A Russian porcelain Easter egg with a miniature of the penitent Magdalene after Murillo, Imperial Porcelain Factory, 1860s-1870s. The front of the egg centered with a miniature of the penitent Mary Magdalene, wearing a blue cloak over her torn clothing and with her hair undone, kneeling in prayer next to a book propped up on a skull, symbol of both vanity and mortality, the miniature signed in Cyrillic Golov at lower center, all within a border with ciselé floral and laurel ornament, all reserved against a gilt ground, the back of the egg with finely engraved ciselé image of the Holy Spirit within a Classical border. Height: 3 in. (7.6 cm).
Many of the Imperial factory’s Easter eggs were meticulously painted with copies after Old Master canvases during latter years of the reign of Nicholas I (1825-1855) and during that of his successor, Alexander II (1855-1881), oftentimes works in the collection of the Hermitage. This work is clearly based on Bartolome Esteban Murillo’s “The Penitent Magdalen” (1640, The Matthiesen Gallery, London), although the color of her robe has been changed. The original painting was not in the Hermitage or any other major Russian collection; however, Raphael Morghen in 1801 published an engraving after the painting, then in a Roman or London collection. The engraving enjoyed enormous popularity throughout the nineteenth century and copies of it were in multiple Russian Imperial and noble collections.
The Golovs were a family of painters at the Imperial Porcelain Factory. Multiple generations of the Golov family worked at the Imperial institution in the 19th century and they were lauded for their skill as copyists of complex works such as Old Master canvases. Unfortunately, the painter did not sign a first name or initial and the exact family member can’t be identified.
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