T he Russian Works of Art sale of nearly 300 lots is led by three exceptional Fabergé models of flowers; the apple blossom (lot 405) is apparently the largest known Fabergé flower outside of the Royal Collection and carries important Imperial Russian, Rockefeller and Astor provenance. Our selection of Fabergé is further highlighted by three strikingly modern pendants, a bowenite box carved as a billy goat, a dendritic agate clock, and a wonderful selection of hardstone animals with exciting exhibition history, all of which are coming to the market from Private Collections. Imperial porcelain highlights include an impressive vase given to Nicholas I for Christmas in 1834 and several military plates from the period of Nicholas I, alongside busts, tableware, vases and figures from multiple periods and services. The Soviet porcelain section features vibrant propaganda and decorative pieces by the era’s leading artists, as well as a rare vase executed by Peshcherov after Kuznetsova. The full spectrum of icon artistry is showcased by the traditional enamelling of Ovchinnikov and Rückert, bold Art Nouveau designs, a finely painted triptych panel icon in the Cretan style and much more. We are delighted to also have on offer exciting works in cameo glass, silver and enamel. Following from their popularity last season, we are thrilled to have a dazzling array of egg pendants.
Watch the latest video in the Sotheby's Talks Series for a conversation about the incredible creativity and craftsmanship of Carl Fabergé. Jewellery designer Solange Azagury-Partridge, author and lecturer Toby Faber, Sotheby’s International Head of the Russian Department Helen Culver-Smith and curator, broadcaster and art historian Katy Hessel discuss how the Russian Emperor Alexander III began the most expensive Easter tradition in history and explore Fabergé’s legacy as well as the way he continues to inspire contemporary jewellery designers today.
We are thrilled to be offering an exceptional array of Fabergé flowers which showcase the mastery of Fabergé lapidary and enamel work. The model of an apple blossom (lot 5) is the largest known Fabergé flower outside of the Royal Collection and is comparable to the most valuable item ever shown on the Antiques Roadshow, a Fabergé model of a pear blossom valued at £1,000,000. Set beside the model of a violet and model of a pansy (lots 6 and 7), these three flowers exemplify the firm’s ability to apply extraordinary craftsmanship to objects in all shapes and sizes.
Ana Inez ‘Chiquita’ Carcano y Morra Astor
Martha Baird Rockefeller with her husband, John D. Rockefeller
Rock crystal, valued for its clarity and total lack of colour or flaws
The scratched inventory number on the base of the vase is 23487. The original Fabergé invoice shows that this flower was bought in four installments of 200 rubles. The invoice shows this cost was split between Grand Duke Andrei Vladimirovich; Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich; Grand Duchess Victoria Feodorovna; and Grand Duke Boris Vladimirovich.
Russian nephrite, found in Siberia in the 1860s, sourced and chosen from massive boulders near Lake Baikal in Siberia and the Sayan Highlands in the Altai Mountains.
The scratched inventory number on one of the stems is 11510. The original Fabergé invoice shows that this flower was bought from the London Fabergé branch by Mrs Ino Ward for £32 in 1908.
Sotheby’s selection of Fabergé jewellery features an astounding sample of pendants demonstrative of Fabergé’s striking modernisation of jewellery design, as seen in the trio of Fabergé jewels designed by Albert Holmström: a jewelled gold and enamel pendant modelled as a kokoshnik (lot 16); a diamond and sapphire-set platinum pendant (lot 17); and a diamond and large amethyst-set platinum and gold pendant (lot 18).
Inspired directly by Carl Fabergé’s own collection of Japanese netsukes and the collection in the State Hermitage Museum, the firm began producing their own small hardstone carvings of animals. Sotheby’s is delighted to offer a selection of Fabergé animals which evidences this source of inspiration and whose exhibition history is evidence of their high quality and importance within Fabergé’s oeuvre.
Fabergé was renowned for its exceptionally crafted useful objects, known as objets de luxe. Our November sale includes a number of lots which fall into this category and which are representative of the exciting way that Fabergé developed the field of luxurious everyday objects.
Sotheby’s is excited to bring to the market a breath-taking selection of Imperial porcelain (lots 513 – 575). Among these, two cache pots from the 1830s and a rare and impressive vase, once a gift to Nicholas I, are superb examples of large-scale sculptural and pictorial porcelain (lot 531 and lot 534). Alongside rare collectors’ items such as early Popov and Gardner manufactories porcelain figures, this season features masterful examples of painted imperial flatware, such as a set of six plates from the Kornilov Brothers Porcelain Factory (lot 556) and a decorative early military painted plate depicting the Lifeguard Sapper Battalion (lot 530).
A Magnificent Imperial Christmas Present
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.
Amongst the exciting range of Soviet porcelain works (lots 576 - 591) that Sotheby’s has to offer this season is a rare large-scale Soviet avantgarde vase (lot 586) from the Lomonosov Porcelain Factory, St Petersburg. The property of a private collector, examples of this quality and scale are rarely found outside of Russian museum collections.
Alongside this unique work is an impressive porcelain propaganda vase after a design by Vilde (lot 590), and an exceptional selection of iconic early soviet propaganda designs, such as works by by Alisa Golenkina (lot 582) and an iconic early Soviet porcelain figurine by Alisa Brusketti-Mitrokhina (lot 579).
This season Sotheby's selection of Imperial glass also features two fine examples from Russia's Art Nouveau production. Lots 562-563 are impressive cameo-glass vases that showcase the refinement of modernist glassware in Russia at the turn of the century.
Leading Sotheby’s exciting range of egg pendants is a gold and guilloché enamel egg pendant locket (lot 9). Finely painted to mimic dendritic agate, this egg pendant was formerly in the prestigious royal collections of both Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna and later Princess Elena of Greece and Denmark. Taking inspiration from the 1901 Imperial Easter Egg is a diamond-set gold and aquamarine egg pendant modelled as a miniature basket of flowers (lot 13). Along with these two, the array of egg pendants on offer encompass the breadth of Fabergé’s oeuvre, highlighting precious stones and metals, hardstones, and the wide range of enamelling techniques.
Sotheby’s selection of icons features impressive works of religious art including a magnificent silver-gilt icon of the Pokrov (lot 626), an exquisite Fabergé silver and cloisonné enamel icon of the Mandylion (lot 635), a Fabergé Art Nouveau icon of Our Lady Kasperovskaya (lot 634) and an icon of Christ Pantocrator by Ovchinnikov (lot 620).
Amongst Sotheby’s panel icons on offer are a finely painted triptych panel icon in the Cretan style (lot 660), refined examples of Art Nouveau icons such as a beautifully executed icon of Anna of Kashin (lot 653) and an impressive icon of St Peter the Apostle (lot 656) with Bolshevik and Red Terror bullet marks on the reverse. These works are all representative of the historical importance and the breadth of technique used in icons over centuries by masters of the craft.