A FATHER'S GIFT
Grand Duchess Vera Constantinova (1854-1912)
Thence by descent until sold to the present owner in the 1980s
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.
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