Newsletter 2021 Winter

Winter 2021
Regular Columns: Auctions | Eggs | Exhibitions

A Closer Look at the Fabergé in London: Romance to Revolution Exhibition
Victoria & Albert Museum, November 20, 2021 – May 8, 2022
The venue opened to a sell-out crowd, extensive national and international press coverage, and includes more than 200 loans, some of which are illustrated in V&A Press Releases. Visitors will be charmed by 15 full-size Fabergé eggs in the final gallery at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. We congratulate Kieran McCarthy of Wartski’s (featured in a brief interview), and the V&A team for assembling an outstanding exhibition for museum guests to admire. Six video presentations produced by the dedicated museum staff are available for armchair travelers:
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Book: McCarthy, Kieran, and Hanne Faurby
Fabergé: Romance to Revolution, [2021]
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CLICK THE ABOVE PICTURE FOR A LARGER VIEW
Table of Contents
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Preservation/Conservation Efforts
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Live Stream Online Talk with
Curator Kieran McCarthy and
Author Francesca Cartier Brickell
Newsletter readers Katrina Warne (UK) and Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm (Finland) share their impressions of unique Fabergé treasures seen during opening week events. The summary was compiled by Christel Ludewig McCanless, editor and publisher of the Fabergé Research Newsletter, who hopes to see the Fabergé exhibition later this Spring.
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(A.) Exhibit Entrance Showcasing Fabergé’s Miniature
Imperial Regalia
(Courtesy of the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia)
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(B.) Fabergé Enamel Color Palette with Guilloché Designs from the
Mirabaud Collection
(McCarthy, Kieran and Hanne Faurby,
Fabergé: Romance to Revolution, [2021], p. 67)
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(C.) Adams, Timothy and Christel Ludewig
McCanless, “Fabergé Cossack Figures
Created from Russian Gemstones
”,
Gems & Gemology, Summer 2016, Vol. 52, No. 2
(Photographs Courtesy of Pavlovsk State
Museum and Wartski, London; McCarthy and
Faurby, pp. 72-75)
The Fabergé miniature model of the Imperial Regalia (A.) graces the exhibit entrance and leads to an archival photograph collage of the Imperial families highlighting the last Romanovs after 300 years of rule. An icon, Fabergé hard stone flowers, folkloristic figures, as well as Fabergé and Cartier tiaras are shown. Extant archival documents from the studios of August Holmström (1829-1903), workmaster mark AH wm-ah (active 1857-1903), and his son Albert Holmström with the same mark, Henrik Wigström (1862-1923), workmaster mark H.W. wm-hw (active 1903-1917), and Alma Pihl, the lady designer of the many elegant objects with the snowflake themes, are presented in a production studio setting entitled, The Russian Enterprise. The video in the room explains the engine tuning process used by Fabergé’s artisans to carve a variety of engraved patterns unto a metal before the various colors of enamel (B.) are added in the guilloché process. It features David Wood-Heath, a collector of antique ornamental turning machines. Readers interested in this process can learn more from Wood-Heath’s lecture on Engine Turning/Guilloche. The Fabergé hardstone figures (C.) of Chamber Cossacks A.A. Kudinov, who guarded Empress Maria Feodorovna from 1878 to 1915, and N.N. Pustynnikov, who served Empress Alexandra Feodorovna from 1894 until 1917, are re-united for the first time, since they were separated during the Bolshevik regime in Russia. It was confirmed during the exhibition set-up the presentation boxes for the body guards had been mixed up by the Bolsheviks.

Katrina Warne, a Fabergé enthusiast visiting the 1977 Fabergé venue as a young person, vividly remembers the long queues around the block at the V&A Museum. About the 2021/22 venue she writes:

“One thing particularly appealing were the old photographs displayed next to objects actually in the photographs. For example, the 1902 Rothschild and 1907 Yusupov eggs are flanked by extant family portraits, the silver statue of Persimmon is highlighted with a painting of the race horse loaned by Queen Elizabeth II, and the famous portrait model of Caesar, King Edward VII’s wire-haired fox terrier dressed with a gold bell attached to his collar inscribed ‘I BELONG TO THE KING’. Photographs from the 1902 von Dervis Fabergé Exhibition in St. Petersburg and the London Fabergé shop opening in 1903 tell their charming stories. The highlights of the last exhibition room are 15 Fabergé Imperial Easter eggs splendidly displayed, and complete with their surprises (if extant) given to the Empresses Maria Feodorovna (1847-1928) and Alexandra Feodorovna (1872-1918). The opportunity to walk around each case for up-close viewing, and to see the different sizes – large and small – of two eggs for each year shown together is an interesting comparison, and a favorite with the visitors! It is always surprising to see how small some of the eggs are. The Kremlin egg is by far the largest egg.”

Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm, a practicing jeweler for decades in the A. Tillander jewelry firm, patiently explained in a phone call how Fabergé’s workmasters designed small prototypes in which their skills, techniques, and applications to make larger pieces in 3-D formats and transferring the designs from a flat surface to a curved one were developed. Examples she sent for further study are illustrated for the 1913 Winter Egg and the 1914 Mosaic Egg.

