Great Washington Museums: Hillwood Estate

Great Washington Museums Celebrate Great Women Artists is a NMWA-organized collaborative city-wide project highlighting works by women artists. During 2012, institutions throughout the Washington area are featuring an array of signature works by women artists that have enriched their distinguished collections. This landmark program, in conjunction with NMWA’s 25th anniversary celebration, continues NMWA’s dedication to celebrating women’s achievements in the visual, performing, and literary arts. This excerpt explores one of the Hillwood Estate, Museum & Garden’s signature works by a woman artist, a kovsh by the firm of Maria Semenova. Visit www.nmwa.org and download the pdf map to begin your journey!

Firm of Maria Semenova, Kovsh, 1898–1908; Silver, enamel, Siberian amethysts, chrysoprase, and garnets, 8 in. long; Hillwood Estate, Museum, & Garden, Bequest of Marjorie Merriweather Post, 1973 (acc. no 15.89)

Firm of Maria Semenova, Kovsh, 1898–1908; Silver, enamel, Siberian amethysts, chrysoprase, and garnets, 8 in. long; Hillwood Estate, Museum, & Garden, Bequest of Marjorie Merriweather Post, 1973 (acc. no 15.89)

In 18th- and 19th-century Russia, women regularly participated in family businesses, including gold and silversmithing. However, it was not until the late- nineteenth century that they began to register their own names and hallmarks. Maria Semenova came to the world of metalwork through her father’s workshop and eventually directed this firm. She frequently updated traditional Russian designs, such as this impressive kovsh (drinking vessel) in the Hillwood collection. Her choice of stones and her treatment of enameled flowers mark this work as innovative.

Hillwood is also holding an exhibition of Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave’s paper costumes, on view through December 30, 2012.

Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens, 4155 Linnean Ave., NW; www.hillwooodmuseum.org