Newsletter 2016 Spring – 10th Anniversary Edition

Spring 2016 Tenth Anniversary Edition
A newsletter without readers and faithful contributors does not exist very long. This issue celebrates the Tenth Anniversary of the Fabergé Research Newsletter with a big THANK YOU to the many Fabergé enthusiasts worldwide.
Christel Ludewig McCanless, Editor and Publisher (USA)

Fabergé Forum 2016 Featuring the McFerrin Collection

November 3-4, 2016

Houston Museum of Natural Science, Texas

The Dorothy and Artie McFerrin Collection has grown to over 600 objects!

Speakers Confirmed from Finland, Russia, USA

Details for the event will follow ASAP.

Fabergé Platinum and Multi-colored Diamond Flower Brooch (Courtesy McFerrin Collection)
Fabergé Platinum and
Multi-colored Diamond
Flower Brooch
(Courtesy McFerrin Collection)
Baron Freedericksz. Impeccable Service as an Officer in the Russian Empire for 50 Years!
by Tatiana Cheboksarova and Galina Korneva (Russia)
The Russian statesman, Baron Vladimir Borisovich Freedericksz (1838-1927), faithfully served three Russia emperors – Alexander II, Alexander III, and was the Minister of the Imperial Court to Nicholas II from 1897-1917. His responsibilities included the administration of the Imperial family’s personal affairs and living arrangements, and he held the office of Chancellor of Russian Imperial Orders. The baron knew Nicholas already as a child, and throughout his life he was very close to the Emperor Nicholas’ family, who not only trusted him explicitly, respected this honest man, and was beloved by the Emperor’s children. The minister was always invited to take part in the family’s festivities, such as name days, birthdays, New Year’s, and Easter celebrations. In private, the emperor and empress called him “The Old Gentleman”. Freedericksz, in his turn, called the imperial couple “mes enfants”. He accompanied his sovereign on most of his trips, both abroad and within the Empire, both official and private.
Baron Vladimir Borisovich Freedericksz (1838-1927), Russian Statesman (Wiki)
Baron Vladimir Borisovich Freedericksz
(1838-1927), Russian Statesman
(Wiki)
Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm and Tatiana Cheboksarova at the Gravesite of Count Freedericksz in Grankulla, Finland. The Later Title of Count Was Bestowed in 1913. (Photographs by Galina Korneva)
Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm and Tatiana Cheboksarova at the Gravesite of Count Freedericksz in Grankulla, Finland. The Later Title of Count Was Bestowed in 1913. (Photographs by Galina Korneva)

Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm and Tatiana Cheboksarova at the Gravesite of Count Freedericksz in Grankulla, Finland.
The Later Title of Count Was Bestowed in 1913.
(Photographs by Galina Korneva)

During his career Freedericksz received all the highest awards and honors of the Empire. In 1904 his wife, Baroness Hedviga Freedericksz (1838-1919) was appointed a statsdama (Lady of Honor). His daughters served as maids of honor to the court. As the Minister of the Imperial Court, he had an annual salary in 1917 of 40,868 rubles, 8000 rubles less than in earlier years(1). The highest honor of the Russian empire, the Order of St. Andrew with rescript for his 50th anniversary, and a jeweled table frame (now unknown) were bestowed upon him in 1908(2). To commemorate the anniversary milestone planning began with a meeting in January of that year. Archival records found by the authors in the RGIA [Rossiisky Gosudarstvennyi Istorichesky Archiv/Russian State Historical Archive] in St. Petersburg state:
“Ivan Alexandrovich Vsevolozhsky (Director of the Imperial Hermitage) asks Nikolai Dmitrievich Obolensky (Administrator, Cabinet of His Majesty) to come on 28th of January to his apartment in Winter Palace for the first meeting of a commission to organize a celebration for 50 years of Baron Freedericksz’ service which occurs on 25th of March.”(3)
After some discussion, the decision was made to present to the Minister of the Imperial Court a beautifully-made casket with letters of congratulations and an album of watercolors. Chief of the Chancery of the Imperial Court, Alexander Mosolov suggested a basket of fresh flowers for 100 rubles as a present to the baron’s wife, Hedviga Freedericksz. The committee further concluded every participant should make a voluntary contribution in proportion to his salary to defray the cost of the casket and for the letters of congratulations. Members of the Chancellery each paid ca. 100 rubles, but ordinary office workers only gave 10-15 rubles. The number of employees of the Ministry exceeded 1000 individuals. Criteria for the pictures to be included allowed different techniques (watercolors, sepia, drawing, etc.) and participation was to be on a voluntary basis. The letters were to be prepared in the Ministry of the Imperial Court ustanovleniya (departments) and given to artist/architect Alexander Ivanovich von Hoogen, who worked at that time in the Cabinet of His Majesty, and is today best known for his creative work with the Kshessinskaya Palace and the Cathedral Mosque in St. Petersburg. Pictures were to be in standard sizes and every department was allowed no more than four pages. Thanks to such standards, the committee was able to order the case for the art work in advance.
Fabergé Invoice for the Freedericksz Casket (Source RGIA)
Fabergé Invoice for the Freedericksz Casket
(Source RGIA)
Coat of Arms of Baron Vladimir Borisovich Freedericksz (1838-1927) (Wiki)
Coat of Arms of Baron Vladimir Borisovich Freedericksz (1838-1927)
(Wiki)
From additional archival documentation, the authors discovered that the big casket from precious wood and gilded silver was made by Carl Fabergé in the Louis XVI style for 2900 rubles with the coat of arms of the baron. An artist by the name of Zarrin wrote the letters of congratulations in a beautiful manner on eight pages. On April 16, 1908, the honoree received the guests who had signed the congratulatory letter, in his home at Pochtamtskaya str., 23. Military men attended in full uniform and guests with civil ranks were in festive clothing. Baron Freedericksz was deeply touched with the ceremony and thanked everyone with warm-hearted words. During the event several group photographs were taken by a photographer from Boissonas and Eggler, a prominent St. Petersburg photographic studio. The authors are interested in finding any of the afore-mentioned photographs, and they wonder if the Fabergé casket given to Baron Freedericksz is extant? Contact: Christel McCanless

Resources Consulted:

(1)Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm in her 2005 reference volume, The Russian Imperial Award System during the Reign of Nicholas II, 1894-1917, lists in detail the recipients as well as the jewelers and makers of the these coveted awards including the highest orders – St. Andrew, St. Catherine, St. Vladimir First Class, St. Alexander Nevskii with diamonds and the White Eagle with diamonds, and the diamond portrait badge. For this article, she shared specific details from the Count’s Service Record for 1917: After 61 years and 11 days of service he had the right to a base salary of 9.000 rubles plus “˜table money’ of 9.000 r., a supplementary salary of 18.868 r. (probably for seniority in office), and 4.000 r. for handling the Domains. The authors appreciate her assistance.

