Monday, July 20th, 2015...10:32 am

Russian prints from the Nathalie Ehrenbourg-Mannati collection

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One hundred Russian lubok prints, or lubki, acquired by Houghton in 1961 from the collection of Nathalie Ehrenbourg-Mannati, were recently cataloged as part of our hidden collections cataloging initiative.

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The word “lubok” is of uncertain origin, but it encompasses any Russian prints or drawings produced by anonymous, self-taught artists, for sale at relatively low prices. Lubki originated in the 2nd half of the seventeenth century, when prints began to be made and sold independently of books. They shared a simple graphic style and subject matter that reflected the preoccupations, morals, and humor of the common people. Many lubki reflected rural peasant life, courtship and love, marriage, eating, drinking, dancing, and village life.

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Some illustrated folk tales or portrayed the heroes of legends and fairy tales. Others rendered historical subjects, portraits of military leaders or rulers, or scenes of famous battles. KIC Image 4

Religious themes were also common. The prints usually appeared with text, sometimes just a short caption naming the subject of a portrait, sometimes the text of the folk tale or a song that the print illustrated. Lubki were meant to be hung on walls to provide inexpensive interior decoration.  They were often hand-colored, sometimes artfully and precisely, sometimes quickly and crudely. The technique of lubok prints evolved from woodcuts in the 17th century to engraving, etching, and finally lithography in the 19th century.

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The prints in this collection date from the second half of the 19th century, and were probably produced by the technique of lithographic transfer, whereby an impression from a copper plate is transferred to a lithographic stone, and the edition printed from the stone. By this period, lubok prints were being produced in larger and larger editions, and quality was declining. Portraits of different military leaders often resembled one another. The prints began to be colored in bold, sweeping strokes, without regard to the lines of the picture, often in a slapdash manner.  Still, in most of these prints, the characteristic vitality of the genre survives.

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To access these prints, search by call number under RC8.A100.850u, or search by the keyword “lubok,” limiting the search to Houghton Library.

Nathalie Ehrenbourg Mannati (1884-1979) was born in Lausanne, Switzerland, to an émigré Russian Jewish family.  The Soviet writer Ilya Erenberg was her cousin.  At the age of 19, she came to Paris and studied with the Symbolist painter Maurice Denis.  Subsequently, she became involved in the Paris fashion industry and collected and promoted Russian folk art through articles and exhibitions.  Her  prints were exhibited at least twice in Paris: in 1913, at the Salon d’automne; and in 1960, at the Musée pedagogique national.  Consequently, many of the matted prints in this collection have exhibition labels attached.

Thanks to a new, innovative workflow at Houghton, to scan key content of text-based material at the time of cataloging, each cataloging record will be enhanced by a reference scan of the print described, providing catalog users with important additional information, improving the usability and efficiency of our online catalog.


Image 1: RB8.A100.850u (68). Крестьянин Понтюха объедалов. Krestʹi︠a︡nin Ponti︠u︡kha obʺedalov. “The peasant Ponti︠u︡kha overeating.”
Image 2:  RB8.A100.850u (13). Песня о патаке с имбирем. Pesni︠a︡ o patake s imbirem. “Song about treacle with ginger.”
Image 3: RB8.A100.850u (10). First two lines: Била жинка мужика, за чуприну взявши. First two lines: Bila zhinka muzhika, za chuprinu vzi︠a︡vshi. “A wife beats her husband, taking him by the hair.”
Image 4: RB8.A100.850u (94). Жизнь за Царя Ивана Сусанин. Zhiznʹ za T︠S︡ari︠a︡ Ivana Susanin. “Ivan Susanin gives his life for the Tsar” [Tsar Michael I, 1596-1645].
Image 5: RB8.A100.850u (39). Нападение Англичан на Ставропигиальнный Соловецкий Монастырь. Napadenie Anglichan na Stavropigialʹnnyĭ Solovet︠s︡kiĭ Monastyrʹ. “The English assault on the Solovetsky Monastery [Crimean War]”.
Image 6: RB8.A100.850u (53). Цыганская песня. T︠S︡yganskai︠a︡ pesni︠a︡. “Gypsy song.”

Thanks to Rare Book Cataloger Elaine Shiner for contributing this post.


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