St. Petersburg: Studio of Adolf Otsup, 1902. Original albumen print, 10.5 × 6.5 cm, mounted on card and inscribed to verso.
[A Russian Bylina Singer on Tour]. Carte-de-visite photograph of Ivan Trofimovich Riabinin (1833–1910), a peasant from the Olonets Governorate in Russia’s North-West. Both Ivan Trofimovich and his father, Trofim Grigor’evich Riabinin, were part of a dynasty of bylina chanters, who preserved and transmitted these ancient Russian epic songs. Known both for commanding an extraordinary range of songs (Ivan Trofimovich was said to know over sixty thousand texts) and for their idiosyncratic performances, they were referred to as “storytellers” [skaziteli]. When interest in the bylina developed in the early nineteenth century, it was believed that the tradition was lost, until the discovery of Trofim Riabinin. Scholars carefully sturied his repertoire and Mussorgsky himself captured the melodies of his performances. Beginning in 1892, the younger Riabinin toured the Russian Empire, as well as Bulgaria, Serbia, and Austro-Hungary. In 1902, he gave a private performance for the Tsar and his family, who compared his performance to the texts in a published volume of byliny and awarded Riabinin a gold medal for his talents. In 1894, a number of shorter performances by Riabinin were recorded using the phonograph. The card is signed to verso by Pavel Timofeevich Vinogradov, who discovered Riabinin in 1892 and decided to introduce him to a wider public. A scarce survival of the intense interest in Russian folklore around the turn of the twentieth century, which carried on into the 1930s in Soviet Russia. We were unable to locate this particular portrait, taken at the studio of Adolf Otsup in St. Petersburg.
Book ID: P4392