The exhibit in details: "Rest during harvesting" fireplace set
Today, on the birthday of Matthew Chizhov (1838-1916), our regular column, “The Exhibit in Details" is dedicated to the mantel set "Rest during Harvesting". The composition was created by the famous Russian sculptor, Academician of the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg, a pupil of the famous Russian sculptors -- Nikolai Pimenov, Peter Klodt and Vladimir Brovsky. Matthew Chizhov worked with the sculptor Mikhail Mikeshin while creating the famous monument "Millennium of Russia" in Novgorod Velikiy. Chizhov was awarded with Silver and Gold medals of the Imperial Academy of Arts several times, as well as gold medals of the World Industrial Art exhibitions in Vienna in 1873 and in Paris in 1878.
The sculptural composition on the clock case, and paired figures of a peasant and a peasant woman, carrying hay on pitchforks, are the author's interpretation of the "Harvesting" by Viktor Vasnetsov in the sculpture of small forms.
In its artistic language, being sculpted in detail, the composition demands close scrutiny at close range. Chizhov was a subtle and observant artisan, able to give a plot twist, naturally and easily constructed multi-figure compositions. Significance and novelty of content distinguishes Chizhov's works from interpretation of "peasant" theme by artists of academic trend with their sugary embellished images of peasants. The naturalness of the composition, excellent realistic sculptural figures and clothing, conveying the details of life, put Chizhov's works among the outstanding sculptural works of the second half of the 19th century.
The set "Rest during Harvesting" consists of a mantel clock and two paired sculptures depicting a peasant and a peasant woman holding hay in their raised hands on pitchforks. The clock case top is decorated with sculptural composition depicting a peasant family in a moment of short rest during the harvest - a peasant sitting on sheaves, holding a wooden mug with the hinged lid a lid for water or kvass*. Beside the peasant, a peasant woman and her child are sleeping in sheaves. The inscription on the clock case reads, "To Pavel Antipovich Schultz in memory of his activities in managing the Second Department. State Property Department and the Temporary Department of Land Tenure of State Peasants which was formed from it, from fellow employees in 1865-1874".
In terms of its artistic and typological characteristics, the technique of execution in the material, the particular characteristics of decorative silvering, gilding, patination, their combination, and a dedicatory inscription, this set can be dated to 1874, and is attributed to the exclusive, high value, works of St. Petersburg bronzers. The rarity and maid-to-order character of the set in question is emphasized by its size, complex architectonics, and the presence and combination of various forms of decorative bronze coating -- gilding, silvering and patination, especially silvering, which was rarely implemented on Russian artistic bronze.
*mildly alcoholic drink made from fermented rye bread, yeast or berries