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Russian Easter Postcards of the Early  20th Century

Russian Easter Postcards of the Early 20th Century


Alina Yartseva

Postcards of Elisabeth Boehm

Christ is risen!
Elisaveta Bem or Elisabeth Boehm (1843-1914) studied in the School of Painting at the Society for Promotion of Artists during 1857 – 1864 and graduated from the school with the Large Silver Medall. She was a versatile artist. E.Boehm was considered as an outstanding master of silhouette, she also successfully worked in watercolor, illustrated children's books and magazines, developed designs for works of glass.

Still she is mostly known as one of the most famous postcard Russian authors. She produced over 300 postcard designs for different publishers. The first of these were created for the St. Eugenia Welfare Community. Many cards were printed by the Richard publishing house in St. Petersburg, as well as by the I. Lapin Paris firm (Maison Lapine of Paris).

The writer Sophia Lavrentieva (1836-1918) in the biographical essay about the artist, released in 1911, asked a rhetorical question, 'Who, meeting these children <…>, printed on the cards commissioned to the artist from every corner of the old and new world and sold like hot cakes, is able to restrain themselves from admiring them and to suppress a cheerful cmile at these little kids dressed now in gold-embroidered clothes of Russian nobility, now in the ragged homespun coats and simple shirts; or having the appearance of angels shaded with gracefully folded wings?' These words can be also applied to Easter postcards of Boehm.

Thy Resurrection O Christ our Saviour, the angels in heaven sing!Angels in heaven sing, and, on earth, vouchsafe us with a pure heart to glorify Thee
It is interesting to see what texts the artist includes in her compositions. A few of postcards contain lines of the Easter hymn: «Thy Resurrection O Christ our Saviour, the angels in heaven sing, and, on earth, vouchsafe us with a pure heart to glorify Thee».

In some pictures, Boehm cites verses of Russian poets, composed as early as the 1880s. The work «Spring is coming, full of wonders…» refers to the final strophe of the poem «Christ is risen!» of Apollon Maikov (1821-1897). This postcard was first published by the St. Eugenia Community in March 1909, and our exhibition features its 4th edition.

Spring is coming, full of wonders A gift of a bright red egg

The last stanza of the poem «Christ is risen» of the great Russian poet Alexander Blok' aunt Ekaterina Beketova (1855-1892), was chosen for the postcard «A gift of a bright red egg…» by the Richard publishing house.

Christ is risen, Christ is risen! Jubilant angels from heaven!Church bells toll…
Sometimes poetic lines on postcards are paraphrased as compared with the original, sometimes they are combined with lines of other authors. Perhaps the words of the same poem of Beketova inspired Boehm to create the picture. «Christ is risen, Christ is risen! Jubilant angels from heaven!». Another postcard by the Richard company – «Church bells toll…» – is a mix of two poems: of Maikov, and of Beketova.

Of course, in a number of works, Boehm used the traditional Easter greetings. Matching cards «Christ is risen!» and «He is risen indeed!» by the St. Eugenia Community first appeared in 1905. Probably, not only Lavrentieva was touched and excited by the «little charming faces» drawn by Boehm. Despite that these pictures of kids in baskets were monochrome phototype, they gained very high popularity and were reprinted many times. A colour autotype prepared by the same publisher for Easter of 1908 and depicting a peasant girl with a doll, too, ran into at least 4 editions.

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Christ is risen!

Christ is risen!Christ is risen!
The two cards titled «Christ is risen!» were produced by the artist for the Richard publishing house, they depict peasant children – a girl and a boy.

An egg is valuable to the Christ day!
Boehm could not help but referring to so beloved by her proverbs and sayings («An egg is valuable to the Christ day!», «Feast makes every soul happy»), to folk songs «We celebrate the Feast days only with family!», «I cooked and baked for Peter, not for Mary!»). By the way, some of the poetic sayings cited in the postcards are probably talented stylizations composed by the artist herself. This observation is made in the modern researcher N. Mozokhina's article to the illustrated catalogue of postcards «Elizabeth Boehm» (2012). Whatever it was, Easter cards took an important place in the gallery which includes the 'all these kids, in their inexhaustible variety, with well-chosen proverbs and rhymes', Lavrenteva wrote about them.

Many works depicted eggs reminding about Easter day: these are, for example, a series of postcards issued by I. Lapin in Paris, and postcard by the Richard publishing house that shows a charming girl rolling Easter eggs down a chute

Feast makes every soul happy Even a child knows that today is the Christ day! We celebrate  the Feast  days only with family!

On Holy Sunday, we are all having a good time!

«We began to roll the eggs down the Red Hill. In my childhood, I had a special angled board, half a meter long, with a chute inside it. At the bottom end, one egg was laid, the other was rolled down towards it. The contestant whose egg's shell remains uncracked was the winner.».
Metropolitan Pitirim (Nechaev). «Rus' ukhodyachshaya (Disappearing Russia)»

Other pictures portray a little hostess cooking an Easter dinner in the kitchen or inviting guests to the festive table: such cards were printed both by the St. Eugenia Community and by the Richardpublishing house. This plot is found on postcards, which captions are not proverbs.

