513
513

PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT NEW YORK ESTATE

'Owl': A bronze and enamel box from the 'Enchanted Beasts' Series, Princess Maria Tenisheva, 1908
ACCÉDER AU LOT
513

PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT NEW YORK ESTATE

'Owl': A bronze and enamel box from the 'Enchanted Beasts' Series, Princess Maria Tenisheva, 1908
ACCÉDER AU LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Russian Works of Art, Fabergé & Icons

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Londres

'Owl': A bronze and enamel box from the 'Enchanted Beasts' Series, Princess Maria Tenisheva, 1908
cast as a stylised owl with spreading wings, decorated with polychrome enamel geometric motifs, the eyes set with quartz cabochons within copper collets, the breast, head and wings forming the lid, the top of the tail feathers incised with monogram MT, stamped with date 1908 and number 6
width 15.5cm, 6 1/8 in.
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Provenance

Sotheby's London, 1 July 1970, lot 6

Exposition

Paris, Grand Palais, Salon de 1909, Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, April-June 1909

Prague, Salon Topich, Enamel, Tapestries, Glass: Maria Tenisheva, Ory Robin, Zdenka Braunerova, October-November 1909

Bibliographie

J. Oser, Princess Maria Tenisheva and Her World of Enamels, Moscow, 2004, illustrated pp. 90-93.

Description

This object belongs to an unusual, highly imaginative and inimitable series of seven animal-form enamelled bronze figures cast using the cire perdue, or lost wax, technique.  Six, including the present lot, were conceived as boxes, and one as a paperweight.  These Enchanted Beasts, as Nikolai Roerich christened them in 1909, were created by Princess Maria Tenisheva (1858-1928) in her Paris studio a year earlier and were comprised of Owl, Fish, Pigeon, Cat, Rooster, Pig and Swan. They epitomise Russian neo-nationalism, a style that favours Slavic themes over Western European ones, and are rooted in the traditions of parables and fairy-tales that humanise and mythologise the animal kingdom.  In his article on the Enchanted Beasts, Roerich eulogised the artist’s use of colour and underscored the role of animal-shaped sculptures as guardians of humans: “By utilising techniques from the past, Tenisheva wanted to capture the ancient pagan fireplace; to bring to life the forgotten talismans, sent by the goddess of wellbeing to guard the homes of men.”

It would be difficult to name an aspect of Russian art at the turn of the twentieth century in which Princess Maria Tenisheva was not involved.  She established a number of public art schools and studios, personally supported artists, sponsored the magazine Mir iskusstva (which gave name to the miriskusniki movement), became a popular patron of the arts, collected works of art which she donated to museums, wrote a dissertation on enamel work and a beautiful memoir, collaborated with Diaghilev to decorate one of his ballet productions, and even played Tchaikovsky’s music with the composer himself.  Vrubel’, Repin, Korovin and Serov painted her portraits; Trubetskoy sculpted her, more than once.  But her crowning achievement was undoubtedly Talashkino, near Smolensk, an artistic estate in the style of Abramtsevo with a focus on decorative arts which she established in 1893.  In its workshops, traditional Slavic crafts and techniques were taught and revived.

In a letter to Roerich dated 25 July 1921, Tenisheva writes that she believes the Enchanted Beasts to be among her best works.  It speaks to the aesthetic pleasures the artist sought and found in household objects and enamel work in particular.  Recalling her youth in Paris, where she studied at the Académie Julian, Tenisheva wrote in her posthumously-published memoirs:

“I could stand for hours outside the showrooms of antique objects.  I was attracted to and absorbed by the Medieval Era, but most of all—enamel work.  In the Louvre, in Musèe de Cluny there were things I could barely pull myself away from.  It’s hard to say what happened to me when I gazed upon these objects.  They had the decided effect of chaining me to myself.  Each object would speak to me.  Gazing tentatively into the past, I could see the object in the setting for which it was created; the people, for whom it was built.  I hallucinated the unforgiving tyrant one minute, the delicate mysterious medieval woman the next.  These objects appeared to me to be alive, invested with spirituality.  I bowed down before them, sensing a deep respect for them.”

Fish and Pigeon from this series sold, Christie’s London, 8 June 2010, lots 220 and 221; the paperweight, Swan, sold Christie’s London, 29 November 2010, lot 43.  All seven Enchanted Beasts embody the spirit of Tenisheva and Talashkino, whose style poet and critic Sergei Makovsky described as being defined by “eclecticism, freedom, and intimacy”.  The wide variety of art forms that informed Tenisheva’s output, the freedom brought about by her considerable wealth, and ultimately her intense absorption with household objects and decorative arts, attest to the depth of this analysis.  Sotheby’s is grateful to Jesco Oser for his assistance in researching this lot.

Russian Works of Art, Fabergé & Icons

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Londres