Ivan Bilibin Medieval Russia Tea Cup and Saucer. Ivan Bilibin (1876-1942) was a Russian artist, illustrator and stage designer who took part in the Mir Iskusstva movement and contributed to the Ballets Russes. He was directly inspired by Slavic folklore. Bilibin gained renown in 1899, when he released his singular illustrations for a series of Russian fairy tale books.
This elegant cup and saucer hearkens back to the medieval Tsarist era. The illustrations are from The Tale of Tsar Saltan (see below). The cup and saucer is made of fine bone china and is liberally decorated with 22 KT gold and a polychrome transfer of Tsar Dadon's Army marching around the perimeter of the cup. The shape is as unique as the design, which is credited on the back of the saucer to V. G. Bogdanov. Recent Imperial Porcelain production with the current backstamp. Cup is 2¼" tall and saucer is 5¼" diameter. (Note: we have only four of these.)
The Tale of Tsar Saltan, of His Son the Renowned and Mighty Bogatyr Prince Gvidon Saltanovich, and of the Beautiful Princess-Swan (the full title) (Сказка о царе Салтане, о сыне его славном и могучем богатыре князе Гвидоне Салтановиче и о прекрасной царевне Лебеди) is a fairy tale (see below) in verse written by Alexander Pushkin in 1831. Bilibin's illustrations accompanied the 1905 publication in St. Petersburg (a version of which is here:
The poem opens with Tsar Saltan overhearing three sisters making future plans. The youngest is quickly chosen by the Tsar to be his wife, and he employs the other two as royal cook and royal weaver. They are envious, of course. The Tsaritsa eventually gives birth to a son, Prince Gvidon. While the Tsar is away at war, the sisters scheme to have their sister and child sealed up in a barrel and cast into the sea. The boy grows older quickly while in the barrel, which eventually washes up on the shore of a remote island by the name of Buyan. One day, Prince Gvidon goes hunting and saves, unbeknownst to him, an enchanted swan (actually a princess) from a "kite", a bird of prey, which is a type of hawk. The bird turns out to be an evil magician. The Swan-Princess creates a city for Prince Gvidon to rule, but he becomes homesick, so she transforms him into a gnat (in some versions he is a bumblebee). In this guise, he returns to visit Tsar Saltan's court, whereupon he bites his aunt's eye and flees. Back home again, the enchanted swan shows Gvidon a magical squirrel, which lives off of golden nutshells and emerald kernels. Gvidon builds the squirrel a crystal house of which Tsar Saltan learns and becomes intrigued. But the sisters dissuade Saltan and tell him of the marvel of the 33 bogatyrs (i.e, knights) and their master, Chernomor, who rise from the sea. These bogatyrs are the enchanted swan's brothers. The swan transforms Gvidon into a fly, who follows them all back to Tsar Saltan's court, where he stings the eye of his other aunt. The aunts scheme one last time by describing to Tsar Saltan a miraculous princess with a star above her head, but this princess finally is revealed to be the Swan Princess. Gvidon and the Princess marry, Tsar Saltan visits them, and is delighted and overjoyed at the final outcome. They live happily ever after.