(2)RGIA. Fond 468. Inv. 14, File 3186.

(3)RGIA. Fond 472. Inv. 41, File 42.

Additional information about the life of the Baron is in Margarita Nelipa, “Servant to Three Emperors. Count Vladimir Borisovich Freedericksz”. Royal Russia, #7, Winter 2015, pp. 41-74.

Discoveries from the Collection of Grand Duke George Mikhailovich
by Mark Moehrke (USA)
Specialists in the Fabergé field are privileged to have access to many important works from the finest collections, but rarely are we fortunate enough to encounter an untouched, largely undocumented collection with a direct connection to the Russian Imperial Family. The collection of Grand Duke George Mikhailovich and his family, still in the possession of his descendants until it was offered at auction in 2015, included a virtually unknown selection of Fabergé photograph frames, desktop accessories, and hardstone animals. The objects provide yet more evidence of the imperial family’s patronage with the Fabergé firm and offer a fascinating glimpse into the personal lives of the family. On closer inspection, the objects reveal their significance as records of the empire’s final years and the fate of one branch of the Russian Imperial Family.
Grand Duke George Mikhailovich and His Family at Kharaks in the Crimea (Courtesy Christie's, New York)

Grand Duke George Mikhailovich and His Family at Kharaks in the Crimea
(Courtesy Christie’s, New York)

Grand Duke George Mikhailovich (1863-1919) was the third son of Grand Duke Michael Nikolaevich (1832-1909) and the grandson of Emperor Nicholas I (1796-1855). He was married to Princess Marie Georgievna (1876-1940), daughter of George I, King of the Hellenes (1845-1913), and Queen Olga (1851-1926), née Grand Duchess Olga Konstantinovna of Russia. The couple wed in 1900 and had two daughters, Princess Nina Georgievna (1901-1974) and Princess Xenia Georgievna (1903-1965). The family lived for a time at Mikhailovskoe, the St. Petersburg palace of Grand Duke Michael Nikolaevich, before settling in 1907 at Kharaks, their newly-built estate in the Crimea.

Located close to the emperor’s palace at Livadia and to Ai Todor, the palace of Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich and Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna, Kharaks hosted numerous members of the imperial family and St. Petersburg society. Grand Duchess Marie recalled in her memoirs that Nicholas II “came two or three times a week, when living at Livadia, to dine with us. The Empress sometimes came too … [He] would bring his two oldest daughters, Olga and Tatiana [and he] always told me he loved coming to us because he could be himself.” (Grand Duchess George, A Romanov Diary: The Autobiography of H.I. & R.H. Grand Duchess George, G.N. Tantzos and M.A. Eilers, ed., New York, 1988, p. 133). The guest book from Kharaks, which survived in the family’s collection, records the signatures of hundreds of visitors, including the emperor and his family, as well as the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna and Grand Duchesses Xenia and Olga Alexandrovna.

An original photograph album of Kharaks, also in the family’s collection, depicts a comfortable family home where numerous accessories and photograph frames covered the surfaces of furniture in many of the rooms. A photograph prominently displayed on the mantelpiece of the salon clearly shows a large Fabergé silver and wood triptych frame with original photographs of Grand Duke George and the two princesses. (Christie’s, New York, May 20, 2015, lot 48, illus. A. in this text) Other works by Fabergé, while not visible in situ, must have been given to the family by their esteemed guests during their visits. A Fabergé silver and pink enamel heart-shaped photograph frame, enclosing an original photograph of Princess Nina, (Christie’s, New York, May 20, 2015, lot 32) was purchased by Nicholas II from Fabergé’s St. Petersburg branch on July 16, 1907, just prior to one of his many visits to Kharaks. The frame was almost certainly a personal gift to the family which the emperor brought with him on his visit.

(A) Silver and Wood Triptych Photograph Frame, Workmaster Antti Nevalainen, 1899-1904 (Courtesy Christie's, New York)
(A) Silver and Wood Triptych Photograph Frame,
Workmaster Antti Nevalainen, 1899-1904
(Courtesy Christie’s, New York)
(B) Gold, Diamond, and Amethyst Brooch, Workmaster August Holmström, Circa 1898 (Courtesy Christie's, New York)
(B) Gold, Diamond, and Amethyst Brooch, Workmaster August
Holmström, Circa 1898
(Courtesy Christie’s, New York)
Other objects in the collection pre-date the building of Kharaks but demonstrate the imperial family’s practice of purchasing gifts from the Fabergé firm for their extended family. A Fabergé gold, enamel, and nephrite hand seal with a hardstone matrix engraved with the cipher of Grand Duchess Marie (Christie’s, New York, May 20, 2015, lot 64) was purchased by Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna from Fabergé’s St. Petersburg branch on August 14, 1902. The hand seal surely was a gift from Xenia to Marie; wax residue on the engraved matrix indicates it was put to regular use. A Fabergé gold, diamond and amethyst brooch (Christie’s, New York, May 20, 2015, lot 31, illus. B.) was discharged by the Imperial Cabinet in August of 1898 for the journey of the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna to Livadia. While the date of purchase precedes the wedding of Grand Duke George and Grand Duchess Marie, it seems likely the brooch was a gift to Marie from the Dowager Empress, as the two had close familial ties. The Dowager Empress, born Princess Dagmar of Denmark, was the sister of George I, King of the Hellenes, born Prince Vilhelm of Denmark. The king was the father of Grand Duchess Marie, and the Dowager Empress was her aunt. The Greek Royal Family was known to visit the Crimea. Marie and Grand Duke George already were engaged by the time the brooch was purchased.
(C) Two-color Gold, Silver and Enamel Photograph Frame, Workmaster Viktor Aarne, Circa 1901 (Courtesy Christie's, New York)
(C) Two-color Gold, Silver and Enamel Photograph Frame,
Workmaster Viktor Aarne, Circa 1901
(Courtesy Christie’s, New York)
(D) Gold and Enamel Photograph Frame, Workmaster Michael Perkhin, Circa 1901 (Courtesy Christie's, New York)
(D) Gold and Enamel Photograph Frame,
Workmaster Michael Perkhin, Circa 1901
(Courtesy Christie’s, New York)
Many of the objects from the collection have a very personal, sentimental connection to the immediate family of Grand Duke George Mikhailovich. Although the date of their purchase from Fabergé has not been traced, these pieces likely were gifts or were purchased directly by members of the family. A Fabergé gold, diamond, and enamel trefoil photograph frame (Christie’s, New York, May 20, 2015, lot 75, illus. C.), which encloses original photographs of Grand Duke George, Grand Duchess Marie and baby Nina, is inscribed X-Mas-1901 / G.M.N. on the reverse. The initials stand for George, Marie, and Nina, and 1901, the year of Nina’s birth, indicates the frame marked the parents’ first Christmas with their daughter. Similarly, a silver photograph frame (Christie’s, New York, May 20, 2015, lot 36), which encloses an original photograph of Nina a few years older, is inscribed on the reverse Xmas 1904. A Fabergé silver hand seal (Christie’s, New York, May 20, 2015, lot 46), whose matrix is engraved Khara for Kharaks, is still preserved in its original box. The interior lining of the box is inscribed with the date 20 Feb. 1910 and the initials GM for George Mikhailovich. And a Fabergé silver triptych icon of Christ Pantocrator (Christie’s, New York, May 20, 2015, lot 39) is inscribed on the reverse Save and protect / 14 Jan 1911 / Nina / Papa. This gift must have been treasured by Nina as a memory of her father, who would die under tragic circumstances just eight years later.

