Three Fair Maidens by the Window (Три девицы под окном). Fedoskino, circa mid-1980s. (Signed by the artist). The scene depicted on this fine Fedoskino box is from the opening stanza from Alexander Pushkin's fairy tale poem "The Tale of Tsar Saltan". Three sisters weave while talking about their future plans (see below). The tsar overhears them and decides to marry the one whose aim is to give birth to a bogatyr. The jealous sisters betray their sister, now the tsarina, and her new born infant son which sets in motion one of Russia's most beloved and complex fairy tales. Oil, lacquer, hinged papier-mache box. 3⅞"x3¼"x1". 1 only. Some light wear to bottom, otherwise near fine.
Три девицы под окном пряли поздно вечерком.
"Кабы я была царица, - говорит одна девица, - То на весь крещеный мир
приготовила б я пир!"
"Кабы я была царица, - говорит ее сестрица, - То на весь бы мир одна
наткала я полотна!"
Третья: "Кабы, кабы... Мужика бы!"
Three fair maidens, late one night,
Sat and spun by candlelight.
"Were our tsar to marry me,"
Said the eldest of the three,
"I would cook and I would bake -
Oh, what royal feasts I'd make."
Said the second of the three:
"Were our tsar to marry me,
I would weave a cloth of gold
Fair and wondrous to behold."
But the youngest of the three
Murmured: "If he married me -
I would give our tsar an heir
Handsome, brave, beyond compare."
"The Tale of Tsar Saltan" is a poem by Alexander Pushkin written in 1831. Its full title is "The Tale of Tsar Saltan, of His Son the Renowned and Mighty Bogatyr Prince Gvidon Saltanovich, and of the Beautiful Princess-Swan". The poem opens with Tsar Saltan overhearing three sisters making future plans. The youngest is chosen by Tsar Saltan to be his wife, and the other two sisters he employs as royal cook and royal weaver. They are envious, of course, and when the Tsaritsa gives birth to a son, Prince Gvidon. While the Tsar is away at war, the sisters scheme to have her and her child sealed up in a barrel and cast into the sea. The boy quickly grows older while in the barrel, which eventually washes up on the shore of a remote island, Buyan. Prince Gvidon goes hunting and ends up saving an enchanted swan from a kite (a type of hawk). The swan is an enchanted princess and the kite is an evil magician. The swan forms a city for Prince Gvidon to rule, but he is homesick, and the swan turns him into a gnat (in some versions he is a bumblebee). In this guise, he returns to visit Tsar Saltan's court, where he bites his aunt's eye and flees. Back home, 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 hears and is intrigued. But the Tsaritsa's sisters dissuade Saltan and tell him of the marvel of the 33 bogatyrs (knights) and their master, Chernomor, who rises 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 is revealed as the Swan Princess. Gvidon and the Princess marry, Tsar Saltan visits them, and is delighted and overjoyed in the final outcome.