MacDougall Auctions 2-3 December 2009

2 December 2009

Artist Index / Full Catalogue

Wealthy Peasant Woman

* 309. MALIAVIN, PHILIPPE 1869-1940

Wealthy Peasant Woman signed, also numbered “15” on the reverse

Oil on canvas, 71 by 61 cm.
80,000-120,000 pounds

Provenance: Private collection, USA.

This portrait of a playful peasant woman taking snuff presents a characteristic detail of everyday Russian life in the late 19th to early 20th century. At that time “taking snuff ” was a habit enjoyed not only by gentlemen, but also by ladies at every income level. Snuff was used by gentlewomen, officials, merchants, and peasants. Country dwellers were significantly more likely to take snuff than to smoke tobacco, although many ordinary people also enjoyed a “pinch”. There was a demand for tobacco both during leisure time and during working hours, as is the case for the hero of one of Ivan Panayev’s tales: “He would take a pinch of tobacco and inhale it at intervals, as if wishing to thereby confer qualities of greater toughness upon himself ”, and there was also the motif of coquetry, as we see in Maliavin’s portrait. A pinch of tobacco was always taken with the thumb and index finger and inserted into one and then the other nostril by pressing it gently with finger.

Many peasants used snuff they had manufactured themselves by grinding its principal, irreplaceable component – Amersfoort tobacco, which in Russia had been converted into makhorka (an inferior type of tobacco) – in a pot. The aromatic additives used varied a great deal. According to V. Gilyarovskiy, one tobacco that enjoyed popularity amongst ladies for a fairly long period of time was “rose” tobacco, which contained aspen ash, elixir of pine oil, rose oil, and the “finest” rose water. Before it was offered to the consumer, the following had to take place: “After pouring the tobacco into bottles (having mixed it with all the additives by hand), stop the bottle with a plug and a bubble of air, place it the oven for five or six days, and lay it flat in he stove for a night ... After this it will be ready”.

Notes on symbols:
* Indicates 5% Import Duty Charge applies.
Ω Indicates 20% Import Duty Charge applies.
§ Indicates Artist's Resale Right applies.
† Indicates Standard VAT scheme applies, and the rate of 20% VAT will be charged on both hammer price and premium.