Perhaps the most striking object in the collection is a Fabergé gold and enamel heart-shaped mechanical photograph frame (Christie’s, New York, May 20, 2015, lot 63, illus. D.) The frame contains original photographs of Grand Duke George, Grand Duchess Marie and baby Nina. The original purchase has not been traced, but judging from Nina’s photograph it appears to date to 1901, the year of her birth. Made in the workshop of Michael Perkhin, the frame has functioning windows which cover each photograph. The windows are operated by a push-piece and powered by an intricate mechanism located inside the back cover of the frame. The design and construction undoubtedly were inspired by the surprise in the Imperial Pansy Egg (1899), a similar enamel heart-shaped photograph frame with functioning windows, also made in Perkhin’s workshop.

As with so many members of the imperial family and the aristocracy, the lives of Grand Duke George Mikhailovich and his family were torn apart by the Russian Revolution. In the summer of 1914, Grand Duchess Marie and the two princesses left Russia for England. Xenia had been suffering a respiratory illness, and on doctor’s orders they left for the “bracing air” of Harrogate. The outbreak of World War I prevented them from returning home safely, and they were forced to settle in Harrogate and London. Grand Duchess Marie established hospitals in Harrogate which cared for wounded soldiers over the course of the next five years. In recognition for her service, she was awarded the Royal Red Cross by King George V. Neither she nor the princesses would ever return to Russia.

In June of 1917, as the Revolution intensified, Grand Duke George was granted permission to travel to Finland. He remained there until April of 1918, when he was arrested, returned to Petrograd, and then exiled to Vologda. In July, he was sent to Petrograd, where he was imprisoned along with his brother Grand Duke Nicholas Mikhailovich and their cousin Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich. In January 1919, the three grand dukes were executed by a Bolshevik firing squad. Grand Duchess Marie learned of her husband’s death in a newspaper on February 4, 1919, confirmed the following day by a wire from Finland. “It is useless,” she recalled, “to try to describe the agony I went through having to tell this news to my poor girls …” (Grand Duchess George, op cit., p. 239).

Many of the family’s belongings were left behind at Kharaks. From 1918 to 1919, the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, who had fled south, lived at Kharaks. In April 1919, the HMS Marlborough, under orders of the British Royal Navy, arrived in the Crimea to evacuate the Dowager Empress and other members of the Russian Imperial Family who were staying in the area. One of the last pages of the Kharaks guest book records the signatures of the Dowager Empress, Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna and her children, Prince Felix Yusupov, and the captain of the HMS Marlborough, C.D. Johnson. Some of the family’s most treasured belongings, including the objects by Fabergé known to have been at Kharaks, presumably were removed, perhaps on the orders of the Dowager Empress, brought on board the ship, and subsequently delivered to Grand Duchess Marie in England.

Princess Nina went on to marry Prince Paul Alexandrovich Chavchavadze (1899-1971) in London. Prince Paul was descended from the Chavchavadze family of Georgia and in a direct line from the last King of Georgia, George XII (1746-1800). The couple had one son, David (1924-2014), and in 1927 the young family moved to the United States, living first in New York and eventually moving to Massachusetts. The family’s collection descended from Nina to David, who served his country during World War II and later as a CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) case officer during the Cold War.

Princess Xenia Georgievna married twice, first to William Bateman Leeds (1902-1971), and then to Herman Jud (1911-1987). She lived with William Leeds on the North Shore of Long Island and had a daughter, Nancy Helen Marie Leeds, who married Edward Judson Wynkoop, Jr. Another part of the family’s collection descended in Princess Xenia’s family. Among these pieces were several exceptional objects by Fabergé, including a triptych frame enclosing portraits of Grand Duchess Marie and the two princesses; a frame commemorating the 10th wedding anniversary of Grand Duke George and Grand Duchess Marie and enclosing portraits of the grand duke and the two princesses; and a frame enclosing a portrait miniature of Grand Duchess Marie and Emperor Alexander III. As the daughter of Xenia, Mrs. Wynkoop inherited the collection, which upon her death in 2006 was donated to the Middlebury College Museum of Art in Vermont.

With the emergence of the objects by Fabergé which descended in Princess Nina’s family, the collection of Grand Duke George Mikhailovich and his family is in a sense reunited. The objects not only document the life of this one branch of Russian Imperial Family, but they also open a new chapter in the important history of the imperial family’s patronage of the Fabergé firm.

Every Acquisition Has a Story
by Steve Kirsch (USA)
We Fabergé enthusiasts are a small, but dedicated, international group of curious individuals belonging to a fraternity/sorority of brothers and sisters who get it. We are inexplicably addicted to the fabulous objects of fantasy that comprise Fabergé’s oeuvre. A disparate group in many ways and separated by many miles, we come from cultures with varying lifestyles, yet the ties which bind us are our dedication (obsession?) and appreciation of what is arguably the epitome of decorative art in the late 19th – early 20th century. The appeal is a tangible link to a time and a world which no longer exists, and one which ended both abruptly and violently. Sometimes it seems to us, one could peel back a curtain and immerse oneself in the opulent surroundings of a century ago. We are simply spectators, but as our mind prepares to return to the present, a hand reaches out and snatches an object off a dressing table or a desk. It is small enough to fit in the pocket of our jacket and suddenly we emerge back in the present with our treasure intact. Long ago I gave up trying to explain to friends and family why we do what we do. Either they understand and even appreciate my enthusiasm, or they do not. And in some cases, it makes no difference how many times I have tried to try to clarify it: “No, I do not actually own any Imperial Fabergé eggs.”

