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Item #0000102228

Queen of Spades (c.2019)

from Palekh by Ekaterina Bykova
9.50" x 4.50" x 1.75"(24.13 x 11.43 x 4.45 cm)

Gallery Price: $ 2695.00
Internet Price: $ 2595.00
Currently available
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The haunting short story by Aleksander Pushkin "Queen of Spades" is the subject of this equally engaging lacquer box by Palekh artist Ekaterina Bykova. The story's main character, Hermann, is intrigued to hear that an elderly countess knows the secret to winning at the game of Faro and the magical three cards that can bring him riches. With the help of the countess's helper Lizaveta, Hermann manages to surprise her in her home one night and demands to know the secret. He even pulls a gun at one point and threatens her, at which the countess faints and dies from fright. Nights later, she appears in a dream of Hermann and reveals the three cards he needs to know - the three, the seven and the ace. With this knowledge, Hermann goes to the gambling hall on three consecutive nights to bet each number, one card per night. He wins the first two nights with the three and the seven, but on the third, the Queen of Spades is revealed to him, not the Ace, and he has lost everything. The queen on the card actually seems to resemble the countess, and winks at him. (There is a lot more to the story, of course, which you can read here:

The beautiful architecture of St. Petersburg stands majestically in the center of this large box with the images from the plot flowing around it. The elderly Countess holds a small poodle near the top and speaks with the lovely Lizaveta. Near the bottom, Hermann stands on a couple "winning cards" (the three and seven) near the gaming table. Perhaps that is why he looks so confident. However, as we know the secret of the old contess will actually be Hermanns curse, and the Queen of Spades card that is symbolically on fire near the top of the box spreads a phantom swirl of bluish white lines down the right side, culminating in some spooky fingers that wrap themselves around Hermann. The artist Bykova has a totally unique style for Palekh. She uses traditional egg tempera paints, but the effect is different and gives a more realistic look to faces and other objects. The men at the gaming table have particularly expressive appearances as they engage in a spirited discussion. Fine gold lines are added in various spots, including the clothing, helping retain more traditional elements of Palekh painting. Playing cards are drawn around the sides against a dark green background and in a couple spots we see the elusive Ace of Spades that Hermann so desperately wanted. The box is made out of paper mache and stands on four small legs. It has a hinge to the left, and the interior is red. Signed at the bottom of the box with the name of the artist, title of work and village.

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