Lot 25
  • 25

A Fabergé silver-gilt pearl and enamel heart shaped photograph frame enclosing a miniature of Empress Maria Fedorovna, workmaster: Michael Perchin, the miniature signed Zehngraf, St. Petersburg, circa 1890

60,000 - 80,000 GBP
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  • height: 7.5cm, 3in.
decorated in red translucent enamel over an engine-turned ground, the bezel framed with seed pearls and inset with a finely painted miniature of Empress Maria Fedorovna depicted wearing the sash of the Order of St Andrew, ivory back and silver-gilt strut, with workmaster's initials, 88 standard, held in a Fabergé fitted case enclosing a handwritten note in Danish: Min elskede Thyra  Juleaften 1905


Purchased by Empress Maria Fedorovna (1847-1928) on 10th January 1906


Munich, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Fabergé Hofjuwelier de Zaren, 5 December 1986 - 22 February 1987, cat. no. 424 
Munich, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Fabergé-Cartier Rivalen am Zarenhof, 28 November 2003 - 12 April 2004, cat. no. 196


Géza von Habsburg, Fabergé Hofjuwelier de Zaren, Munich, 1986, p. 227
Géza von Habsburg, Fabergé-Cartier Rivalen am Zarenhof, Munich, 2003, p. 204


The following condition report has been supplied by: Plowden & Smith Limited, 190 St. Ann's Hill, London SW18 2RT tel + 44 (0)20 8874 4005, fax + 44 (0)20 8874 7248, info@plowden-smith.co.uk www.plowden-smith.co.uk In apparent very good condition. There is very light discolouration to the enamel at the outside edges of the frame. There are two missing support pins at the back of the frame. The case is in good condition. The backing ivory has probably shrunk with age as there are two securing holes with screws missing because the holes in the gold frame are out of alignment with those in the ivory. One of the remaining four securing screws has a split head and others have damaged slots. The strut is slightly bent with use.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

A heart is an instantly recognised symbol of love. Given Fabergé's great ability to anticipate the wishes of his clients it is not surprising that the heart-form was frequently incorporated into the firm's designs. In the context of private imperial commissions, heart-shaped frames provided the 'surprise' in two of the Easter eggs presented by Emperor Nicholas II to his mother, the Dowager Empress Maria Fedorovna, (the 'Mauve Enamel' egg of 1897 and the 'Pansy' egg of 1899). On a less extravagant but equally intimate level, the Empress Alexandra Fedorovna gave her husband, Emperor Nicholas II, heart-shaped cufflinks to mark the occasion of the christening of each of their children. These cufflinks were set with the cipher of the Empress and that of the newly christened child.

Fabergé also made a variety of heart-shaped objects for sale in the various branches of his firm. Dowager Empress Maria Fedorovna purchased several such items, including the present frame, on 10th January 1906, and the Siberian quartz bonbonnière, on 17th December 1899, (lot 21). For Christmas 1900 the Dowager Empress gave her sister-in-law, Queen Olga of Greece, a heart-shaped tray of aventurine quartz contained in a fitted Fabergé case (see Géza von Habsburg, Fabergé in America, New York, 1996, cat. no. 215). Fabergé also adopted the heart form for clocks (see Fabergé Joaillier des Romanov, Brussels, 2005, cat no. 184 (Kremlin, Moscow, inv. no. MR-12010)), however, it was in the realm of jewellery that the motif was most frequently used.

This frame, which was probably originally intended to be used for a photograph, is inset with a portrait miniature of Dowager Empress Maria Fedorovna. It is likely that the recipient of the frame, the Dowager Empress's sister, chose to make the present she had received even more personal by adding such an image. The portrait is painted by Johannes Zehngraf (1857-1908), a pupil of the Academy of Copenhagen. In 1889 Zehngraf settled in Berlin, however, by the mid nineties he had moved to St. Petersburg. There he provided miniatures for three of the Easter eggs made by Fabergé for Emperor Nicholas II (the 'Revolving Miniatures' egg, 1896, the 'Pelican' and 'Lilies of the Valley' egg, both 1898). Zehngraf painted miniature portraits of several members of the Imperial family, including two of Empress Maria Fedorovna, which were mounted in Fabergé frames and today form part of the British Royal Collection (RCIN 40107 and 32472). Subsequently Zehngraf returned to Berlin where he was patronised by William II, German Emperor and King of Prussia and by Ferdinand I, Tsar of Bulgaria.

Zehngraf has based this portrait of the Empress Maria Fedorovna upon a photograph taken at a slightly earlier date by A.A. Pasetti. It was evidently an image that particularly appealed to the Empress, for it provided the starting point of Konstantin Makovsky's portrait painted in 1912, which commemorated the sitter's sixty-fifth birthday (Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, inv. no. ZB-1932).

The note in Danish translates: My beloved Thyra Christmas Eve 1905