And then there are the stories. After all, every acquisition has a tale associated with it. A few are quite simple and direct: “Yes, I bought this object at Wartski 15 years ago when I was in London”, or “In 2003, the hammer came down at Christie’s and I could not believe I was the high bidder.” In other instances, the hunt is much more complicated, dotted with intrigue and uncertainty. The thrill of the experience lies with the competition and the camaraderie, more often than not within our own ranks! Education is the ultimate achievement here, however. The excitement of finding a new tidbit of information and adding a provenance detail to an object which has been yours for a while is wonderful, especially if it is your bell push or cigarette case identified in an old auction catalog. Perhaps some new document is unearthed in the St. Petersburg archives indicating when and by whom your photo frame was originally purchased. Regardless of the source, there is great satisfaction in advancing the knowledge and understanding of both the object, and its time and place in history.

(A)
(A)
(B)
(B)
(C)
(C)
(D)
(D)
(E)
(E)
(F)
(F)
Fabergé Gum Pots from the Wigström Studio with Scratched Stock Numbers

  • A. and D. Pale-green Gum Pot with Stock Number 12600
  • B. and E. Mauve Gum Pot with Stock Number 12601
  • C. and F. Sky-Blue Gum Pot with Stock Number 12602

(A-B, D-E. Courtesy Kirsch Collection; C and F. von Habsburg, Géza, Fabergé in America, 1996, p. 294, illus. 329)

I had one such enlightening experience a year or so ago. In 2008, I purchased a lovely mauve-enameled gum pot/stamp moistener (2″ high, illus B. and E.) from a small auction house in the UK. It is a typically well-executed, gold-mounted, and pear-shaped object from the Henrik Wigström workshop, and was a good fit for my collection. Last spring, a gold-mounted gum pot in pale-green enamel (illus A. and D.) was purchased by my friend and dealer John Atzbach. When he forwarded the photographs, I realized his find shared certain similarities of size, over-all design pattern, identical brushes and mounts to mine. However, each gum pot is unique with its guilloché pattern, and its gem-set finial decorated with a garnet or a moonstone.

An inquiry about a possible stock number on the dealer’s piece led to the next discovery – the two objects were numbered sequentially, 12600 (pale-green) and 12601 (mauve). The attraction was irresistible to me. Despite trying to maintain a tight budget and adding pieces carefully for variety in my collection, the thought of reuniting two fine objects, which had been separated for over 100 years and countless miles, was just too compelling. So now they are back together again, as I imagine they were at one time sitting on a work bench in Wigström’s shop. Ironically, a triplet in the stock number sequence (12602) is a sky-blue gum pot (illus C. and F.) somewhere in a private collection, but where? And then there appears to be a quartet of sequentially numbered gum pots! Stock number 12603 is cited in a chronological list of purchases made in 1911 by Empress Alexandra Feodrovna:

Fabergé Items of Late XIX - Early XX Century in the Collection of the State Museum of Pavlovsk, 2014, p. 299
Fabergé Items of Late XIX – Early XX Century in the Collection of the State Museum of Pavlovsk, 2014, p. 299
And where is this gum pot? The search continues!
Steve Kirsch maintains a Fauxbergé website educating collectors about fake vs. original Fabergé objects.
Fabergé Imperial Egg Chronology: A Progress Report
by Will Lowes (Australia) and Christel Ludewig McCanless (USA)
The revision of the egg chronology on the Fabergé Research Site is complete for the years 1885-1903. No eggs were presented in the years 1904-1905 due to the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War in January 1904 and the political unrest in Russia in 1905.

An easy-to-find quick index to each egg has been added.

Coincidences during the preparation of this newsletter advance our knowledge about Faberge objects. The Faberge Research Newsletter, Winter 2015, states “a house museum honoring Vasilii Ivanovich Zuiev (b. 1870), miniature artist-court painter employed by the Fabergé firm in 1908, was opened in the village of Cherdakly, Ulyanovsk region of Russia.” Through the generosity of the curatorial staff of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts two miniatures (each only 1 9/16 in. high) from the 1903 Peter the Great Egg photographed during the museum’s conservation project are shown below with Zuiev’s signature, В. Зуевь.

1903 Peter the Great Egg by Fabergé (Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Bequest of Lillian Pratt, Photo: Katherine Wetzel © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts)
1903 Peter the Great Egg by Fabergé
(Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Bequest
of Lillian Pratt, Photo: Katherine Wetzel
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts)
Miniature of Peter the Great, signed on right, В. Зуевь [court miniaturist, Vassilii Ivanovich Zuiev (1870-after 1931)] watercolor, ivory. (Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Bequest of Lillian Pratt, Photo: Travis Fullerton © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts)
Miniature of Peter the Great, signed on right,
В. Зуевь [court miniaturist, Vassilii Ivanovich Zuiev
(1870-after 1931)] watercolor, ivory.
(Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Bequest of Lillian Pratt,
Photo: Travis Fullerton © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts)
1903 Peter the Great Egg by Fabergé (Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Bequest of Lillian Pratt, Photo: Katherine Wetzel © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts)
1903 Peter the Great Egg by Fabergé
(Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Bequest
of Lillian Pratt, Photo: Katherine Wetzel
© Virginia Museum of Fine Arts)
Miniature of Emperor Nicholas II, signed on left, В. Зуевь [court miniaturist, Vassilii Ivanovich Zuiev (1870-after 1931)] watercolor, ivory. (Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Bequest of Lillian Pratt, Photo: Travis Fullerton © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts)
Miniature of Emperor Nicholas II, signed on left,
В. Зуевь [court miniaturist, Vassilii Ivanovich Zuiev
(1870-after 1931)] watercolor, ivory.
(Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Bequest of Lillian Pratt,
Photo: Travis Fullerton © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts)
Fabergé Silver Table Lighters with a Personality
by Riana Benko (Slovenia)
My research journey began with a Google image search for Fabergé silver objects. A study of silver cigarette and cigar table lighters made by Fabergé’s leading St. Petersburg silversmith, Julius Alexander Rappoport (1851-1917, workmaster mark I.P. markipmark, active, 1883-1908) is the end result. Rappoport as born in the Kovno province, now part of Lithuania, learned his trade in Berlin, and in 1884 became a master. His studio produced everything from small silver objects to large ornaments for table settings, etc. When he retired his workshop and its equipment were left to his workmen for their long and faithful service, thus forming the First St. Petersburg Silver Artel Artel mark. Lasting only a few years, its place in the Fabergé firm was taken over by the Armfelt workshop. A Fabergé urn measuring 87 in. high/221 cm at the New York Stock Exchange by the same workmaster is discussed in the Fabergé Research Newsletter, Spring 13.

