The inscription on the underside of the offered lot reads khoromnoi
, a term indicating that the lavishly decorated and jeweled piece was for everyday use at the court of Tsar Fedor III. Such opulent drinking vessels were used to impress visiting dignitaries with the immense wealth and splendor of the Russian court and employing a jeweled kovsh such as this for the court's daily use would surely have made the point. Fedor III Alekseevich (1661-1682), the eldest son of Tsar Alexis Mikhailovich and Maria Miloslavskaya, ascended the throne in 1676 at the age of 15. His brief reign is notable because it anticipated so many of the innovations of his younger brother, Peter the Great. Educated by Symeon of Polotsk (1629-1680), a poet, dramatist and theologian, he was perhaps the first tsar to be fluent in both Latin and Greek. Understanding the importance of education, he invited foreign scholars to work in Moscow. Fedor III also approved the charter for a project for the Slavic-Latin-Greek Academy in 1682, although it was not established until 1687, well after his death. He introduced a number of important political reforms that undoubtedly paved the way for the numerous changes Peter I would introduce.
With its low walls, wide, almost circular bowl and the small pointed handle, the present kovsh relates in form to the few known surviving kovshi produced by Moscow workshops in the 16th and early 17th centuries, in particular the gold and niello kovsh of Tsar Boris Godunov (see Kremlin Gold: 1,000 Years of Russian Gems and Jewels, Houston, 2000, p. 67). The combination of niello, seed pearl ornament and gems bears a close resemblance to the kovsh of Mikhail Romanov made in the Moscow Kremlin Workshops in 1618 (see Kremlin Gold, op cit, pp. 70-71). We are grateful to Dr. Ernest Zitser of Duke University for assistance in cataloguing this lot.