The following year, the emperor had occasion to give the present lot to another foreigner. It is the only cypher cigarette case known to have been given by Alexander III to a non-Russian during the remainder of his reign. Given his general dislike of foreigners, this is perhaps unsurprising. Political circumstances at the time, however, brought about a warming of relations with France, and the emperor found himself feeling especially grateful to a particular Frenchman.
Henri-Auguste Lozé (1850-1915) served from 1888 to 1893 as Prefect of Police for Paris, a post he took over from Léon Bourgeois (who would later receive his own jewelled Imperial gift; see Sotheby’s London, 28 November 2006, lot 273). Lozé became suspicious of a particular group of Russian nihilist students residing in Paris and meeting frequently in the Latin Quarter. After placing them under surveillance, Lozé uncovered their plot to murder the Emperor of Russia with bombs. The students were arrested, tried and, in December 1890, convicted.
Alexander III, having come to the throne on the assassination of his father Alexander II, killed by a bomb on 1 March 1881, was almost constantly in fear for his life, with good reason. In the 1880s, at least five assassination attempts were made by the People’s Will, the leftist organisation that had killed his father. These included the famous attempt known as ‘The Second the First of March’ on the sixth anniversary of his father’s death, which involved Lenin’s brother, Alexander Ulyanov, who was executed.
Thus, having survived another plot to end his life, the emperor sent Lozé this jewelled gold cigarette case. It arrived in Paris with a letter from the emperor’s Minister of the Interior, Ivan Durnovo, dated 4 December 1890: ‘The importance of this affair having attracted the particular attention of the Emperor, His Majesty has deigned to order me to present to you, Monsieur le Préfet, as the Chief of Police in Paris, gratitude for having, in the exercise of your important duties, supported on all occasions the equitable interests of Russia. My August Master, wishing once again to demonstrate to you his high benevolence, has charged me with sending to you the enclosed object’ (see Aux Électeurs de la 2me Circonscription de Cambrai, M. Henry Lozé, Notes Biographiques, Le Cateau, 1902, p. 27).
The cigarette case is recorded in the Imperial ledgers on a page of cigarette cases as ‘gold, mounted with a sapphire and diamonds with His Majesty’s initial, made by the jeweller Fabergé’, with the cost of 2,956 roubles and the identity of the recipient noted. The inscribed date, 4 December 1890, corresponds to that on Durnovo’s letter to Lozé. We are very grateful to Svetlana Chestnykh for her assistance in the cataloguing of this lot.
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