In Russia after the Crimean War (1853-1856), cigarette and cigar smoking became more and more fashionable (previously tobacco was only chewed, snuffed and smoked in pipes or cigars). With the invention of the rather expensive safety match in 1840’s, table lighters with a lighter fluid compartment and a wick began to be used for the popular pastime of smoking. Whimsical and realistically modeled animals combined with a functional object made out of silver and silver gilt were Fabergé’s creative answer to the demands of this new market. The central body of each animal is the lighter fluid compartment with the wick accessible to the outside, so guests were able to light their choice of cigarettes or cigars. Usually the head of the animal is hinged to replenish the lighter fluid. A multi-step process to create Fabergé table lighters from a variety of animals with an emphasis on their charming personalities began with a sketch followed by a wax, plaster, or wood model made by a sculptor. Then a mold was made from the model, and the individual pieces cast in silver. After joining them, the final touch was applied by artisans using chasing and engraving to represent fur, hide, or feathers. A further discussion is found in the essay, “Fabergé Silver Animals” by Alexander von Solodkoff in von Habsburg, Fabergé: Imperial Craftsman and His World, 2000, 102-108.

A small selection of table lighters with engaging personalities from the Julius Rappoport Workshop and the First St. Petersburg Silver Artel recently on the auction market range in size from 3 8/7- 6 1/4 in. long, 4 3/8 in. high, and 5 1/8 in. wide. Links in the credit lines to enlargements and zoom images below each photograph are fun to explore. How is the lighter fluid added? Where is the wick located? How is ornamental chasing and engraving used?

Seated Elephant Table Lighter, Hinged Head Opens the Lighter Fluid Compartment, Stock #1613, Price Realized: $57,075
Seated Elephant Table Lighter, Hinged Head
Opens the Lighter Fluid Compartment, Stock
#1613, Price Realized: $57,075

(Courtesy Christie’s London, June 3, 2013,
Lot 234; also Sotheby’s Geneva,
November 21, 1991, Lot 417, SFr 38,500)

Seated Elephant Table Lighter, 4.5 in./11.5 cm high, 27.37 oz./851.2 gr. of silver, $75,910
Seated Elephant Table Lighter, 4.5 in./11.5 cm
high, 27.37 oz./851.2 gr. of silver, $75,910

(Courtesy Courtesy Christie’s London,
June 3, 2013, Lot 235)

Smoking Monkey Table Lighter with London Import Marks for 1911 (Rappoport retired in 1908), Stock # Possibly 1165 or 3165, $57,075
Smoking Monkey Table Lighter with
London Import Marks for 1911
(Rappoport retired in 1908), Stock #
Possibly 1165 or 3165, $57,075

(Courtesy Christie’s London,
June 3, 2013, Lot 233; also
Sotheby’s Geneva,
November 15, 1990,
Lot 223, SFr 41,800)

Rhinoceros Table Lighter, Wick in the Hollow Horn, Stock Number 9330, GBP 81,700
Rhinoceros Table Lighter, Wick in the Hollow Horn,
Stock Number 9330, GBP 81,700

(Courtesy Sotheby’s London: June 3, 2014,
Lot 652, also Christie’s New York, April 19, 2002,
Lot 202, $107,550)

Lizard Table Lighter, Hinged Head Reveals the Lighter Fluid Compartment, Tongue is the Wick, Soviet Control Marks, $18,750
Lizard Table Lighter, Hinged Head
Reveals the Lighter Fluid
Compartment, Tongue is the Wick,
Soviet Control Marks, $18,750

(Courtesy Sotheby’s New York,
October 14, 2015, Lot 38)

Bear Table Lighter, Lower Foot Reveals the Lighter Fluid Comparment, Provenance: Estate of Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester (1900-1974), $56,700
Bear Table Lighter, Lower Foot Reveals the Lighter
Fluid Comparment, Provenance: Estate
of Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester
(1900-1974), $56,700

(Courtesy Christie’s London, Novemember 25, 2013,
Lot 224; also Snowman, Carl Fabergé, Goldsmith
to the Imperial Court of Russia
, 1979, 40.)

Chimpanzee Table Lighter, Stock Number 14569, $334,992, Provenance: Princess Maria Gabriella of Savoy
Chimpanzee Table Lighter, Stock
Number 14569, $334,992, Provenance:
Princess Maria Gabriella of Savoy

(Courtesy Christie’s London,
June 27, 2007, Lot 19; also
Christie’s Geneva, May 12, 1980,
lot 233, SFr 9,000)

Seated Baboon Table Lighter, First St. Petersburg Silver Artel ICA Workmaster's Mark (Succeeded Rapppoport, Active 1908-1911), Marked and Retailed by Faberge, $58,750
Seated Baboon Table Lighter, First
St. Petersburg Silver Artel Artel mark
(Succeeded Rapppoport, Active
1908-1911), Marked and Retailed
by Fabergé, $58,750

(Courtesy Christie’s New York,
October 19, 2001, Lot 90)

Lighter Fluid Compartment Hinges on the Seated Monkey Table Lighters
Lighter Fluid Compartment
Hinges on the Seated Monkey
Table Lighters

(A La Vieille Russie
Christmas Catalog, 2014, p. 61)

Timothy Adams contributed to this article.
Golden Gifts – – and Politics
by Will Lowes (Australia)
During an electronic search of old Australian newspapers, I discovered an interesting notice in the Boulder Evening Star, June 26, 1909. Boulder, a town in the West Australian goldfields, 595 kilometers (370 miles) east of Perth, had in 1901 a population of 2,936 (1850 males and 1086 females), and by 1903 it had grown to 5,658 (3090 males and 2568 females).
“Though no particulars are allowed to be published, great preparations are being made at Poltava [Ukraine] for the visit of the Czar, who intends taking part in the bicentenary celebrations of the victory of Peter the Great over the Swedes there. After the festivities the Czar will embark on his yachting cruise, which will include visits to England, France, and Sweden from one of the Black Sea ports. The Czar has sent to M. Fabergé, the Court jeweller, about 3cwt. [Ed. note: 336 pounds or 152 kilograms of gold — a HUGE amount!] to be made into snuff-boxes and other objects, which will be distributed as presents during his journey.”
Ulla Tillander-Goldenhielm, authority on the Russian imperial award system, explains:
“The Poltava Bicentenary was a very important event for Russia. The battle, albeit 200 years before, was a triumph for Peter the Great. Through this defeat, Sweden lost its long-standing position as one of Europe’s contemporary super-powers. Emperor Nicholas II wanted Russians to remember the victory at Poltava, diverting attention from the humiliating defeat of the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-05. The Imperial family celebrated the Bicentenary of Poltava with much pomp and ceremony. Gifts (not all by Fabergé) were showered on all and sundry.”
Maid of Honor Ciphers – A Look Behind the Scenes
by Christel Ludewig McCanless (USA)
One of the joys of getting acquainted with world-wide newsletter readers, who so generously contribute their knowledge and send their questions, is that every now and then I am free to explore a topic of special interest to me. The essay, “Insignia of Russia Court Ladies” by Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm and Timothy F. Boettger (Faberge Research Newsletter, Summer 2015) made me wonder once again how these treasured ciphers look on the reverse, since they are seldom shown in exhibitions from the front and the verso. Although they were not made by Fabergé, the ciphers from contemporary St. Petersburg jewelers – Carl Hahn and Carl Blank – are a fascinating study. My special thanks to Artie and Dorothy McFerrin, and Christian Bolin for so generously sharing pictures to satisfy my curiosity.

