Lot 309
  • 309


20,000 - 30,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • 53cm. high, 32cm. diameter; 1ft. 9in., 1ft. ½in.
the egg and dart rims with losses, above a stop-fluted urn, the handles cast with masks and the stems on square bases supported by hairy paw feet on square plinths, losses


A collection in Russia before December 1925;
M. & R. Geneen, Grosvenor Galleries, London, 21 December 1925;
acquired by Major Ion Harrison from the above for £300.

Catalogue Note

The present vase closely relates to other examples designed by the Saint Petersburg architect-designer Ivan Ivanovich Galberg (1782-1863) in the second quarter of the 19th century. Following the death in 1817 of the prolific architect of the Imperial Russian Court, Giacomo Quarenghi, Galberg was promoted to the position of court architect, since “he can be most useful for the leadership of various building projects;…and equally for drawings for all workshops, factories and manufactories, that fall under its domain.” [1] With their bearded mask-form mounted handles, these urns are related to a vase in The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, dated to the 1840s (inv. no. Эпр-2642) with similar handles and designed by Galberg. An almost identical vase by Galberg, dated 1826, is also illustrated in Semyonov, V.B. Malachite, Sverdlovsk, 1987, Book 1, p. 139, ill. 22.

The design reflects the passion in the early 19th century for furniture and objects cut from malachite, a stone highly prized in Russia for its natural concentric veins of green in different shades and intensity with black wavy inclusions. In this way, the Golden Age of malachite was undoubtedly the 19th century, particularly in Russia where stone-cutters, who from the end of the 18th century, were able to work from a great variety of stone deposits discovered in the Altai and Ural Mountains [2]. There were three important imperial factories for stone-cutting, at Peterhof, Ekaterinburg and Kolyvan. Galberg is known to have worked at the Ekaterinburg Imperial Lapidary Factory, established in 1765.

Malachite urns and vases were treated as elements integral to one’s interior decoration, given that their size, weight and overall grandeur made them fixed elements in an interior. Simultaneously, they were elements of national pride, which foreign countries admired and bought from fairs, for example. Malachite’s status as Russia’s national treasure was a position that the country asserted at the 1851 Great Exhibition where it showcased large malachite urns and other works cut veneered in the stone.

The present pair was photographed in 1926 in the Drawing Room at Croft House, Helensburg. One of the present pair also appears in a study of the Drawing Room, Croft House by Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell (1883-1937) painted in 1934. Placed on pedestals, the urns were acquired in December 1925 by Major Ion R. Harrison, patron of Scottish colourist artists and the Glasgow ship owner, who collected important paintings and furnishings for his Victorian villa.

[1] Kučumov, A.M. Russian Decorative Art in the Collection of the Pavlovsk Palace Museum, Leningrad, 1981, p. 183.

[2] Chenevière, A. Russian Furniture of The Golden Age 1780-1840, London, 1988, p.259.