MacDougall's Russian Art Auctions 25 March 2015

25 Mar 2015

Artist Index / Full Catalogue

A Porcelain Figurine of a Peasant Girl Water Carrier

* 90.

A Porcelain Figurine of a Peasant Girl Water Carrier

6,000—8,000 GBP

Height 24.5 cm.

apparently unmarked

The Girl and Boy Water Carriers, also known as a Girl with Water Buckets and a Peasant Boy, are iconic figures of Russian porcelain art. The first such models were made around 1817 by Stepan Pimenov (1784–1833) for the Imperial Porcelain Factory, and they were soon taken up with great success by the privately owned manufactories of Gardner, Popov, Kozlov Brothers and others.

The recognisable figure of the girl water carrier is remarkable for its plasticity, which flawlessly conveys the movement and the folds of her clothing. The decorative and stylised interpretation of Russian peasant clothing (sarafan and kokoshnik) are an idealisation of the “life of the people”. The yoked buckets evoke all the connotations of that life in the popular imagination: the burden is so light that the girl does not even use her hand to steady the buckets. The 19th century historian Ivan Lukash was among many who praised the artistry of these figurines: “Several folk figures from the porcelain workshops of the time of Alexander I have a wondrous beauty: we all know the athletic youth carrying buckets of water with a joyful, open expression on his face <...> the modest young female goddess with a yoke on her shoulders, who seems to glide in her passage and whose entire figure has an irresistible charm.” Lukash has a particular enthusiasm for the female figures, calling them “Russian Dianas with a remarkably harmonious turn of the body and head, peasant goddesses in golden kokoshniks and blue sarafans, differing one from another only in the colour of their shoes: red, pale yellow or green. The secret of their colouration – the skilful combination of glaze with biscuit – remains unfathomable to European artisans.”

In truth the specifically Russian features of the boy water carrier are limited to the cut of the shirt, physiognomy and hair, while the stance of the figurine and the folds of the clothing are classic in nature. But that is no obstacle to the patriotic lyricism of a writer such as Lukash as he praises his subject, “striding towards the wide expanses of his native land, as if towards the promise of a distant star”.

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.