During a peer review of my cipher collage, Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm and Timothy Adams both with years of experience in the jewelry trade, taught me about open and closed-back settings on jewelry. From Finland Tillander-Godenhielm wrote:

“The versos of the ciphers open one’s eyes to how jewelry was made in the past, i.e., closed settings in the early days, then later, open settings. In fact – a jeweler or specialist in this area of expertise starts out by looking at the back of a piece which at first glance tells the age and in particular, the quality of workmanship.”
Timothy Adams (USA) added:
“Eighteenth century pieces often had closed-back settings, meaning the space behind the stone was covered with a metal. This was because they were ‘foil-backed’ stones, a technique in which silver or colored foil (made of mercury or tin) was placed behind the stone to make it more reflective in light. It adds sparkle to stones with older cuts that do not sparkle as much as modern cuts do. It was also very effective with paste stones used at the time. Colored foil enhances the color of a gem or gives a clear stone the appearance of a ruby, sapphire, emerald, or of a pink diamond. With closed-back jewelry made of silver, often used because platinum was expensive and harder to work, the back-side was washed in gold. The extra touch was used to prevent the silver tarnish from soiling the clothing under the jewelry.”
Maid of Honor Ciphers with Closed Backs
Cipher EII (1762-1796) of Empress Catherine II
Cipher EII (1762-1796) of Empress Catherine II

Cipher EII (1762-1796) of Empress Catherine II

Cipher A (1828-1855) of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (1798-1860), Numbered III of 14 Presented
Cipher A (1828-1855) of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (1798-1860), Numbered III of 14 Presented

Cipher A (1828-1855) of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (1798-1860), Numbered III of 14 Presented

Maid of Honor Ciphers with Open Backs
Cipher MA (1894-1917) of Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna (1847-1928) and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (1872-1918), Carl Hahn Workshop, No. 53 presented to Anna Vladimirovna Osten- Sacken Coburg in May 1896. (All Photographs Courtesy McFerrin Collection)
Cipher MA (1894-1917) of Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna (1847-1928) and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (1872-1918), Carl Hahn Workshop, No. 53 presented to Anna Vladimirovna Osten- Sacken Coburg in May 1896. (All Photographs Courtesy McFerrin Collection)
Cipher MA (1894-1917) of Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna (1847-1928) and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (1872-1918), Carl Hahn Workshop, No. 53 presented to Anna Vladimirovna Osten- Sacken Coburg in May 1896. (All Photographs Courtesy McFerrin Collection)

Cipher MA (1894-1917) of Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna (1847-1928) and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (1872-1918),
Carl Hahn Workshop, No. 53 presented to Anna Vladimirovna Osten- Sacken Coburg in May 1896.
(All Photographs Courtesy McFerrin Collection)

Cipher MA (1894-1917) of Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna (1847-1928) and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (1872-1918), Made in 1913 by the Carl Blank Workshop. Provenance: Baroness Maria "Marousia" Langhoff (1893-1975), daughter of August Langhoff (1856-1929), Minister of State Secretary of the Grand Duchy of Finland in St. Petersburg. (Courtesy Court Jeweler W.A. Bolin, Stockholm, Sweden)
Cipher MA (1894-1917) of Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna (1847-1928) and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (1872-1918), Made in 1913 by the Carl Blank Workshop. Provenance: Baroness Maria "Marousia" Langhoff (1893-1975), daughter of August Langhoff (1856-1929), Minister of State Secretary of the Grand Duchy of Finland in St. Petersburg. (Courtesy Court Jeweler W.A. Bolin, Stockholm, Sweden)
Cipher MA (1894-1917) of Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna (1847-1928) and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (1872-1918), Made in 1913 by the Carl Blank Workshop. Provenance: Baroness Maria "Marousia" Langhoff (1893-1975), daughter of August Langhoff (1856-1929), Minister of State Secretary of the Grand Duchy of Finland in St. Petersburg. (Courtesy Court Jeweler W.A. Bolin, Stockholm, Sweden)
Cipher MA (1894-1917) of Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna (1847-1928) and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (1872-1918), Made in 1913 by the Carl Blank Workshop. Provenance: Baroness Maria "Marousia" Langhoff (1893-1975), daughter of August Langhoff (1856-1929), Minister of State Secretary of the Grand Duchy of Finland in St. Petersburg. (Courtesy Court Jeweler W.A. Bolin, Stockholm, Sweden)

Cipher MA (1894-1917) of Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna (1847-1928) and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (1872-1918), Made in 1913 by the
Carl Blank Workshop. Provenance: Baroness Maria “Marousia” Langhoff (1893-1975), daughter of August Langhoff (1856-1929), Minister of State Secretary
of the Grand Duchy of Finland in St. Petersburg.
(Courtesy Court Jeweler W.A. Bolin, Stockholm, Sweden)

Publication and Presentation News Shared by Newsletter Readers
Publications:
Exhibition Catalog Coming! May 12 – September 25, 2016 Koldinghus Museum, Kolding, Denmark
Fabergé – Tsar’s Court Jeweler and the Connection to the Danish Royal Family
One hundred loans from members of the Danish royal family, who through family ties to the Russian emperor and his family, inherited these objects. They will be shown along with Fabergé from the King’s Collection at Amalienborg.

Exhibition Catalog Published! Venue with more than 150 items from the Pavlovsk State Museum collection in Russia shown at Turku Castle, Turku, Finland, December 11, 2015 – April 3, 2016, then moves to South Karelia Museum in Lappeenranta, Finland, April 29 – October 2, 2016. Imperial Gifts from Pavlovsk Palace

Ludmila Budrina, Ekaterinburg Museum of Fine Art (Russia) contributed an article to the exhibition catalog in four languages (English, German, Russian, Chinese) for the Heroes. History in Ural Stone Carving venue opening at the Liechtenstein National Museum in Vaduz on March 23, 2016. Her contribution is entitled, Five Centuries of Three-Dimensional Mosaic: Predecessors, Contemporaries, Successors of Carl Fabergé. Additional book authors include Alexander Shmotiev, Tatiana Muntian, and Serguey Shokarev.

