Ca. 1884-1886. Oblong Folio (22x35 cm). 15 card stock leaves with watercolours and two leaves with period ink annotations at the front. Watercolour and pencil on paper. All but two watercolours with period ink numbers and/or captions in the upper or lower corners. Most leaves with red ink stamps of a Russian antique dealer Vladislav Kasperovich (1948-2015) on verso. Three leaves with unfinished ink sketches on verso. Period style green half morocco with cloth boards; spine with raised bands. Paper slightly age-toned, occasional minor water stains, one leaf with minor tears on the upper margin neatly repaired, but overall a very good album with beautiful watercolour sketches.
Unique collection of beautiful watercolour views of the Russian Far East and Kamchatka, dating back to the 1880s. Nine watercolours show general and detailed views of the Russian Post Alexandrovsky and De-Kastri settlement in the Bay de Castries (modern-day Chikhachyov Bay, Khabarovsk Krai), located on the eastern shore of the Strait of Tartary, opposite Sakhalin Island. The settlement was founded in 1853, “although the land where it was situated would not officially be Russian territory until the signing of the Treaty of Aigun five years later” (Wikipedia). It was in the Bay de Castries, that ships of the Russian Pacific fleet hid from the superior French and British forces during the Crimean War in 1854. Russian ships managed to escape to the mouth of the Amur River through the Strait of Tartary because the British and French didn’t know that Sakhalin was an island. Anton Chekhov visited De-Kastri just a few years after the drawings were made, in 1890, and described it in his book “Ostrov Sakhalin” (M., 1895). The settlement endured Japanese occupation during the Russo-Japanese war (1904-1905), military engagements between the White forces and the Red Army during the Russian Civil War (1917-1923), and construction of Soviet defence fortifications during the 1930s and 1940s. In 1950-1953, De-Kastri housed a gulag camp, which provided a workforce for constructing the tunnel under the Strait of Tartary, aiming to connect Sakhalin with the mainland. The work stopped after the death of Stalin. Nowadays, De-Kastri is known for being one of the largest oil export terminals in the Far East, mainly oriented on deliveries of Sakhalin crude oil to Asian markets.
The album includes two general views of De-Kastri and seven detailed and thoroughly annotated views of its interior, showing military barracks, armoury, telegraph station, infirmary, warehouses, “the building of the naval department,” “the guards’ house,” communal kitchen, houses of local merchants Kordes and Khvostov, “my dwelling,” skating rink, “logs for the construction of the church” &c. One drawing shows “River Du about 100 versts from De-Kastri” (possibly, River Duki, a tributary of River Amgun which itself flows into the Amur River), with the comment: “the river is so abundant with trout that it can be caught by bare hands.”
The other five watercolours are of Kamchatka. A well-executed sketch shows “Porotunka River” (Paratunka River, southwestern Kamchatka) with the comment “a remarkable spot due to warm sulphur springs with water up to 50°. The same place also stands out for its abundance of bears, and maybe in this regard, it’s the only one in the world. During one day, I saw six bears, of which I killed one”. The other views do not specify where they were taken but most likely depict Petropavlovsk. A general view shows the Petropavlovsk waterfront and a part of the Avacha Bay with the Koryaksky volcano in the background and the bell tower of the old Petropavlovsk cathedral in the centre. The other three drawings (one unfinished) show a coastal settlement and a part of a harbour, possibly Petropavlovsk or its environs.
The artist, who created the watercolours, was most likely Mikhail Panov, who served as the head of the meteorological station at Post Alexandrovsky in 1879[or 1880]-1885 and took several views of the settlement and its environs, as well as portraits of the locals. According to an article from a Khabarovsk newspaper, some of Panov’s works were presented to the administration of De-Kastri municipality by one of the descendants in 2020 (De-Kastri – nasha s toboi biografiya// Tikhookeanskaya Zvesda/ 01.05.2020; https://toz.su/newspaper/iz_istorii_sovremennosti/de_kastri_nasha_s_toboy_biografiya/). As follows from a Russian genealogical forum, Mikhail Panov came to Siberia from western Russia in the 1870s and in 1879 married Anastasiya Golovnya, the daughter of a Transbaikalia Kossack from Troitskosavsk. In the 1870s and 1880s, Panov worked for several gold mining enterprises in the Amur River basin, including the Amgun gold mines of a Blagoveshchensk merchant Kh. Tetyukhov. In 1879[or 1880]-1885, Panov served at the meteorological station in Post Alexandrovsky, De-Kastri. After 1889 the family moved to Irkutsk, where Panov died in 1892 (https://predistoria.org/forums/index.php?topic=5773.0).
