Sunday, January 17, 2010
Let's Go Travelling!
The winter has been so cold here that the garden has no joys for me at present. The house plants are hunkered down in the sunroom, sulking and refusing to smile; those that aren't in the sunroom are in the garage on a regime of water once a month, from which they will emerge in spring, alive (I hope) and ready to meet the challenges of summer outside.
In the meantime, the gardener is hunkered down too and would like to sulk. So I decided to find something about which to blog which would help me to pass the long January days until I can find the first snowdrops and aconites and resume gardening.
In 1908, just a century ago, my husband's grandparents went on the Grand Tour. They visited the capitals of Europe and brought back many interesting things, most of which have disappeared into the great family diaspora. Because my mother-in-law knew of our interest in Russia and our possible posting to Moscow, she rummaged around and gave us a couple of things which we still have and treasure. One of them is a huge painting -- about 6 feet by 3, in an ornate gilded frame. It depicts "The Boyar's Wedding" and was supposed to be quite valuable. So, I trucked it off to an appraiser a while ago, only to find that it is a print touched up with oil paint and has no value whatsoever and the frame is worth lots more than the picture. Oh, well. It is so large and so over the top that I have never hung it, and I threaten grandchildren that I will give it as a wedding present to the first to marry. So far, none of them have tested me.
The other pieces though are charming. They are two plates of Russian lacquer, from either the villages of Fedoskino or Palekh where lacquerware has been produced for many many years. One shows a winter troika, horses with tossing manes linked to the traditional high-yoked three-horse sleigh, and carrying three jolly peasants on an excursion. In the background is a traditional wooden church, all against a gold background. The other is slightly smaller and shows an elopement -- a gentleman in a blue satin coat and red turban is carrying a young woman in a red dress and the old Russian headdress down a ladder from the window of a wooden house. I am sure this is a scene from a Russian folk story, but I don't know anyone who could interpret it for me. Again, the ground is of gold lacquer and there is a little scene of a church in the background.
My other Russian souvenir, not Palekh but very fine, is a silver samovar which I purchased in a commission store in Moscow, so dirty and dilapidated that no-one knew it was silver (except me, because some of my own silver was in similar condition). I treasure all my Russian pieces because, although life there was very hard at the time for the Russians and for foreigners, it was a stupendous adventure and a time that I would not have missed for anything.
Posted by Pat at 8:40 AM