studio “Svyatogor”

An extract from The Tale of Tsar Saltan by Alexander Pushkin


This three-dimensional mosaic was inspired by Mikhail Vrubel’s painting Princess-Swan. He, in turn, was inspired by Rimsky-Korsakov’s famous opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan, based on Pushkin’s poem, and Pushkin based his poem on a folk tale, which he heard from his nanny Arina Rodionovna. As a result, this stone composition unites several art forms and variations of a famous story about the beautiful Swan-Princess.

In fact, Mikhail Vrubel took part in the staging of the opera as a set and costume designer and his wife Nadezhda Zabela-Vrubel performed the leading role of Princess-Swan. This explains the careful attention paid to her image, as well as the gentle and charming appeal of the painting.

The Swan Bird is one of the most ancient archetypes in myths and fairy tales, which symbolises wisdom and magic power. In pre-Christian Russia, this bird belonged to some of the most revered and holy creatures. In the northern regions, for example, a white swan was considered the king of all birds. Naturally, the swan’s beauty and grace gave rise to associations with a beautiful young woman. These references appear in folklore too, for instance, it was the beautiful White Princess Swan who possessed the secret of living water and rejuvenating apples. In Pushkin’s poem, based on the Slavic myth, Princess-Swan performs miracles and helps Prince Guidon return to his motherland, build a family and find happiness.

In his painting, Vrubel depicted the most magical and wonderful moment of a woman turning into a bird. Reinterpreting this image in stone, the craftsmen emphasized the gradual rising of a woman’s body out of the sea with the help of natural cavities in the green chrysoprase. This is how an imperfection in the stone was transformed into a powerful element of the composition. This impression is reinforced by an interesting range of cool shades in the base of the sculpture: the sea wave is made of grey and green jasper with a blue undertone.

An extract from The Tale of Tsar Saltan by Alexander Pushkin

“Greetings, my fair prince,” said she

“Why are you so sad, tell me?

Why are you so dismal, say,

Like a gloomy, cloudy day?”

“Grief is gnawing at my breast,”

Answered Prince Guidon, distressed

“Every youth has his own bride —

Only I unmarried bide.”

“Who is she you wish to wed?

Tell me, now.” Guidon then said:

“There’s a fair princess; they say

That she charms both young and old —

Brighter than the sun at noon,

She outshines the midnight moon;

In her braids, a crescent beams,

On her brow, a bright star gleams.

She herself is sweet of face,

Full of majesty and grace.

When she speaks, her sweet voice seems

Like the flow of tinkling streams.

Is this true, though, or a lie?”

Anxiously, he waits reply.

Silently, the snow-white swan

Pondered; then she said: “Guidon —

Yes — this maiden I can find;

But a wife’s no mitten, mind,

From your lily hand to cast,

Or unto your belt make fast;

Listen now to my advice:

Weigh this matter well — think twice,

So that on your marriage morrow

You do not repent in sorrow.”

Here Guidon with ardor swore

That he’d thought of this before;

That ’twas high time he was married,

Too long single had he tarried;

That for this princess so fair

He would any perils dare,

Sacrifice his very soul,

Barefoot, walk right to the pole.

Sighing thoughtfully, the swan

Murmured: “Why so far, Guidon?

Know, your future bride is here —

I am that princess, my dear.”

Then she spread her wings, to soar

O’er the waves towards the shore.

There, amid a clump of trees,

Folded them with graceful ease,

Shook herself, and then and there

Turned into a maiden fair —

In her braids, a crescent beamed,

On her brow, a bright star gleamed;

She was sweet in form and face,

Full of majesty and grace.

When she spoke, her sweet voice seemed

Like the flow of tinkling streams.

He embraced the fair princess,

Folded her unto his breast.

Hand in hand with her he sped

To his mother dear, and said,

Falling on his bended knees:

“Mother darling — if you please,

I have chosen me a bride —

She will be your love and pride,

Your consent we crave to wed,

And your blessing, too,” he said —

“Bless our marriage, so that we

Live in love and harmony.”

O’er the kneeling pair, she stands,

Holy icon in her hands,

Smiling through her happy tears,

Saying: “God bless you, my dears.”

Prince Guidon did not delay —

They were married that same day,

Settled down, a happy pair,

Lacking nothing but an heir.


studio “Svyatogor”


Author: Grigory Ponomaryov

Craftsmen: Grigory Ponomaryov, Stanislav Shiryaev

Finishers: Alexey Atemasov, Konstantin Kotkov

Jeweller: Viktor Sobolev

Materials: chrysoprase, jasper, moss agate, marble, calcite, quartz, topaz, aquamarine, diamond, silver, rhodium plating, palladium plating

Dimensions: 50 × 35 × 35 cm