Lot 636
  • 636

A rare Imperial Presentation Fabergé jewelled gold cigarette case, workmaster Michael Perchin, St Petersburg, presented 1890

80,000 - 120,000 GBP
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  • gold, diamonds, sapphires
  • length 11cm, 4 3/8 in.
the surface cast with basket weave pattern, the lid applied with the stylised crowned cypher of Emperor Alexander III (r. 1881-1894) set with rose- and circular-cut diamonds, the corners with cushion-shaped diamonds, sapphire-set thumbpiece, struck with workmaster's initials, 56 standard


Purchased by the Cabinet of His Imperial Majesty from Fabergé for 2,956 roubles
Given by Emperor Alexander III to Henri-Auguste Lozé, Prefect of Police, Paris, in 1890
Thence by descent


U. Tillander-Godenhielm, The Russian Imperial Award System, 1894-1917, Helsinki, 2005, p. 187, table 60, listed as one of four cigarette cases with the Sovereign's cypher given to non-Russians between 1890 and 1909


Excellent condition. The family of the recipient had removed the jewelled elements and converted them into wearable jewellery. A professional restorer has now re-mounted these onto the cigarette case. All elements are original. The surface with very minor scratches consistent with age, including to the interior. There was a shallow dent to one lower corner, which has been repaired.
"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

The tradition of Imperial Presentation gifts, or ‘Expressions of His Imperial Majesty’s August Favour and Gratitude’, with its antecedents in the reign of Peter the Great, was most fully embraced during the reign of Nicholas II, formalised in the decree of 1898 and thereafter practiced with greater enthusiasm (or generosity).  As a consequence, objects bestowed by Alexander III are far rarer than those given by his son.  Probably the grandest example is the jewelled Bismarck Box by Fabergé, bearing a miniature portrait of Alexander III, given by him to the German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck in 1889 and now in The McFerrin Collection (see D. McFerrin, ed., From a Snowflake to an Iceberg, 2013, pp. 82-83, illustrated).

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.