Tatiana A. Tutova, who works in the Moscow Kremlin Museum’s Archives, published her research in the book entitled, The Fate of Palace Treasures of the Russian Imperial Court. The Inventories of a 1922 Special Commission in the Moscow Kremlin. Detailed information about 95,000 items from the Imperial Treasures with full inventory lists of the objects contains comments comparing different sources. The two-volume set of text and commentary enables researchers to re-establish the history of many Imperial objects and traces the whereabouts of them after 1922. Included also are short biographies of individuals who participated in the work of the Commission, and several illustrations. Published in Russian by the Moscow Kremlin Museums in 2015. (Information contributed by Irina Polynina, Moscow)

Turku and Lappeenranta (Finland)
Turku and Lappeenranta
(Finland)
Liechtenstein National Museum (Vaduz, Liechtenstein)
Liechtenstein National Museum
(Vaduz, Liechtenstein)
Kremlin Museum in Moscow (Russia)
Kremlin Museum in Moscow
(Russia)
Georgia Museum of Art, Athens, Georgia (USA)
Georgia Museum of Art, Athens, Georgia
(USA)
Presentations:
Helen Rappaport (United Kingdom) April 25, 2016 Hermitage Museum Foundation, New York
Such an Unsafe Throne: Queen Victoria, Russia and the Romanovs

Galina Korneva (Russia) September 27, 2016 Society of Jewellery Historians, London
Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna’s Contacts with Paris Jewellers and Her Collection of Treasures
Russian archival information, only recently available to specialists, will be presented about jewel and silver objets d’art in the collection of Grand Duke Vladimir (1847-1909) and his wife Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna (1854-1920). The couple acquired the treasures from the best known Parisian jewelers – Chaumet, Falize, Boucheron, Cartier, Aucoc, etc.

Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm (Finland) November 1, 2016 Georgia Museum of Art, Athens, Georgia
The Russian Imperial Award System
A private collection on extended loan relating to the Romanov dynasty which contains military orders, medals, badges, paintings, and more is on view from September 3 – December 31, 2016. Special programs planned are a museum symposium on September 23-34, 2016. Dr. Tillander-Godenhielm, author of the book The Russian Imperial Award System during the Reign of Nicholas II, 1894-1917, during her November lecture will acquaint the audience with the historical background of these objects.

Kieran McCarthy (United Kingdom) November 22, 2016 Society of Jewellery Historians, London
Previously unknown details about the London Fabergé branch in existence from 1903-1917 and its customers will be unveiled after years of research into archival records. McCarthy’s book, Fabergé in London published by the Antique Collectors’ Club, available Autumn 2016.

Sharing Reader Insights

A brand-new newsletter reader from Egypt defines the true essence of a Fabergé enthusiast:

“Dear Ms. McCanless – I am honored to be able to receive your newsletter. I have been a Fabergé fan for many years … have spent countless hours poring over books! … Window-shopping at Wartski and A la Vieille Russie! The beauty of Fabergé is that I am enthralled by the history and beauty of each piece I gaze upon. My ultimate dream is to find a missing Imperial Egg, but I guess that is our collective dream?? Correct?? That is my lottery ticket and the price is lots of research and sheer luck.”
A Special Friendship Celebration in Russia:
Timothy Adams and Irina Polynina Studying the Madonna Lily Egg for the 1989-90 San Diego Museum of Art Exhibition, Later Shown in St. Petersburg, Russia. (Photograph Courtesy Timothy Adams)
Timothy Adams and Irina
Polynina Studying the
Madonna Lily Egg for the
1989-90 San Diego Museum
of Art Exhibition, Later Shown
in St. Petersburg, Russia.
(Photograph Courtesy
Timothy Adams)
Irina Polynina with George W. Terrell, Jr. at the 2016 Birthday Celebration in Moscow (Photograph Courtesy Ulla Tillander- Godenhielm)
Irina Polynina with
George W. Terrell, Jr.
at the 2016 Birthday
Celebration in Moscow
(Photograph Courtesy
Ulla Tillander-
Godenhielm)
Congratulations to Irina Polynina (Russia), whose recent 80th birthday party included Fabergé enthusiasts George W. Terrell, Jr. (USA) and Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm (Finland). For many years Ms. Polynina directed the tour guides in the Diamond Fund of the Kremlin Armoury Museum. In 1989-90, she was the visiting curator of the Fabergé: The Imperial Eggs venue at the San Diego Museum of Art, California, when 27 Fabergé eggs were re-united for the first and only time since the fall of the Romanov Empire in 1917. She is the author of guide books on the Diamond Fund collection, on the Russian Crown jewels, and the State regalia of the Russian Empire.

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Nuna Alekian (Russia): 10th anniversary of the newsletter is a big step! Congratulations!

Géza von Habsburg (USA): The Newsletter is as good as always! Congratulations!

Jennifer McFerrin Bohner (USA): We appreciate all the research and help you offer this community. Smile Face [The McFerrin Collection on view at the Houston Museum of Natural Science in Texas, was chosen as the host site for the Fabergé Forum 2016 on November 3-4, 2016.]

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Representing a very dedicated docent cadre at the Houston Museum Rich Hutting (USA) writes:

“Fabergé is admired the world over. Some of his biggest fans – surprisingly – are kids. We see them every day visiting the McFerrin Collection at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. At first they are often hesitant with their parents, as if to say “˜Why are you dragging me to this exhibit when there are so many dinosaurs nearby?’ That reluctance usually ends in room one when they see the Fabergé hardstone animals. On my tours, I use a magnifying glass to emphasize details on intricately-carved flowers, luminescent enamels, and a pickle. Kids truly love the gherkin scent flask. Thus, Fabergé transcends the ages in more than one way!”
Gherkin Perfume Flask (Courtesy McFerrin Collection)
Gherkin Perfume Flask
(Courtesy McFerrin Collection)
Rich Hutting Teaching with His Magnifying Glass, Unfortunately Not by Fabergé! (Photograph Christel McCanless)
Rich Hutting Teaching with His
Magnifying Glass, Unfortunately
Not by Fabergé!
(Photograph Christel McCanless)
Faberge Russian-Style Kovsh, the Centerpiece for the Fall 2016 Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Venue (Courtesy Virginia Museum of Fine Arts)
Fabergé Russian-Style Kovsh, the Centerpiece
for the Fall 2016 Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Venue
(Courtesy Virginia Museum of Fine Arts)
Twyla Kitts at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond (USA), whose task it is to select the text panel wording and images for the Fabergé and Russian objects in the Pratt Collection, undertook this herculean task:
“I spent Friday and Saturday reading through every back issue of your amazing newsletter and I am astounded by the MANY new insights it gave me. In particular, I was elated to find the information you, Annemiek Wintraecken, and Timothy Adams put together on gems and minerals in the McFerrin Collection (Fabergé Research Newsletter, Winter 2012-13). I am hoping to make that a topic for our APPs!” The venue will re-open in enlarged exhibition space on October 20, 2016.”
Two readers reminisce about their encounters with the Forbes Magazine Collection before it became the nucleus in 2004 for the Fabergé Museum (opened November 2013 in St. Petersburg, Russia):
My Venture into the World of Fabergé and Egg Art
by Alex Caldwell (USA)
Vivian Alexander Collection - Duchess of Marlborough, Renaissance, Lilies of the Valley, Coronation, and Cockerel Eggs. Géza von Habsburg upon seeing my Lilies of the Valley Egg noticed it had a stand with three legs instead of the four on the original Fabergé egg. He told me the original Fabergé Lilies of the Valley Egg was awarded Best of Show at the 1900 World's Fair in Paris, and the judges at the fair thought the piece was perfect except it would had been even better, if Fabergé had used three legs instead of four. (Caption Details Courtesy of the Author)
Vivian Alexander Collection – Duchess of Marlborough, Renaissance, Lilies
of the Valley, Coronation, and Cockerel Eggs. Géza von Habsburg upon
seeing my Lilies of the Valley Egg noticed it had a stand with three legs
instead of the four on the original Fabergé egg. He told me the original
Fabergé Lilies of the Valley Egg was awarded Best of Show at the 1900 World’s
Fair in Paris, and the judges at the fair thought the piece was perfect except
it would had been even better, if Fabergé had used three legs instead of four.
(Caption Details Courtesy of the Author)
My first purse: I started decorating goose, chicken, and ostrich eggs in 1986. Boring does not describe the hobby well enough. In 1991, while attending the Xanadu Mardi Gras Ball as a guest of honor I watched lovely young ladies entering in their beautiful ball gowns with unattractive beaded evening purses to match. On my bar napkin, wrapped around my “scotch and water”, I sketched an egg purse. I still have the sketch! The next day I made my first egg purse which eventually through the courtesy of a local ladies’ shop went to the New York Women’s Apparel market for a verdict: Marketable, but needed a little refinement in workmanship, like straighter lines and less glue showing. Five different egg purses entered in the New Orleans International Fashion Show were rewarded with three 1st Place ribbons and a “best of show”. The decision was made – designing, making and marketing egg purses would be my life’s final work, and still is in 2016.

