Emperor Nicholas II, who never claimed to possess an artistic eye, would consult Gurie regarding Imperial purchases. Among his duties was delivering objects to the various Imperial residences, and he was once summoned to the Alexander Palace to string one of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna’s pearl necklaces. Empress Maria Feodorovna was also on friendly terms with the shop manager, whom she referred to endearingly as ‘my little Gurie’.
He had twenty to twenty-five employees under him and organised a canteen for them at the shop. His assistant, a Russian boy called Sergei, possessed an almost mythic memory. Sergei worked the cloakroom at balls and would share all the gossip he overheard with Gurie so that, when a certain gentleman turned up at the shop looking for a gift, the shop manager was informed enough to be able to suggest something especially appropriate, knowing for which lady it was intended.
In Evgeni Jacobson’s humorous watercolour caricatures, Gurie’s most exaggerated feature is his diminutive stature. Seated at a table presided over by Carl Fabergé, Gurie is depicted on a high chair with his feet dangling. Another (illustrated) shows him dwarfed by a lightbulb he is carrying into the shop. These sketches and the present lot attest to the deep affection Gurie inspired at the company. He remained with Fabergé until the closure of the St Petersburg shop in 1918, after which he returned to Switzerland. For more information, please see T. Fabergé, A. Gorynia and V. Skurlov, Fabergé i Peterburgskiye Uveliry, St Petersburg, 2012, pp. 419-422; T. Fabergé, V. Skurlov and V. Ilyukhin, Fabergé i yego Prodolzhateli, St Petersburg, 2009, pp. 46-47; and T. Fabergé, E. Kohler and V. Skurlov, Fabergé: A Comprehensive Reference Book, Geneva, 2012, p. 189.
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