View full screen - View 1 of Lot 7. A FABERGÉ JEWELLED BOWENITE MODEL OF A STRIDING BEAR CUB, ST PETERSBURG, CIRCA 1900.
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A FABERGÉ JEWELLED BOWENITE MODEL OF A STRIDING BEAR CUB, ST PETERSBURG, CIRCA 1900

Property from the Brooklyn Museum, sold to Support Museum Collections

A FABERGÉ JEWELLED BOWENITE MODEL OF A STRIDING BEAR CUB, ST PETERSBURG, CIRCA 1900

A FABERGÉ JEWELLED BOWENITE MODEL OF A STRIDING BEAR CUB, ST PETERSBURG, CIRCA 1900

Property from the Brooklyn Museum, sold to Support Museum Collections

A FABERGÉ JEWELLED BOWENITE MODEL OF A STRIDING BEAR CUB, ST PETERSBURG, CIRCA 1900


Realistically carved in bowenite with raised hind foot, gold-mounted cabochon ruby-set eyes, apparently unmarked

length 4.5cm, 1 3/4in.

To request a condition report for this lot, please contact helen.culversmith@sothebys.com

A La Vieille Russie, New York
Helen Babbott Sanders, acquired from the above
The Brooklyn Museum, New York, bequest from the above in 1983
G. von Habsburg, Fabergé - Hofjuwelier der Zaren, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Munich, December 5, 1986 - February 22, 1987, n. 359, p. 203 illustrated
G. von Habsburg and D. Park Curry, Fabergé in America, San Francisco, 1996, n. 181 p. 198 illustrated
Exhibition catalogue The Fabergé Menagerie, Walters Art MuseumBaltimore, 2003, n. 113, p. 179 illustrated



Munich, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Fabergé: Hofjuwelier der Zaren, December 5, 1986 - February 22, 1987
Houston, Museum of Natural Science, The World of Fabergé: Russian Gems and Jewels, February 11, 1994 - July 10, 1994
San Francisco, M.H. de Young Memorial Museum, Fabergé in America: the Legacy of the Tsars, May 25 - July 28, 1996; also travelled to New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, February 12 - April 30, 1996; Richmond, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, August 24 - November 9, 1996; New Orleans, Fine Arts Museum, December 7, 1996 - February 8, 1997; and Cleveland Museum of Art, March 12 - May 11, 1997
New York, Brooklyn Museum of Art, BMA Fabergé Installation, supplementary to Jewels of the Romanovs: Treasures of the Russian Imperial Court, March 20 - July 12, 1998
Baltimore, Walters Art Museum, The Fabergé Menagerie, February 13 - July 27, 2003; also travelled to Columbus, Columbus Museum of Art, October 12, 2003 - January 4, 2004; Portland, Portland Art Museum, February 8 - May 2, 2004

While many of Fabergé’s hardstone animal models were made of precisely coloured stones that matched the natural properties of the animal, many others were made from more fanciful mineral specimens. For these less prescriptively naturalistic studies, bowenite was often the chosen stone, as can be seen in this model of a striding young cub. The rich ‘grape’ colour of bowenite and the textures that could be achieved when carving it made it a popular choice for pug dogs, elephants and bears such as this.


Fabergé animals are among the most whimsical and imaginative objects of vertu made by the famous firm, whose Royal and Imperial clients often favoured animal and flower studies (see lots 9 and 10) to elaborate jewels. These works, employing a range of natural materials, creatively and expertly transformed into realistic life studies were so popular amongst Faberge’s elite clientele that Queen Alexandra’s birthday table was described by Viscount Knutsford as containing numerous animals, which were augmented by further examples as she received her birthday gifts in 1909. These animals formed part of the Sandringham commission that is now part of the Royal Collection and represents the largest collection of hardstone animal models (C. de Guitaut, Fabergé’s Animals, A Royal Farm in Miniature, p. 9).


The Sandringham commission tells us much about the intricate process involved in creating each, individual Fabergé hardstone animal. The commission was born out of the Royal Family’s constant demand for new and interesting animal figures paired with the appetite of Fabergé’s other clients for these playful objects. In the case of the Sandringham commission, each animal was observed first-hand to create a wax model that was then executed in Russia by Fabergé’s ‘sculptor-stonecarvers’, famed for their ability to source the appropriate hardstone to capture the natural aspects of the animal. The careful choice of stone is described in the memoirs of one of the firm's head workmasters Franz Birbaum, written in 1919:


‘It is impossible to list all the animals that were used as themes for these figures, but it should be said that the pose was always as compact as possible, as dictated by the technique of the material.’

('Birbaum Memoirs' in G. von Habsburg, M. Lopato, Fabergé: Imperial Jeweller, Milan, 1993, p. 459)


The workshops in which these animals were sculpted were most likely those of Kremlev and Derbyshev, who both carved studies themselves and oversaw the complete production process of each work. Thoughtful sculptures employing the vast range of naturally occurring Russian minerals came increasingly to the fore of Fabergé’s production, causing it to increasingly focus on hardstone animals, flowers and figures (C. de Guitaut, op. cit., p. 23).


It was of the greatest concern to Fabergé’s craftsmen that the perfect mineral specimens, of the right colour and markings were sourced for each individual study. In the present study of a striding young bear cub, the bowenite with its pleasing tone and lustrous polish is the perfect showcase for the fine carving of its fur.


Bowenite was sourced by Fabergé from the Ural Mountains and Siberia, its colors vary from yellow to brown, and grayish-green to yellow-green. As a result of its softness, Fabergé only used specimens in the shade of the present model of a bear, which the firm called ‘jadeite’ and prized for its bright, rich green color. 


Once the carving of each animal was completed, it was returned to the workshop of Fabergé’s head workmaster. In the case of the present studies, most likely that of Michael Perchin or Henrik Wigström. In the workshops the animals were then polished and mounted with their finishing touches, such as their gem-set eyes. These works were then retailed though Fabergé’s shops in St Petersburg and London, where they were broadly collected. Notably an inventory of the possessions of Empress Maria Feodorovna and Emperor Alexander III compiled by the director of the Anichkov Palace after 1917 lists more than one hundred Fabergé stone animal studies (C. de Guitaut, op. cit., p. 34).