Moscow-made Silver Gilt Kovsh with exquisite Shaded
Cloisonné Enamel, C 1899.
86mm long and 49mm wide. Weight: 52.3 grams. Two circa 1899
hallmarks: an "84" silver kokoshnik head oval stamp with the
initials of Assaymaster Ivan Sergeivitch Lebedkin and the
hallmark of an unknown silversmith: "_ P R" (in Cyrillic
letters, the first letter is unfortunately not legible).
Shaded enamel floral design on stippled silver-gilt ground.
Very fine to excellent condition.
There are three places where the enamel has flaked. One is
in a blue area close to the "prow" of the kovsh. The second
is about 1cm away where the enamel has flaked off and now
registers as an area of white (this actually looks like a
part of the design and is not in the least detractive). On
the same side of the kovsh, in an area of salmon pink and
white coloring on one of the orchid-like "flowers", the
enamel has flaked slightly and there are now two or three
tiny white lines in the enamel's surface. Of the three
areas, only the imperfection in the blue enamel is
immediately noticeable (and even then it is not located at a
point where the viewer's eye automatically gravitates toward
A Kovsh was originally a ladle for drinking and the earliest
ones were carved out of wood. Over the centuries many began
to be made out of metal. By the seventeenth and eighteenth
centuries, while some were still used for drinking, the
format became quite stylized and very popular for use as an
award for faithful service to the tsar or for bravery on
the battlefield. (There are several on display in Russian
museums today that are so large that it is immediately
obvious that they were created purely to be displayed on a
By the early nineteen century, civil merit or military valor
began to be far more commonly rewarded by the presentation
of a medal or induction into an order. Ancient forms of
Russian art, however, were not forgotten but experienced a
strong revival in the second half of the century,
particularly in Moscow.
While there had always been occasional attempts to create
objects that seemed "Russian" in nature, between 1850 and
1900 there was a wildly popular art movement that
specifically inspired artists to express themselves in ways
that evoked the ancient traditions of Russian folk art.
Refered to as the "Russian Style", it saw the production of
a vast number of objects that deliberately evoked the Russia
that existed before Peter the Great's reforms.
The style was popular all across the nation, but in some
areas like Moscow, it influenced artists and jewelers right
up to the 1917 revolution. (Any book about Faberge will
point out that his firm sold far more objects in the
"Russian Style" in its Moscow branch than it did in its St.
Petersburg showroom.) Sometimes, the desire to create items
for daily use in a Russian folk art style resulted in
products that bordered on the bizarre, like the famous
samovar that looks like an overgrown and almost psychedelic
rooster! When applied to items like this kovsh that were
already uniquely Russian in style, however, the end result
was frequently - as here- quite beautiful.
This atttractive kovsh was never intended for actual use but
to admire as a thing of beauty. Even though some Russian
firms produced large kovsh-shaped punch bowls that came with
as many enameled cups as the customer wished to buy in order
to make a "set", the fact remains that these were produced
This is an exceedingly attractive example of pre-
Revolutionary art and a particularly nice example of the
famous technique of Russian "shaded enamel".