
The works of major Russian painters, such Viktor Vasnetsov and Konstantin Makovsky, were a source of decoration for the most important craftsman producing enamel in Russia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Like many of his fellow craftsmen, Feodor Rückert reproduced the works of these artists on a range of objects, from boxes to kovshi, which were retailed by such prominent firms as Fabergé, Ovchinnikov and Marshak (like the present lot). Feodor Rückert was arguably the most talented of all craftsmen producing enamel in pre-revolutionary Russia, and his work is executed to the highest standard. The present lot is decorated with delicately shaded enamel in the Neo-Russian style, which takes its inspiration from Russian vernacular ornament, and serves as the perfect complement to the romantic subject of the miniature.
A comparable box by Feodor Rückert, painted with a detail of A Knight at the Crossroads and retailed by Marshak, is held in the collection of The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore (accession number 44.917). Another comparable but smaller box by Rückert was sold Christie's, London, May 28, 2012, lot 256. A further box by Rückert, painted with a different scene but retailed by Marshak, was sold Sotheby's, London, June 8, 2011, lot 446.
C Property from a West Coast Private Collection
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