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The Fountain Milkmaid of Tsarskoe Selo

Lithographer and Author: Martynov, Andrei Efimovich (1768-1826)
Place of Publication: St Petrsburg
Date of Publication: 1821-1822
Technique: Tinted lithograph.
Size: 19,8 x 30,3 сm
From the Series: Views of St Petrsburg and its Environs
Origin: Rybakov collection.

St Petrsburg and its suburbs dominate the thematics of the renowned Russian artist and printmaker Andrei Martynov. Born in the city, Martynov graduated from the St Petersburg Academy of Art in 1788. On the Academy's allowance, Martynov studied in Rome until 1794. After returning from Italy, the artist was elected a member of the Academy in 1795, and became a councillor of the Academy in 1802. In the first decade of the nineteenth century, Martynov began to specialize in landscape painting and became one of the leading Russian landscape painters of his day. Then he moved gradually away from painting into graphic arts. His talent and individuality were especially apparent in his works in etching and lithography.
The largest publications of Martynov's prints is the series of the lithographs Views of St Petrsburg and its Environs. It is regarded as a wonderful lithographic poem, which combined realism with a lyrical tendency.
The series was published both on single sheets, and in parts, each of which included 12 sheets in a paper cover. At first, three parts, containing views of Saint Petersburg, were issuded. They were proceeded with views of suburbs of St Petrsburg: Tsarskoe Selo, Pavlovsk, Gatchina, Peterhof and Oranienbaum. Martynov produced lithographs at his own small workshop: a set of views of the city and suburbs were drawn, printed and tinted by the artist himself in the 1820s.

The lithograph The Milkmaid was inspire by the celebrated fountain, called The Girl with a Pitcher, which appeared in the Catherine Park of Tsarskoe Selo, on the left bank of the Great Pond, in 1816. The girl, hanging down her head for sorrow, sits on a rock. She is holding a piece of broken pitcher, that lies under her feet. A flow of water issues from the broken mouth of the pitcher. This is a remarkable piece of the Catherine Park sculpture, immortalized by Alexander Pushkin in his poem The Statue of Tzarskoje Selo (1830), which has become the poetic symbol of Tzarskoje Selo:

"The maiden dropped the urn against a rock and smashed it, the maiden sits sadly, holding the useless remains."
"Behold a miracle! the water, which is, pouring from the broken vase, does not stop, and the maiden forever sad, sits over the everlasting stream."

The bronze fountain figure by Pavel Sokolov (1765-1831) was foundered at the Academy of Art after the model, created in 1810.
It illustrates the fable The Milkmaid and Her Pail by the seventeenth-century French writer Jean de La Fontaine. The country girl was dreaming about future wealth on her way to the market. As she imagined all her dreams fulfilled, the milkmaid forgot about the pitcher that she was carrying on her head and jumped herself so high that she dropped the pitcher and spilt the milk. In despair the maiden sat, mourning her misfortune. So castles in the air usually vanish. Sokolov, the master of decorative sculpture of Russian classicism, depicts the maiden in ancient costume instead of the French peasant girl, by tradition of the early nineteenth-century art. Despite abstractiveness of the image, he managed to express deep emotions of the sad girl with exceptional lyricism and naturalism.
The fountain was designed by Lieutenant-general Augustin Bethancourt (1758-1824), the outstanding mechanical engineer and constructor. It was erected at the only spring in the Catherine Park. The water was conducted in the fountain through wooden pipes from this underground spring.

Here is a translation of the fable by B.Kachovsky:

"Comfortably and lightly dressed, placing the pitcher of milk on her head, in short skirts and barefoot, Peretta hastened to town to the market. Giving the wing to daydreams as she went, this young milk-girl decided, that if her customer was liberal with his money, she would buy eggs and raise chickens at home and feed them and guard them so well, and defy master fox; for she would arrange everything so cleverly and wisely. She would sell the chickens, and of course, buy a suckling pig; in order to raise a pig no great expenses would be entailed. She would like to know, what might hinder her from buying in the town a cow and a little bull; it would be sufficient reward for her for the trouble she took with them to look after them jumping among the herd. At that she jumped herself so high that she dropped the pitcher and spilt the milk, and with it lost her cows, pigs, and chickens! In despair she sat and looked at the remains, and at the pool of spilt milk, afraid to go home and face the anger there." "Who has thought about his daily-bread, without building air-castles. There are multitudes of dreamers, everywhere, some through foolishness and some through excess of brain. All talk nonsense, we like to dream; the delightful illusion carries us to the skies. Our dreams have no end, no limit; I, when alone, dream like everybody. I send a challenge to the bravest; I am a king, beloved by my people, I am invincible, I take new crowns, till life's pitiless hand wakes me and brings me to my senses."

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