Unusual Russian lacquer plate, 9 3/4" diameter, depicting the Russian fairy tale, "Story of the Golden Hair Girl." The plate is entirely hand painted and from the Palekh school. Across the bottom in Russian it reads, "Golden Hair", "Palekh" and the artist's signature which appears to be "G. Panova." While you see a lot of Russian lacquer boxes, plates are quite rare. The painting on this pieces i also very nice with a wonderful border.
"Golden Hair" (Russian: Золотой волос) is a Bashkir folk tale. It was first published in 1939 in the children's stories almanac Zolotye Zyorna. It was later released as a part of The Malachite Casket collection.
The story is that while hunting, a daring Bashkir hunter Ailyp meets a girl of "unprecedented beauty" sitting by the river. Her braided long hair is golden and so bright that it makes the water glow. She asks if Ailyp will take her hand in marriage. Ailyp happily agrees. The girl's old nanny explains that the girl's name is Golden Hair and she is the daughter of Poloz the Great Snake, who has control over gold. The girl's hair is of pure gold and so heavy that it chains her to the spot. Ailyp collects the hair and starts walking away with his bride-to-be, but Poloz does not want to let his daughter go. He starts pulling the hair underground. Golden Hair takes the scissors and quickly cuts off her braid. She disappears underground, leaving Ailyp with just her braid. The girl's nanny approaches him and says that the girl is back on her spot by the river, but Poloz made her hair even heavier than before so that Ailyp wouldn't be able to lift it. She says to Ailyp: "Go home and live like you did before. If you don't forget your bride Golden Hair in three years, I will come back and take you to her". After three long years Ailyp goes back to the river. Golden Hair says that his memories of her were making the hair lighter with each passing day. She suggests that they try running away again, but Poloz catches them and makes Golden Hair's braid even longer and heavier. The nanny tells Ailyp: "Go back home and wait for another three years. Exactly three years from now you must go to her".
From the wise eagle-owl Ailyp learns that there's a place underneath Lake Itkul where Poloz is powerless. After three years Ailyp goes back for Golden Hair, brings her to Lake Itkul and together they make a home underneath it.
According to the plot, the lovers safely run away from Poloz. The theme of the symbolical union between a mythical creature and a human is very popular in folklore tradition. From the Bashkirs' point of view, such a marriage guarantees success in career, wealth and prosperity.
However the space under Itkul is viewed as the version of the pagan "Otherworld", or realm of the dead where people go after their physical death and remain there forever. Lidiya Slobozhaninova comments that it is no accident that Golden Hair leaves that place only occasionally, and that in the end the narrator confesses that he has never seen them after. Slobozhaninova summarizes that the price of love, freedom, and wealth is death, and the story is Bazhov's adaptation of the universal storyline of "love which is stronger than death".
Hand painted Russian lacquer plate Palekh School signed
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