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Irving R. Wiles
Russian Tea
about 1896
oil
48 1/8 x 36 1/8 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of William T. Evans



Three elegant women and a young girl anticipate the hot tea that brews in a great brass samovar. Wealthy and beautifully clad, they gather in a richly appointed interior where lamps with gaily striped shades flank a gilt-edged mirror. For the privileged, the Gilded Age of the 1880s and 1890s represented a moment of untold wealth that allowed access to international culture. Russian art, music, and customs became widely popular. Wiles recorded this setting as a night scene with loose, caressing, impressionistic brush strokes and a French-influenced flair.