Enameling, the early years: In 1993, I learned about an enameling process called rosin enamel which added color to jewelry. The learning curve was steep. I struggled for two years to learn and then perfect the technique with an added challenge on how to apply enamel to a double-curved surface (an egg shell). The process was made famous by Carl Fabergé’s workmasters, whose application of translucent enamel over guilloche was one of the techniques used to add the deep luster on their enameled objects. Later I learned more during my association with Forbes, Inc., New York.

In 1997, I turned down a request from The House of Fabergé (owned by Cheseborough Ponds, Inc., New York) to sell my creations under their label. Not long after that I accepted an offer from Forbes, Inc., if “I would you be interested in selling my collection under the umbrella of The Forbes Collection?” Christopher “˜Kip’ Forbes had spotted my Lilies of the Valley Egg purse in a window on 5th Avenue earlier in the week, and wanted me to join with them in promoting their world famous original Fabergé collection under the banner of their new marketing venture named The Forbes Collection. To seal the deal they invited me on a Hudson River cruise on the Highlander yacht, one of Malcolm Forbes’ indulgences.

Call from Warner Bros., Inc.: One day while I was working on a new purse design project in my studio the phone rang and a non-southern voice said, “I am the prop master for major films produced by Warner Brothers, and I was told to contact you for an exact replica of an Imperial Fabergé Egg to be used as the feature object in an upcoming “Ocean’s” film. The specifications included the egg had to be an exact replica (enamel color, size, top opening, guilloche pattern, and overall design) of the original Fabergé Imperial Coronation Egg owned by the Forbes Magazine Collection in their house museum on 5th Avenue in New York City. We agreed on a price and a deadline. My artisans and I went to work immediately. After three months, I was satisfied with the prototype and shipped it to Hollywood, California, for approval. The producers were pleased with the work and asked me to create two more eggs and ship them directly to Rome, Italy, so filming for the 2004 American comedy heist film Oceans 12 could begin. The entire final half of the movie is about the Gang of 12 attempting to steal “The Fabergé Egg” from the Vatican Museum. The Vivian Alexander egg is prominently displayed in many scenes, since the plot calls for the gang to create a fake egg using a hologram and to swap it with the real egg. Both eggs – real and fake – are seen at the same time, but the audience does not realize there are actually my two eggs used in the scenes.

Sometime later I heard Warner Bros. had purchased an Imperial Coronation replica (not mine) from Neiman Marcus, the elegant Texas store, prior to contacting me. I asked the prop master about the purchase and what part it played in the movie. He told me when the cast was practicing for the movie they used the Neiman Marcus egg, but for the actual shooting they substituted mine. In 2004, my host George W. Terrell, Jr. invited Christel and George McCanless to join us when my egg from the numbered Coronation egg series was displayed in the Hardin Center for Cultural Arts in Gadsden, Alabama. The Detroit Museum of Art in 2012 exhibited the Vivian Alexander Coronation Egg on loan from the Warner Bros. archives.

One more adventure: Neiman Marcus bought two copies of the Vivian Alexander diamond edition Duchess of Marlborough Egg for their store in Chicago, each retailing for $30,000. Two weeks after I delivered them, they placed an order for another one. I called to ask if there was a problem. They said NO and told me what happened. A US ambassador bought the first two for his mantel piece in his home, and soon afterwards entertained Nelson Mandela, President of South Africa from 1994-1999, who admired the eggs. The ambassador gave him one, and now needed another one to balance his mantel piece display.

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Linda Woytisek (USA), a three-time traveler to Russia remembers: “The Forbes Magazine Collection of Fabergé had been on display for many years in the Forbes Galleries on Fifth Avenue in New York City, but the display was never open on Saturdays or Sundays. There was a special exhibition at Sotheby’s New York after Viktor Vekselberg had agreed to purchase the collection before the auction. It was a beautiful warm day on the Valentine’s Day weekend in 2004 when my husband and I took the ferry and the ferry bus into the city, and then walked to Sotheby’s on the East Side. By the time we arrived at Sotheby’s, we were told the lines were too long and no one past a certain point would be allowed to enter. We were told to come back the next day. Believing that this was unacceptable, I pleaded and begged with Security to let us enter. I was so persistent that the Head of Security (a very nice lady) said, “Okay, follow me.’ She took us to a side entrance, put us on the LARGE freight elevator, and told us to go directly to the 10th floor. When we arrived, it was an amazing site – the most beautiful exhibition, crowds of people, and everything well organized. And there was almost complete silence as everyone was in awe at seeing the magnificent Imperial eggs. I was very happy we were allowed to enter. I do not remember when I actually “discovered’ Fabergé, but it was a long time ago. I remember attending the Love Trophies Egg auction [June 10, 1992, Sotheby’s New York, price realized $3,190,000]. I very much enjoy reading and keeping the Fabergé Research Newsletter. Many thanks!”