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The Rouchomovsky Skeleton [da]

If you are in New York on the 29th of April and you have some money to spend, you might should pay Sothebys a visit …

How about Lot No. 291:

‘THE ROUCHOMOVSKY SKELETON’: A RUSSIAN GOLD ARTICULATED SKELETON IN SILVER-GILT SARCOPHAGUS

Estimate: 150,000 - 250,000 USD

A fully articulated human skeleton in a velvet-lined coffin chased around on each side with three panels showing the course of life, one end with attributes of the arts, the other with attributes of war, the removable cover with the journey in the footsteps of the Angel of Death, surrounded by the faces of infants alternately laughing and crying.

Skeleton signed in Cyrillic, on the right splint-bone: Mozyr [18]92 Odessa [18]96 and on the left splint-bone Rouchomovsky;
Sarcophagus signed on lid: Israel Rouchomovsky and in Cyrillic on base Israel Rouchomovsky Odessa 1901.

Length of skeleton 3 1/2 in. (9 cm), length of coffin 4 3/8 in. (11.2 cm)
Date: the skeleton 1892-1896, the sarcophagus 1896-1906
Israel Rouchomovsky, Mozyr and Odessa,

Catalogue Note

Israel Rouchomovsky (1860-1934) came from a poor family in Mozyr, Belarus. Almost three-quarters of the population of the town was Jewish, and according to some accounts his parents wanted him to become a rabbi. His memoirs describe how he was drawn to silversmithing, and the efforts required to get a work permit and move with his family to Odessa, where he arrived in 1892. They also recount how he helped a colleague make a first gold skeleton, now held in the Museum of Historical Treasures of the Ukraine. He had thought this first skeleton would require a month of work, when in fact it took four, and he thought he could do even better; only certain sections of the first skeleton could move. The inscription on the leg shows that the fully articulated skeleton – supposedly with 167 different parts – required five years of work.

In his own words:”In the second piece, with the help of minute ball-bearings, all body members can move in all directions, and even the lower jaw can be opened and closed. This time I was entirely satisfied and I could say without any humbleness that I succeeded, I really succeeded, and it was at that point that I realized that this “deceased” deserved a beautiful sarcophagus.”

It would be another five years to make the case, finished in Odessa in 1901. Again in Rouchomovsky’s own words: “The sarcophagus is cut in massive silver and is covered entirely with ornaments and miniature figures [which he describes in minute detail].” Of the whole project, almost a decade of careful craftsmanship, the artist wrote, “although the work has taken very long, I can say that it is one of my best works, and I have always remained more than content with it, not only with its execution, but also with its underlying conception.”

Source: Southebys.com


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