The General Toptygin (Генерал Топтыгин). The bear in the "Tale of General Toptyigin" is a Russian folk legend. It is also a children's poem by Nikolay Alexeyevich Nekrasov (1821-1878) who was inspired to write by watching children playing. One evening, the General picks up a full-grown dancing bear and his handler in his sleigh. Due to onset of inclement weather, they are forced to stop and seek shelter at a village inn. After some hearty drinking at the tavern, they discover that there is not enough room at the inn and the bear must bunk in the stable with the horses. Miffed by this inconvenience, and not one to pass up an opportunity to bedevil the perpetrators of this slight, the bear takes off in the troika and rides to the post station. In the darkness, the station keeper mistakes the bear for the general and begins to curry favor, oblivious to the fact that the general is really a bear, who creates a frightful stir and howl. The situation is resolved when the general and coachman come to the rescue.
The carving from this period are generally the work of merited Bogorodsk masters. This is a "pride of the workshop" piece. The carving is firm and authoritative with deft strokes. The sleigh is enhanced with decorative motifs. The bear's mouth is open, as if emitting a mighty roar. The troika's system has the center horse holding to a straight line while the two opposite pulling horses generate high speeds. In winter, a troika can go 35-40mph. In this finely carved ensemble, the reins are made from genuine leather. Limewood, late 20th century. About 17"x 10"x 8½" in height.