Ivan Khlebnikov Biography
By the time of his death, Ivan Khlebnikov had served as official supplier of the Imperial Russian family, the Grand Dukes, and the sovereigns of Denmark, the Netherlands, Serbia and Montenegro. Khlebnikov’s international acclaim stemmed from the numerous exhibitions he participated in, especially those in Vienna (1873) and Moscow (1872) - he won two gold medals at each of these. His company was known for producing decorative silver and enamel work which reinvented traditional Russian style and folk art through originality and a colourful palette. In particular, Khlebnikov was known for immaculate plique-à-jour and cloisonné enamel, and for works produced in the Russian and Modern styles. Nevertheless, Khlebnikov’s output was extremely diverse and also featured the Neo-Baroque, -Rococo and -Classical styles.
Khlebnikov’s remarkable career began in 1867, when this son of a jewellery and diamond merchant opened his own jewellery firm in St Petersburg. His three sons Nikolai, Mikhail and Alexei were employed in his workshop and, upon their father’s death in 1881, took over the firm and expanded it greatly. In 1871, Khlebnikov moved the business from St Petersburg to Moscow. By 1882, around two hundred artisans were employed at the firm, and Khlebnikov also established an in-house school of design and sculpture for thirty-five students.
Two of Khlebnikov’s most significant projects were the renovation of the Palace silver dinner sets, working alongside Nichols & Plinke, Ovchinnikov and Morozov, and the decoration of Christ the Saviour, for which his firm produced nearly fifty religious objects such as chalices, incense burners, icon lamps and much else. Khlebnikov’s more commercial work for the mass market centred largely around dinnerware and jewellery.
When the Russian Revolution began in 1917, Khlebnikov’s sons closed the firm and donated their shares to the Moscow county zemstvo, or local government.