  • I've got so many things to do for the holy day!
  • We have the best Easter cakes in the oven!
  • I cooked and baked for Peter, not for Mary!
  • Welcome to the Feast of Christ's Resurrection!
  • Young Hostess

Some Boehm's cards feature the custom of the Easter greeting. Mutual congratulations on the occasion were accompanied by a kiss and a gift of Easter eggs. They began on a festive liturgy and continued out of the church.

Christ is risen!

«The sky glowed with sunrise<…>. In the square, at the fence, and in the narthex and in the church, «Christ is risen!» «He is risen indeed!» was constantly heard – kisses sounded». «All people hug each other, repeating: Christ is risen!.. He is risen indeed!.. People give eggs to celebrate Easter. All have festive appearances, merry faces; sadness and worries vanished, peasant wants disappeared somewhere».
N. Soloviev-Nesmelov. «Svetly prazdnik v derevne (The Holy Feast in the Countryside)»

Figures on the card «Important Tradition, on the Great Day!» issued by Richard company are dressed in historical Russian costumes. This is a good example of how the artist worked: she first make sketches of peasant children. Then she use these sketches to create her originals, clothing children in various costumes in her imagination. The home collection of items of decorative and applied arts obviously helped Bem: salon in her apartment was a real museum in which a lot of Russian antiquities in the form of art woman's headdresses, gloves, ladles etc. were seen on shelves and tables.

Important Tradition, on the Great Day! Kiss me for the holy Christ's day! Christ is risen

The popularity of Bohm's works and demand for Easter greeting cards led to the fact that some publications, thematically unrelated to this event, were produced with a special overprint. The exhibition presents two such cards issued by I. Lapin, and both of them were used in the postal correspondence during Easter celebration of the 1910s.

Aunt Malanya Baked Pancakes Aunt Malanya Baked Pancakes I would be happy to marry but there is nobody out there for meI would be happy to marry but there is nobody out here for me! I would be happy to marry but there is nobody out here for me!

…There is something symbolic in the fact that Elizabeth Boehm died a few days after the outbreak of World War I. According to the famous poet Anna Akhmatova's words, "not the calendar but the real twentieth century" came. In it there was no place for "charming little faces". Peasant children meeting a good mistress with berries, soon became the signs of the lost past.

Learn more about New Year's Postcards of Elisabeth Boehm

Elizabeth Boehm (1843-1914)
Thy Resurrection Angels Sing in Heaven, O Christ our Savior! : open letter / E. Boehm. - St. Petersburg : Richard publishing house, [between 1904 and 1914]. - 1 sheet : colour autotype ; 14х9,1 cm
View in the Digital Library

Elizabeth Boehm (1843-1914)
Angels Sing in Heaven: on the earth, vouchsafe us also with pure heart, O Lord, to glorify Thee! : [postcard]. - [Paris] : I. Lapin, [between 1904 and 1917]. - 1 sheet : colour autotype ; 13,7х8,7 cm
View in the Digital Library

Elizabeth Boehm (1843-1914)
Christ is risen, Christ is risen! Jubilant angels from heaven! : open letter / E. Boehm. - St. Petersburg : Richard publishing house, [between 1904 and 1914]. - 1 sheet : colour autotype ; 14,2х9,1 cm
View in the Digital Library

Elizabeth Boehm (1843-1914)
Church bells toll, spreading the good news everywhere; Christ is risen, Christ is risen! : open letter / E. Boehm. - St. Petersburg : Richard publishing house, [between 1904 and 1914]. - 1 sheet : colour autotype ; 14,1х9,2 cm
View in the Digital Library

Elizabeth Boehm (1843-1914)
The family are rejoicing at their meeting in the clear morning, they are sharing bright red eggs and proclaiming to each other: News came from heaven to us! Christ is risen, Christ is risen! : open letter / E. Boehm. - St. Petersburg : Richard publishing house, [between 1904 and 1914]. - 1 sheet : colour autotype ; 9,2х14 cm
View in the Digital Library

Elizabeth Boehm (1843-1914)
Spring is coming, full of wonders, - Christ is risen, Christ is risen! : postcards. - 4th edition. - [Petrograd : St. Eugenia Community, between 1914 and 1917]. - 1 sheet : colour autotype ; 9х14 cm
View in the Digital Library

Elizabeth Boehm (1843-1914)
Christ is risen! : postcards. - 7th edition. - [Petrograd : St. Eugenia Community, between 1914 and 1917]. - 1 sheet : phototype ; 14,1х9 cm
View in the Digital Library

Elizabeth Boehm (1843-1914)
He is risen indeed! : open letter. - 4th edition. - [Saint Petersburg : St. Eugenia Community, between 1905 and 1914]. - 1 sheet : phototype ; 14,1х9 cm
View in the Digital Library

Elizabeth Boehm (1843-1914)
Christ is risen! : postcards. - 4th edition. - [Petrograd : St. Eugenia Community, between 1914 and 1917]. - 1 sheet : colour autotype ; 9х14 cm
View in the Digital Library

