PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE AMERICAN COLLECTION
Presumably purchased by Armand Hammer from the Soviet authorities in the 1920s
With Hammer Galleries, New York
Purchased from the above by the parents of the present owners
Nicholas and Alexandra were married on 14 November (O.S.), a week after Alexander III’s funeral, the date chosen because it was the Dowager Empress’ birthday, which meat that Court mourning could be relaxed. Maria Feodorovna helped dress Alexandra for the ceremony, and together they drove to the Winter Palace and proceeded to the chapel, where the Emperor waited in his Hussar uniform. They each held a lighted candle as they became husband and wife, the precise moment depicted in Tuxen’s well-known painting (illustrated). Alix wrote to her sister ‘One day in deepest mourning lamenting a beloved one, the next in smartest clothes being married. There cannot be a greater contrast, but it drew us more together, if possible…. Such was my entry into Russia’.
Wedding gifts were sent from throughout the Empire and abroad, many from municipal governments. The more bespoke and elaborate of these would have been put into production as soon as the engagement was announced. Moving the wedding forward by five months necessitated a scramble for craftsmen in manufacturing centres across Russia to finish their work. It is unknown when the present lot reached St Petersburg, but it would not have been completed in time for the wedding. Officials in Kostroma may have felt a special pressure to give an incredible gift, as the city considered itself the birthplace of the Romanov dynasty. Michael Romanov was there when he was elected Tsar in 1613. When he left for Moscow to be crowned, he took with him a copy of the Feodorovskaya Icon of the Mother of God, a gift from his mother. Thus the icon became the patron icon of the family, and Kostroma officials chose it as the subject of their gift.
Another wedding icon was given to the Imperial couple by the bride’s sister, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, a triptych of Our Lady of Kazan flanked by Saints Nicholas and Alexandra, which she purchased from Fabergé, now in the Fabergé Museum in St Petersburg (illustrated, V. Voronchenko, ed., Fabergé: Treasures of Imperial Russia, Fabergé Museum, St Petersburg, New York, 2017, p. 276-277).
The Savelev firm of silversmiths was founded in Kostroma by Vasili Savelev in 1849. He was later joined by his son Alexander, and they are recorded as working together until 1893, when the elder silversmith either died or retired. Alexander apparently then brought his brother into the business, which became Savelev Brothers, though the brother’s identity is not recorded. The brother may not have been a silversmith himself, as there is no record of him having registered a hallmark. Throughout its existence, the firm specialised in the manufacture of icon oklads and was therefore a natural choice for commissioning by the city leaders of the wedding icon for the new Emperor and his bride. The firm was never very large, and Savelev works remain rare on the international market. A Savelev icon sold, Sotheby’s New York, 16-17 April 2007, lot 232; another was offered, Wannenes Genoa, 10-11 November 2014, lot 357. The Postnikova-Losseva entry for the firm does not mention any works in enamel; as the workshop was not extensive, it is unlikely they had in-house enamellers and therefore probably outsourced the extensive and very accomplished enamel work on the present icon.
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