PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF FRANCES H. JONES
The present lot is one of a handful of gold-mounted lapis lazuli bowls in late Renaissance and Baroque taste recorded in the Wigström design book (see Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm et al, Golden Years of Fabergé: Drawings and Objects from the Wigström Workshop, Graulhet, 2000, p. 121), the rendering of this object inscribed 1913, corresponding to the date of the London import marks. Like all Fabergé pieces in these styles, the sources of its design were the richly mounted 16th-and 17th-century hardstone vessels which inspired Carl Fabergé during his time in Dresden as a young man acquainting himself with the European treasures of the Green Vaults and his subsequent travels in western Europe. There he would have seen the impressive and weighty ewers and tazzae heavily carved from single pieces of lapis lazuli. (For such an object, see the carved lapis lazuli salt in A. Somers Cocks and C. Truman, The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection: Renaissance Jewels, Gold Boxes, and Objets de Vertu, New York, 1984, pp. 146-147). Because of its brittleness and variable hardness, carving of such large pieces demonstrated virtuoso skill in its own right.
Similar Fabergé objects are usually products of the Perchin workshop; those by Wigström, who preferred neoclassicism in keeping with current fashion during his tenure as head workmaster, are rarer. While Perchin and his designers remained more faithful to original models, Wigström favored a freer and more forward-looking interpretation, which was perhaps more in tandem with the view of his employer. "Instead of yielding his originality to the strength of the sources from which he borrowed, [Fabergé] accepted these earlier aesthetic principles not as fixed codes, but rather as vital and pliable elements to be adapted to his own invention" (Tillander-Godenhielm, p. 118). Indeed the present lot, although essentially Baroque in style, is much more restrained than its 17th century prototypes and would have sat quite comfortably in an austere Art Deco interior 20 years after its manufacture.
The dolphin motif was employed by Wigström most notably on the Standard Egg of 1909, its stem formed of two entwining carved lapis lazuli dolphins. This semi-precious stone was among those which Fabergé's craftsmen worked to its best advantage, with gold mounts contrasting the rich blue color while complementing the pyrite inclusions. Originally imported from northeastern Afghanistan where it had been mined for 6,000 years, lapis was discovered in the Sluidanka River valley of southeastern Siberia in 1785. Hardstone objects were mounted by the House of Fabergé since its founding; such production increased following the purchase of the Woerffel lapidary works in 1908.
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