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Made by: Maria Semenova (Firm)

On view in: Icon Room

About this object

The lobed sides of this kovsh have a floral ornament in painted enamel that is reminiscent of the brightly colored flowers on Usol’sk enamels, which were made in the town of Solvychegodsk in northern Russia at the end of the seventeenth century. The traditional form of kovshi and seventeenth-century ornament were revived in the late nineteenth century. Although these objects, especially larger ones, could serve as presentation gifts, their main purpose was to be decorative art objects. Maria Semenova was an accomplished enameller known for her innovations with traditional Russian ornaments, such as this "kovsh," or drinking vessel. She took over her father's workshop upon his death in 1896 and sucessfully ran the business until 1904. Mariia Semenova was among the few women who owned enamel workshops. She took over the workshop of her father, Vasilii Semenov, following his death in 1896 and continued to manage it into the twentieth century. Vasilii was best known for his niello tea and coffee sets, but as the Hillwood kovsh demonstrates, Mariia’s achievements lay in enamelwork.

A baroque, sinuous line achieved by sawing the edge of the bowl, a technique that was rarely seen, has here replaced the smooth, uncomplicated silhouette of a traditional kovsh. The handle, rather than being a flattened, elongated arm, has been replaced with a handle whose proportions recall a teapot or cup. The top of the handle is very high and rises above the height of the nose, recalling the form of an ancient oil lamp. The majority of the body is divided into lobate panels separated by thin bands of polished silver gilt. The stippled gilt serves as a background for Usol'sk-style flowers in shaded enamel, with each cell defined by a twisted gilt wire. The flowers are painted in shades of white, blue, green, red, and yellow. A modified version of this ornament is also applied to the handle. Above the stippled panels is a dividing zone of opaque pea green enamel in which numerous small, curving, purely decorative wires are embedded. Ten dark purple Siberian amethysts cut en cabochon and bezel set in circular mounts are mounted on the pea green enamel ground above the top of each of the smooth gilt panels. An eleventh stone, a smaller garnet cut en cabochon, is bezel set in a circular mount at the tip of the nose, also against the green enamel. The tip of the kovsh curves backward and the resulting scroll is set on either side with two highly polished apple-green chrysoprases cut en cabochon. The flamboyant arabesques and s-curves set along the edge of the bowl are painted in shaded enamels. Green predominates, with occasional areas of red and blue. Unlike most of Semenova's work, in which the kovsh rests directly on a flat base, this piece is set on an oval foot whose smooth line is relieved by curving lines decorated with shaded enamels echoing those up at the edge of the bowl. Floral forms like those in the lobate panels appear on the foot.

Object name:
Made from:
Silver -- enamel -- Siberian amethysts -- chrysoprase -- garnet
Made in:
Moscow, Russia
Date made:
14.6 × 16.5 × 20.3 cm (5 3/4 × 6 1/2 × 8 in.)

Detailed information for this item

Catalog number:
Signature marks:
silver standard; assayer's mark 84 [kokoshnik left] [Cyrillic] IL Struck on underside of kovsh. The three marks are contained within an oval. These so-called "doubles" (joined marks on a single poinçon) were introduced in the Assay Charter of 1882. This particular version (with kokoshnik and assayer's initials) was introduced in late 1898. The initials are those of Moscow assayer Ivan Sergeevich Lebedkin (active late 1898-1914). maker's mark [Cyrillic] MS Struck on underside of kovsh Initials are those of the firm's owner, Maria Semenova. import mark [Swan facing left within an oval] Struck on underside next to maker's mark. This mark was established in France on 29 June 1893 to mark objects made of precious metals imported into France from countries which had not established commercial treaties with France or on objects sold through public sales with unknown or hard to distinguish standard or maker's marks. unidentified mark [V fountain or crown? K] Struck on underside next to French import mark. Perhaps a Swiss mark? Marks from German countries often include K for karat. unidentified mark [Small, circular mark. No letters, numbers, or symbols legible.] On foot, exterior, center on side nearest acc. mark. Mark is unidentified.
Credit line:
Bequest of Marjorie Merriweather Post, 1973