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77

EMPRESS MARIA ALEXANDROVNA

Empress Maria Alexandrovna: An Imperial portrait diamond pendant, Phillips Brothers & Son, London, 1880
Estimate
100,000150,000
JUMP TO LOT
77

EMPRESS MARIA ALEXANDROVNA

Empress Maria Alexandrovna: An Imperial portrait diamond pendant, Phillips Brothers & Son, London, 1880
Estimate
100,000150,000
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Treasures

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London

Empress Maria Alexandrovna: An Imperial portrait diamond pendant, Phillips Brothers & Son, London, 1880
centred with a miniature portrait, attributed to Alexander Wegner, of Empress Maria Alexandrovna, below a table diamond, within a border of circular-cut diamonds, the frame of openwork yellow gold Gothic tracery and beads part-enamelled in opaque black with white highlights and set with four further diamonds, diamond-set pendant loop, the hinged gold reverse inscribed 'Marie/ In remembrance/ of her dear mother/ from her affectionate/ husband, Alfred./ 5/17 October 1880', struck with addorsed Ps and Prince of Wales feathers maker's mark
64 by 39 mm including loop
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Provenance

Given by Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh (1844-1900), to his wife, Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia (1853-1920), daughter of the Empress, on her twenty-seventh birthday, 17 October 1880

Property from a Private American Collection of Historic Jewels

Catalogue Note

Empress Maria Alexandrovna (1824-1880), born Princess Marie of Hesse and by Rhine, was the consort of Emperor Alexander II.  She died at the Winter Palace following a long illness on 3 June 1880, by which time her husband had already moved his mistress and their three illegitimate children into the palace.  He married her just six weeks after his wife's death, horrifying the Empress' six surviving children, including Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna.  Maria's husband, Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, later Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, second son of Queen Victoria, certainly had this in mind when he commissioned the present lot as a birthday gift to Maria, in commemoration of her recently deceased mother.

While mourning the loss of her mother, Grand Duchess Maria maintained a frosty relationship with her mother-in-law Queen Victoria, ‘a silly obstinate old fool’, in her view.  There were frequent arguments over rank and titles.  The Grand Duchess, as the only daughter of the Emperor, had precedence over all the grand duchesses of Russia and resented ranking lower than the Princess of Wales in England.  As an Imperial Highness by birth and a Royal Highness by marriage, she protested the Queen’s edict that ‘Royal’ come first by flaunting her magnificent jewels before the Queen and her daughters, whose collections were less impressive.  She also defied convention by smoking in public. 

The celebrated Phillips Brothers firm of retail jewellers was established before 1839 by the brothers Magnus Albert and Robert Abraham Phillips at 31 Cockspur Street, Charing Cross, London.  By 1851, when the firm exhibited a gold and silver figure of a British Life-Guard at the Great Exhibition, R.A. Phillips was solely in charge of the firm.  In 1867, he became the only English jeweller to win a Gold Medal at the Paris Universal Exposition.  Reflecting the eclecticism of late 19th century taste, the firm advertised in 1870 as ‘Classic goldsmiths, jewellers and coral merchants, Art Reproductions in the Egyptian, Etruscan, Greek, Roman, Runic, Byzantine, Mediaeval, and Oriental styles.’  Phillips Brothers supplied medals and decorations to Queen Victoria and counted other members of the British Royal Family as clients (J. Culme, The Directory of Gold and Silversmiths, Jewellers and Allied Traders, 1838-1914, Woodbridge, 1987, pp. 364-365, and S. Bury, Jewellery, 1789-1910, vol. 2, London, 1991, p. 465).

Alexander Matveevich Wegner (1824-1894) was a portrait miniaturist who was promoted to Academician of the St Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts in 1858 having completed his studies there.  He served as Court miniaturist from the 1870s, producing portraits of the Imperial Family, including one of the Empress set in a bracelet which sold, Sotheby's London, 26 November 2013, lot 637. 

Treasures

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London