Lot 89
  • 89


600,000 - 800,000 GBP
706,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Malachite and gilt bronze
after the 1839 design by Ivan Galberg, both of amphora form, veneered overall in cross-cut malachite, the brackets cast as Bacchic female masks, the handles terminating in scrolls applied with rosettes issuing spirals, fluted shoulders, flared neck and feet, on associated white-veined black marble pedestals, probably Italian, late 19th or early 20th century, both applied with an engraved plaque, one inscribed in English, the other in Italian, 'This Pair of Malachite Vases were given/ by the late Emperor Alexandra [sic] Nicholas/ Csar [sic] of Russia, to the King of Wurtenberg [sic]/ and afterwards became the property of/ Prince Lippe/ there are two similar pairs in existence,/one pair at Windsor Castle and the other pair/ at the Vatican./ they are of the Empire Period'


Given by Emperor Nicholas I of Russia (1796-1855) to his daughter, Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna (1822-1892), later Queen of Württemberg 

Grand Duchess Vera Constantinova (1854-1912)

Thence by descent until sold to the present owner in the 1980s


V.B. Semyonov, Malachite, Sverdlovsk, 1987, vol. 2, pp. 98-99, the design illustrated vol. 1, pl. 24, p. 140

Catalogue Note

The Golden Age of malachite was undeniably the 19th century, when huge deposits of workable and especially decorative malachite were discovered in the Ural Mountains of Russia.  The stone became Russia’s national treasure, a passion proclaimed most famously in the Malachite Room of the Winter Palace in St Petersburg, furnished with massive malachite columns and fireplace in the 1830s, where Romanov brides were dressed before their weddings.  The beauty of Russian malachite was something the country – and in particular Emperor Nicholas I – employed  to impress foreigners, commissioning a number of grand malachite-veneered objects from the Imperial Lapidary Works in Peterhof and Ekaterinburg to be sent abroad as presentation gifts.  These included the large urn which the Emperor sent to Queen Victoria in 1839, now at Windsor Castle (RCIN 43957); his consort Empress Alexandra Feodorovna had sent a smaller one to King George IV in 1827 (RCIN 1708). 

The design for this vase was produced by Ivan Ivanovich Galberg (1782-1863) for the Imperial Cabinet, which approved the design on 14 April 1839, according to the notation; Galberg submitted it after the agreed deadline due to an illness.  The original design specified male masks for the brackets.  Another version of the design was created by Galberg, also in 1839, illustrating just the malachite elements without any mounts (see V.B. Semyonov, Malachite, Sverdlovsk, 1987, vol. 1, pl. 25, p. 141).  

The present vases are recorded in the Russian State Archives (fond 468, band 12, deed 259, folio 7; deed 1274, folio 7 reverse; and fond 468, band 16, deed 3152, folio 16) as gifts from Emperor Nicholas I to his second daughter Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna as part of her magnificent dowry.  She married, on 13 July 1846, Crown Prince Charles of Württemberg (1823-1891), later King Charles I.  The first vase was made in 1844, in anticipation of her eventual marriage, and cost 1385 silver roubles.  The second of the pair was produced to match the first in 1847 at a cost of 1380 silver roubles, with 180 silver roubles ‘to be paid into Schreiber’s account for the bronze’, ‘both items presented (by resolution of 31st August) to Her Imperial Highness Olga Nikolaevna in Stuttgart’.  Later family tradition may have been that the vases were gifts to her husband, hence the erroneous inscriptions on the later Italian marble pedestals, but the archives confirm that they formed part of the Grand Duchess’ dowry.  Olga Nikolaevna became Queen of Württemberg on her husband’s accession to the throne in 1864.  The couple did not have any children, and the Queen's estate was inherited by her niece, Grand Duchess Vera Constantinova, whom they had unofficially adopted in 1863.

One of the vases of the present lot can be seen in a view of the dining room of Villa Berg in Stuttgart, the couple's summer residence, a watercolour painted by Franz Heinrich (1802-1890).  It is depicted on a light-coloured stone pedestal, which is presumably the Berkutinsky pedestal mentioned in the archives, the pair of which cost 279 roubles. 

An identical vase of this size was given by the Emperor to the 3rd Earl of Mount Edgcumbe in 1846, the Emperor having visited London two years previously and presumably made the acquaintance of the Earl.  Another was sent that same year to Domenico Antonio Lo Faso Pietrasanta, Duke of Serradifalco, who served as Court Chamberlain to King Ferdinand II of the Two Sicilies.  The Emperor had spent part of the winter of 1845-1846 in Sicily with his ailing wife, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, and the vase was presumably to thank the Duke for his attention during their visit.  This latter vase sold, Sotheby’s London, 8 July 2015, lot 41.  Sotheby’s is grateful to Mr Paul Dyson for his help in researching and cataloguing the present lot.