View full screen - View 1 of Lot 4. AN EXCEPTIONAL FABERGÉ JEWELLED NEPHRITE MODEL OF A BULL, ST PETERSBURG, CIRCA 1900.
4

AN EXCEPTIONAL FABERGÉ JEWELLED NEPHRITE MODEL OF A BULL, ST PETERSBURG, CIRCA 1900

Property from the Brooklyn Museum, sold to Support Museum Collections

AN EXCEPTIONAL FABERGÉ JEWELLED NEPHRITE MODEL OF A BULL, ST PETERSBURG, CIRCA 1900

AN EXCEPTIONAL FABERGÉ JEWELLED NEPHRITE MODEL OF A BULL, ST PETERSBURG, CIRCA 1900

Property from the Brooklyn Museum, sold to Support Museum Collections

AN EXCEPTIONAL FABERGÉ JEWELLED NEPHRITE MODEL OF A BULL, ST PETERSBURG, CIRCA 1900


Realistically carved in nephrite as a young bull, pawing grass, rose-cut diamond-set eyes, apparently unmarked; in its original silk and velvet lined fitted Fabergé hollywood case stamped with the Imperial warrant St Petersburg, Moscow

length 5.8cm, 2 5/16in.

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

A La Vieille Russie, New York
Helen Babbott Sanders
The Brooklyn Museum, New York, bequest from the above in 1983
G. von Habsburg, Fabergé - Hofjuwelier der Zaren, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Munich, 1986, n. 355, p. 203 illustrated
G. von Habsburg and D. Park Curry, Fabergé in America, San Francisco, 1996, n. 183, p. 199 illustrated
Exhibition catalogue The Fabergé Menagerie, Walters Art MuseumBaltimore, 2003, n. 82, p. 148 illustrated
Munich, Kunsthalle der Hypokullturstiftung, 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
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
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
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
New York, Brooklyn Museum, Key to the City, June 2 - September 6, 2010

Intrinsically charming and representative of the highest level of craftsmanship, the animals in the present collection have many corollaries in the Royal Collection, including this young model of a bull whose pose is reminiscent of a jersey bull carved of tan chalcedony with ruby eyes (RCIN 40043) from the Sandringham commission.


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 young bull, the nephrite is of lustrous, deep colour and Fabergé’s craftsmen have applied a soft polish that perfectly emulates soft fur. The sculpture plays with the light, making evident the strong lines of the bull, from its ribcage to hunched shoulders.


Fabergé sourced Nephrite, with its natural variations in colour from massive boulders near Lake Baikal in Siberia and the Sayan Highlands in the Altai Mountains. Nephrite occupied the first place in Fabergé’s production, used for its qualities and appearance, its green grass colour offers many shades for the sculptors to manipulate. Nephrite stones have the qualities of being both firm and malleable, free of the cracks that make cutting other stones so difficult which gives the possibility of a very high finish, as can be seen in the refined polish of the present playful animal study.


While not all the talented sculptors who worked for Fabergé are known, central to the Sandringham commission was the Fabergé sculptor Boris Frödman-Cluzel (b. 1878), who joined the firm between 1903 and 1906 and was lauded in the St Petersburg press for his high level of skill in a review of an art exhibition in 1907:


‘his figures of dogs and bulls, as well as people… are equally alive.’ (C. de Guitaut, op. cit., p. 17)


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).