Both pieces embody in their form the traditional Russian ‘utitsa-’ (duck-) shaped kovshes. A traditional drinking vessel used since medieval times, kovshi vary in size and shape. Originally carved of wood and decorated with painting and carving, their handles would often be shaped as heads of birds and animals. Around the 17th century, kovshi start to appear more frequently in silver and gold and their function becomes more ceremonial, with the objects often used as presentation gifts at the Russian court. The late 19th century revival of interest in traditional Russian style sparked a renewal of their popularity and kovshes became widely used as gifts and souvenirs.
The Ovchinnikov firm was one of the first ones to reinvigorate enamelwork traditions and produced some of the most outstanding pieces of the period. Masterfully using vivid colours within cloisonné and filigree, the firm was renowned in both domestic and international markets. The soft pastel palette of the present lots is characteristic of the firm and the intricate application of shaded enamel in imitation of bird feathers is characteristic of the excellent quality of the works produced by Ovchinnikov.
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