T he Russian Works of Art, Fabergé and Icons sale brings together an exciting selection over 300 works, highlighted by a very rare porcelain vase and plaque by the Imperial Porcelain Factory, both of which were Imperial Christmas presents. We are also pleased to present several groups from important private collections of Fabergé from Europe and the USA, rare icons by Fabergé and Karl Sievers for Sazikov, fantastic shaded enamels and a broad selection of porcelain and impressive glass vases, ranging from the earliest works by the Imperial Porcelain Factory to the Soviet period. The sale will take place in studio format on 2 December and is open for advanced bidding.
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This sale exceptionally includes two highly important pieces of porcelain, a vase and a plaque, which were reserved as Christmas gifts for members of the Imperial Family. Twice a year, the Imperial Porcelain Factory would present its most important objects to the Imperial family for Christmas and Easter. The Magnificently painted plaque offer in our 2 December auction was presented by Emperor Nicholas I to his sister-in-law, Princess Alexandrine of Prussia (1803-1892) as a Christmas gift in 1852. Princess Alexandrine of Prussia was the younger sister of Emperor Nicholas I’s wife, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, born Princess Charlotte of Prussia; this gift gives us insight into the scale and importance of gifts exchanged by the Imperial family for Christmas. Of astounding size for a work in porcelain and painted by the talented Imperial Porcelain Factory artist, Aleksei Krasovsky this plaque appears on the list of ‘Porcelain Objects, made for the Emperor as gifts for Christmas 1852’, held in the Russian State Archive. It is one of only three large plaques of the period known to exist and the only example remaining in private hands: it is exceptional in its provenance, quality and rarity.
Similarly, the impressive vase included in the sale, with rare karyatid-formed handles was presented to Emperor Nicholas I for Christmas in 1834. The vase is listed in the registry of presentations to the Emperor for Christmas 1834 as: ‘Large: handles with winged figures [...]’ As reflected in the Russian State Archive detailing Imperial Porcelain Factory pieces for Christmas and Easter, this vase was a highly important commission and thus reflects the Emperor's personal preferences in its intricate design and decoration. Conceived as a single, magnificent piece, the form of this vase with elaborately modelled winged handles, spectacular in every detail from their delicate flowers to their scrolling terminals, is a fascinating stylistic mix. The other known vases to have such handles are a pair of vases of the same form, held in the collection of the Peterhof State Museum-Reserve.
While it conforms to aspects of previous Imperial Porcelain works, this piece also showcases an innovative, more detailed approach to porcelain. Masterful execution of stucco patterns as can be seen in the sculptural qualities of handles, elaborate gilding and magnificent painting in the round make it not only an outstanding example from the Period of Nicholas I, but also a masterpiece of Russian Imperial porcelain.
Sotheby’s is honoured to bring the most curated and high quality collection of Fabergé pendants to the market. Thoughtfully collected over many years with a focus on the highest quality, lots 1-18 of our 2 December sale come from a Distinguished Private Collection and represent the best of Fabergé’s craftmanship on an intimate, wearable scale.
Highlighted by two Fabergé Imperial Egg Pendants, which presumably were worn by the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna (lot 1) and Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna the Elder (lot 2), this collection gives us rare insight into Fabergé’s famous artistry using sophisticated enamelling techniques and highly original designs to create jewels valued not for their carat weight, but for their ingenuity and quality.
Just like the Fabergé Imperial Easter Eggs that inspired them, these egg pendants would have been gifted around the holidays, as personal charms evocative of hope and renewal.
The distinguished collector of these works continued this tradition by carefully and thoughtfully mixing Fabergé with antique chains that accented the works, while protecting their delicate enamel.
The collection includes other Fabergé artworks that the collector creatively incorporated into daily life, including a belt buckle (lot 10) and eraser holder (lot 12) that perfectly accented an elegant scarf, holding it in place.
A lovely lavender heart pendant (lot 11), a striped cigar holder that doubles as a chic pendant (lot 9), a jewelled Fabergé barrette and enamelled pin, related to the designs of August Holmström (lot 5).
Throughout the collection, we see the genius way in which Carl Fabergé and his workmasters transformed useful objects into works of art, bringing the highest of craftsmanship to our everyday lives.
The Sale also features a strong group of Soviet Porcelain from private collections, the group is highlighted by a rare cup and saucer, Red Face after the design by Alexandra Shchekotikhina-Pototskaya which comes to the market for the first time from a private English collection (lot 155). Further exciting works in this section of the sale include a group of Soviet Porcelain from a private French collection that were acquired at the Sotheby’s famous sale of Nicholas Lynn’s Collection of Soviet Revolutionary Porcelain in 1998.
The group includes a very rare porcelain platter The Nightingale, painted in 1922 after a design by Georgi Narbut (lot 151). The platter is painted with a silhouette illustration of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale by Ekaterina Yakimovskaya. It was at the suggestion of Sergeu Chekhonin that Narbut created a rare series of ceramics featuring silhouetted graphics for the State Porcelain Factory between 1920-1923.This private collection also includes a plate (lot 149) and saucer (lot 148) by Sergei Chekhonin, that he took with him when he emigrated to France from the Soviet Union in 1928.
Our 2 December sale also includes two fantastic pieces formerly in the collection of Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, a nephrite letter opener (lot 21) and stamp dampener (lot 23). A further highly important Fabergé varicoloured gold-mounted nephrite desk set, also from this collection, will be offered in Sotheby’s Treasures auction on 10 December 2020, as lot 34. It is Sotheby’s honour to offer these well recorded pieces, which were the result of two generations of fastidious collecting.
Baron Heinrich Freiherr Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon et Impérfalva (1875-1947), second son of successful industrialist August Thyssen (1842-1926), was a German-Hungarian entrepreneur, who first built the collection. He passed away in 1949 and the youngest of his sons, Hans Heinrich (1921–2002), took over his impressive art holdings. The second Baron astutely collected Fabergé’s works of art during his life and organised a full program of exhibitions in Europe, North America, Asia.
Baron Heinrich expanded his father's collection into one of the greatest private collection in the world, rivalled only by that of Queen Elisabeth II. Just like his father, Hans Heinrich's passion for collecting was always underlined by the desire to bring it to the public. Baron Thyssen sold the majority of his treasures to Spain in 1993, where they are on permanent display in the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid.