An Imperial Presentation Fabergé jewelled gold and enamel box, workmaster Michael Perchin, St Petersburg, 1897
- gold, enamel, diamonds
Returned to the Imperial Cabinet by Lieutenant-General Feldmann, 16 December 1897
Presented by Emperor Nicholas II to Baron Maximilian von Lyncker, Marshall of the Household of the German Emperor, 15 November 1899
Acquired by François Dupré in the 1930s or 1940s
Thence by descent
Lieutenant-General Theodor (Fedor Alexandrovich) Feldmann (1835-1902) was Head of the Imperial Alexander Lyceum, appointed in 1896 when he was sixty-one years old. His career may not have been altogether successful, as the highest order he received was that of the White Eagle, in 1861. Whatever his professional shortcomings may have been, as a Lieutenant-General and a loyal servant of the Empire, he was entitled to a costly gift, one of thirty-one cypher boxes given to men of his rank during the reign of Nicholas II (U. Tillander-Godenhielm, The Russian Imperial Award System, 1894-1917, Helsinki, 2005, pp. 182-183).
Maximilian Freiherr von Lyncker (1845-1923) was Kaiser Wilhelm II’s Haus-Marschall, a senior post at Court. (He is not to be confused with the better-known Moritz Freiherr von Lyncker, who was the Kaiser’s Chief of the Military Cabinet, from a different branch of the family.) Described as ‘narrow-minded, violent and always advocating the strongest measures’, he exerted a ‘pernicious’ influence on his master (J. Röhl, Wilhelm II: The Kaiser’s Personal Monarchy, 1888-1900, Cambridge, 2004, p. 55). He is recorded as having accompanied the Kaiser on all twenty-six of his cruises between 1899 and 1914 (L. Cecil, Wilhelm II: Volume 2, Emperor and Exile, 1900-1941, London, 1996, p. 29) and was present at Potsdam outside Berlin where the German and Russian Emperors met on 8 November 1899.
This meeting came at a time of increasing tensions between the two rulers and their senior diplomats. Nicholas had been avoiding a meeting with an increasingly perturbed Wilhelm for some time, agreeing only reluctantly to this visit after the Kaiser vowed that he could not accept his refusal. During talks, the Emperor stressed his wish for peace with Germany, and generally, the conference was a success, and tensions eased somewhat. The main vexation for Nicholas II was a perceived slight by Wilhelm’s wife, Empress Augusta Victoria, which he recounted in a letter to his mother, dated 9 November (O.S.) 1899: ‘I intended to write to you about our visit to Potsdam as soon as I could.... On the whole everything went off well, except for a strange thing happening at the end: the Empress said good-bye to us in the Palace, instead of seeing Alix off at the station. Why this happened, nobody seems to understand. Our ladies and gentlemen were in a rage when they saw Alix getting out of the carriage and behind her a lady-in-waiting instead of the Empress.’ (E. Bing, ed., The Letters of Tsar Nicholas and Empress Marie, London, 1937, p. 141-2). The Emperor was obligated to send the necessary gifts after the visit, and the present lot was dispatched to Germany and Baron von Lyncker. The Haus-Marschall was likewise honoured by other Courts and received the Royal Norwegian Order of Saint Olav, Grand Cross Civil, in 1906. He and his wife, born Nini von Daum, had four daughters.
François Dupré (1888-1966) was a highly successful French banker, art collector, hotelier, and breeder of race horses. His love of art came genetically; he was the grandson of Barbizon School painter Jules Dupré. He purchased the Hotel George V in Paris in 1931 and subsequently filled it with his purchases of furniture, paintings and objects. During the German occupation of France during World War II, the George V, like all the grand hotels of Paris, was requisitioned by the German army; it became the headquarters of Marschall Gerd von Rundstedt. Dupré came in frequent contact with Germans both before and during the war. It is likely that he purchased the present lot from one of Lyncker’s daughters or grandchildren. Well-known as a collector and as someone of means, he was often offered things for purchase by owners in less fortuitous circumstances. Following his death in 1966 (on the same day his horse Danseur won the Grand Prix de Paris), the box was the property of his widow, Anna Stefanna Nagy Dupré. On her death in 1977, it passed to her sister, who died in 2002, when it was inherited by the present owner.
The Romanov Griffin
It was the decision of Emperor Alexander II to adopt a Romanov family coat of arms in 1856, shortly after the start of his reign, as a means of increasing the prestige of the dynasty; the double-headed eagle was (and is) the arms of the Russian State, not the family itself. Bernhard Karl von Koehne, Director of the Senate’s Department of Heraldry, was asked to create a design. He turned to a banner said to have belonged to Nikita Ivanovich Romanov, Michael Romanov’s first cousin and the only surviving non-royal member of the family at the time of his death in 1654. The banner itself no longer existed, but a description of it was found in the Kremlin Armoury: a griffin rampant bearing sword and shield within eight lion heads. Despite some criticism that the new arms were too European, with no specifically Russian elements, thereafter the griffin was used frequently as a heraldic device for the Romanov family.