A Fabergé parcel-gilt silver pendant icon, Moscow, 1908-1917
- metal, silver, wood, oil, ink
Thence by descent
Of the many families living on the Yusupov estate, the Gregorievs were one. Count Felix Soumarokov-Elston - Prince Yusupov following his marriage - was godfather to many children, including Zinaida Gregoriev. From the moment that he carried the little girl, who happened to share her name with Yusupov's wife, to the baptismal fount, the count cared for her as for his own daughter. He made her his mother's live-in companion and, through the course of time, Yusupov and Zinaida grew increasingly attached to each other.
Their romance began in 1910 but, as they could not marry, they continued their forbidden affair clandestinely. In 1912, they had a son, Nicholas, who unfortunately died two years later. Life carried on and, whilst the First World War was in full rage, the young Zinaida, stationed in Saint Petersburg, gave birth to another child, named Olivier (1916-2004). With the Revolution, which devastated the whole country, the increasing insecurity and anguish experienced in Saint Petersburg forced the Gregorievs into exile in the Crimea where they started a new life in the little village of Alupka. The couple saw each other as much as possible, as Count Felix had taken up residence with his wife and son, Felix, not far from there in Aï-Todor, in a property belonging to the Grand Duke Alexander of Russia, whose daughter, Irina, had married the Prince Felix Yusupov (1887-1967) in 1914.
In February 1919, with the arrival of the Bolsheviks in the Crimea, the Romanovs residing in the region, as well as all the families connected to them and members of their suite, were gathered together in the Dulber domain and placed under house arrest. Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, succeeded in evacuating her family in April 1919 on board a ship sent by her sister, the Queen of England. All the Yusoupovs found themselves on board. The count, in spite all of his efforts, did not succeed in evacuating with him his mistress, who was pregnant at the time. Once in Rome, Felix managed, with the aide of his private secretary, M. Svetilov, and with false papers, to pass off Zinaida, Olivier and the little Tatiana (born 7 July 1920) as the wife and children of his secretary. It was under this new identity that they arrived in Constantinople, which it would prove subsequently impossible to rid themselves of. After more than two years of absence, Zinaida finally rejoined the count in Rome, where she lived on Via Humbria, several steps from the Yusupov's residence. The count took active part in the education of his biological children, visiting them regularly, showering them with presents and posing with them in photographers' studios.
After the count's sudden death in 1928, Zinaida worried about her son's health moved to the Cote d'Azur, where she died in May 1965. Zinaida financially supported her children by selling one by one all of the jewels she had ever received as gifts from the count, including this little icon.
For comparison, please see an icon of Christ Pantocrator, also comissioned by the Prince Yusupov and which has an identifying inscription on the back Prince Yusupov, 17 September 1913, illustrated by G. von Habsburg, Fabergé, Hirmer, Munich, 1986, p.133 and A.K. Snowman, Carl Fabergé, Greenwich, New York, 1983, p. 25.