Elizabeth Boehm (1843-1914)
Christ is risen! : open letter / E. Boehm. - St. Petersburg : Richard publishing house, [between 1904 and 1914]. - 1 sheet : colour autotype ; 14х9 cm
View in the Digital Library

Elizabeth Boehm (1843-1914)
Christ is risen! : open letter / E. Boehm. - St. Petersburg : Richard publishing house, [between 1904 and 1914]. - 1 sheet : colour autotype ; 14х9 cm
View in the Digital Library

Elizabeth Boehm (1843-1914)
Christ is risen! : postcards. - [Petrograd] : Day, [between 1914 and 1917]. - 1 sheet : chromolithograph ; 8,6х13,6 cm
View in the Digital Library

Elizabeth Boehm (1843-1914)
An egg is valuable to the Christ day! : open letter. - [Without place :without publisher, between 1904 and 1917]. - 1 sheet : colour autotype ; 9,1х14,1 cm
View in the Digital Library

Elizabeth Boehm (1843-1914)
On Holy Sunday, we are all having a good time! : open letter / E. Boehm. - St. Petersburg : Richard publishing house, [between 1904 and 1914]. - 1 sheet : colour autotype ; 9,1х14 cm
View in the Digital Library

Elizabeth Boehm (1843-1914)
We have the best Easter cakes in the oven! : open letter. - [Saint Petersburg : St. Eugenia Community, 1910]. - 1 sheet : phototype ; 14,5х9,2 cm
View in the Digital Library

Elizabeth Boehm (1843-1914)
I've got so many things to do for the holy day ! : open letter. - [Saint Petersburg : St. Eugenia Community, 1911]. - 1 sheet : phototype ; 9,2х13,8 cm
View in the Digital Library

Elizabeth Boehm (1843-1914)
Feast makes every soul happy : [postcard]. - [Paris] : I. Lapin et c., [between 1904 and 1917]. - 1 sheet : colour autotype ; 13,7х8,7 cm
View in the Digital Library

Elizabeth Boehm (1843-1914)
Even a child knows that today is the Christ day! : [postcard]. - [Paris] : I. Lapin et c., [between 1904 and 1917]. - 1 sheet : colour autotype ; 13,7х8,7 cm
View in the Digital Library

Elizabeth Boehm (1843-1914)
We celebrate the Feast days only with family! : [postcard]. - [Paris] : I. Lapin et c., [between 1904 and 1917]. - 1 sheet : colour autotype ; 13,7х8,7 cm
View in the Digital Library

Elizabeth Boehm (1843-1914)
I cooked and baked for Peter, not for Mary! : open letter / E. Boehm. - St. Petersburg : Richard publishing house, [between 1904 and 1914]. - 1 sheet : colour autotype ; 8,9х13,9 cm
View in the Digital Library

Elizabeth Boehm (1843-1914)
Young Hostess = La petite ménagère : open letter. - Издание 2-е. - [Saint Petersburg : St. Eugenia Community, between 1907 and 1914]. - 1 sheet : colour autotype ; 9,3х14 cm
View in the Digital Library

Elizabeth Boehm (1843-1914)
Welcome to the Feast of Christ's Resurrection! : open letter / E. Boehm. - St. Petersburg : Richard publishing house, [between 1904 and 1914]. - 1 sheet : colour autotype ; 9,1х14,1 cm
View in the Digital Library

Elizabeth Boehm (1843-1914)
Important Tradition, on the Great Day! : open letter / E. Boehm. - St. Petersburg : Richard publishing house, [between 1904 and 1914]. - 1 sheet : colour autotype ; 9х14 cm
View in the Digital Library

Elizabeth Boehm (1843-1914)
Kiss me for the holy Christ's day! : open letter / E. Boehm. - St. Petersburg : Richard publishing house, [between 1904 and 1914]. - 1 sheet : colour autotype ; 9х14 cm
View in the Digital Library

Elizabeth Boehm (1843-1914)
[Christ is risen!] : open letter / E. Boehm. - St. Petersburg : Richard publishing house, [between 1904 and 1914]. - 1 sheet : colour autotype ; 8,9х14 cm
View in the Digital Library

Elizabeth Boehm (1843-1914)
[Christ is risen] : open letter. - [Without place :without publisher, between 1904 and 1917]. - 1 sheet : colour autotype ; 9,2х14 cm
View in the Digital Library

Elizabeth Boehm (1843-1914)
Aunt Malanya Baked Pancakes….. : open letter. - Paris : I. Lapin, [between 1904 and 1911]. - 1 sheet : chromolithograph ; 13,7х8,8 cm. - (L'art russe)
View in the Digital Library

Elizabeth Boehm (1843-1914)
I would be happy to marry but there is nobody out here for me! There are many beauties but no my darling! : [postcard]. - Paris : I. Lapin, imp. edit., [between 1904 and 1913]. - 1 sheet : colour autotype ; 13,8х8,8 cm
View in the Digital Library