Overall a rare historically significant collection of beautiful watercolour views of De-Kastri and Kamchatka in the mid-1880s.
The drawing’s numeration doesn’t entirely match the manuscript list at the front: leaves 9 and 11 are not present; four leaves that are present (14, 15, 18, 19) do not have manuscript annotations.
A list of watercolours:
1) “Drawing 1. De-Kastri. A corner of the barracks and the kitchen of the Alexandrovsk detachment, decorated with a flag on the occasion of the [holiday] of Baptism [of Our Lord]. Drawn on January 10, 1885. A honey watercolour;”
2) “Drawing 2. De-Kastri. A view of the barracks from the west (from the window of my apartments); to the right of the barracks is a skating rink on the occasion of the Maslenitsa [festival]. Drawn on February 4, 1885. A honey watercolour;”
3) “Drawing 4. De-Kastri. The building of the naval department, a view from the window of my apartment. Drawn on February 5, 1885. A honey watercolour;”
4) “Drawing 3. A corner of the barracks, the skating rink and the guards’ house. Drawn on February 9, 1885. A honey watercolour;”
5) “Drawing 5. A view from the window of the shop of merchant Kordes. On the left: the house of soldier Khvostov, next – the detachment’s kitchen and zeughaus/armoury, kitchen and the house of the head of the detachment, gymnasium, infirmary and a corner of the barracks. Drawn on April 13, 1885. A prismatic[?] watercolour;”
6) “Drawing 6. The central part of De-Kastri: on the foreground – logs for the construction of the church, in the centre – the barracks of the Alexandrovsk detachment, from there to the left – my dwelling, to the right – the infirmary, in the background on the left – the house of merchant Kordes, on the right – the detachment’s warehouses. Drawn on May 14, 1885. A prismatic[?] watercolour;”
7) “Drawing 7. De-Kastri. The telegraph station. Drawn on April 26, 1885. A honey watercolour;”
8) “Drawing 8. A general view of De-Kastri from the cape of St. Innocent, four versts from the Alexandrovsk post. Drawn on April 16, 1885. A honey watercolour;”
9) “Drawing 10. De-Kastri. A view of the infirmary window, in the foreground – a corner of the infirmary and the barracks, on the middle ground – the telegraph station, on the foreground – the hills on the other side of the Somonskaya bay. Drawn on May 16, 1885. A honey watercolour;”
10) “Drawing 12. On the River Du – about 100 versts from De-Kastri. On the foreground – yurts of the nomad Tungus. The river is so abundant with trout that it can be caught by bare hands. Drawn: started in June 1884, finished in September 1886. A mixed watercolour;”
11) “Drawing 13. On the River Porotunka, 55 versts from Petropavlosk on Kamchatka. A remarkable spot due to warm sulphur springs with water up to 50°. The same place also stands out for its abundance of bears, and maybe in this regard, it’s the only one in the world. During one day, I saw six bears, of which I killed one. Drawn on September 18-21, 1886. A mixed watercolour;”
12) “14.” [An uncaptioned view of a coastal settlement on Kamchatka, possibly Petropavlovsk or environs]. “Drawn on September 24, 1886. A honey watercolour;”
13) “15.” [An uncaptioned and undated view of Petropavlovsk on Kamchatka, featuring the bell tower of St. Peter & Paul’s Cathedral and the Koryaksky Volcano];
14) “18.” [An uncaptioned view of a coastal settlement on Kamchatka, possibly Petropavlovsk or environs]. “Drawn on September 24, 1886. A honey watercolour;”
15) “19.” [An uncaptioned and unfinished view of a coastal settlement on Kamchatka, possibly Petropavlovsk or environs. Undated].