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1912: Melting Ice Pendant. Drawing of No. 13 from the Jewelry
Book of Albert Holmström (Photograph Wartski) Ice Pendant. Design
Alma Pihl, Workshop Albert Holmström. Provenance the Nobel Family.
(Private Collection. Photograph Katja Hagelstam. Illustrations Courtesy
Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm) 1913 Winter Egg
(Courtesy Wartski)
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Mosaic Brooch, ca. 1913 (Formerly Harry Woolf Collection,
Christie’s London, November 29, 2021, Lot 21);
1914 Fabergé Mosaic Egg in the Royal Collection
The stars of the 2021/22 exhibition are the three eggs from the Moscow Kremlin Museums in Moscow, Russia, which have never been shown in the United Kingdom.
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Moscow Kremlin Egg, by
Fabergé, Workmaster Unknown,
1906. © The Moscow Kremlin
Museums
(Courtesy Victoria &
Albert Museum)
Archival Details
(Fabergé Research Site)
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Alexander Palace Egg, by Fabergé,
Chief Workmaster Henrik Wigström
(1862-1923), 1908.
© The Moscow Kremlin Museums
(Courtesy Victoria & Albert Museum)
Archival Details
(Fabergé Research Site)
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Romanov Tercentenary Egg,
by Fabergé, Chief
Workmaster Henrik Wigström,
1913.
© The Moscow Kremlin
Museums
(Courtesy Victoria &
Albert Museum)
Archival Details
(Fabergé Research Site)
  • 1977 – Victoria and Albert Museum exhibition included 20 eggs. Kenneth Snowman’s Fabergé venue honored H.M. Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee. It was extended for a month closing in October 1977 after 104,000 visitors, some waiting in long queues around the block, had seen it.
  • 1989 – San Diego Museum of Art reunited of 27 eggs based on a challenge by the late Malcolm Forbes (1919-1990), a dedicated collector, to Irina Rodimtseva, director of Moscow Kremlin Museums, to match every egg in his collection with one from the Armoury Museum in Moscow.
  • 2021 – Victoria and Albert Museum exhibition showcases 15 eggs – an unbelievable feat, and reason to celebrate the first ever reunion of the two Easter eggs presented in 1906, 1908, and 1913 to Maria Feodorovna and Alexandra Feodorovna, the two Russian empresses. And what an opportunity for younger generations to appreciate the art and magic of:
Fabergé’s Objets D’art
1885 First Hen Egg1908 Alexander Palace Egg*
(illustrated above)
1887 Third Imperial Egg1908 Peacock Egg
1892 Diamond Trellis Egg1910 Colonnade Egg*
1895 Blue Serpent Clock Egg1913 Romanov Tercentenary Egg*
(illustrated above)
1901 Flower Basket Egg*1913 Winter Egg
1906 Moscow Kremlin Egg*
(illustrated above)
1914 Mosaic Egg*
1906 Swan Egg1915 Red Cross Triptych Egg*
1907 Love Trophies Egg
(aka Cradle of Garlands Egg)

*Eggs for Alexandra Feodorovna (1872-1918), Others for Maria Feodorovna (1847-1928)
Electronic resources for readers interested in learning more about Fabergé’s Easter eggs:

Reference publications:

  • Fabergé, Tatiana, Proler, Lynette G. and Valentin V. Skurlov. The Fabergé Imperial Easter Eggs, 1997.
    Letters written by Tsars Alexander III and Nicholas II, Fabergé invoices, cabinet documents and Bolshevik inventories are the basis for new research by Valentin V. Skurlov of St. Petersburg. This information sheds new light on the history of the Fabergé eggs.
  • Lowes, Will, and Christel Ludewig McCanless. Fabergé Eggs: A Retrospective Encyclopedia, 2001.
    Monograph gives comprehensive information about 66 Fabergé eggs divided into four categories – Tsar Imperial, Imperial, Kelch and Other. Technical descriptions, all known public exhibitions and auctions through 1997, and reference citations (books, journals, newspapers, and miscellaneous sources) covering the literature of nine countries are given for each egg. Who’s Who in the House of Fabergé profiles 500 artisans and companies who worked for or with Fabergé.

The Saga of a Fabergé Belt Clasp Converted into a ‘Re-purposed’ Bell Push
By James Hurtt (USA)
A bowenite bell push, previously a Fabergé belt clasp, did not sell at a Sotheby’s London auction (December 2, 2020, Lot 37). My personal observations as a bell push enthusiast and after examining the bell push in a 2013 auction preview event led to some additional research findings.

  • Clasps or buckles have not been in fashion since the 1930’s, and it is therefore not surprising someone transformed the original item into something more useful. Hence, the bell push, but it would have made more sense, if the clasp had just been turned into two brooches with a left-over diamond and moonstone push piece.
  • Unfortunately, neither auction house was aware of the object’s past history.
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1961
Belt clasp in original Fabergé wood case, enamelled lime-green, Mikhail Perkhin, Collection of Margaret, Lady Goff, sold for £220 (2021 values – 5,100 GBP or $6,885).

(Sotheby’s London, March 27, 1961, Lot 165)

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2013: 52 Years after the 1961 Auction
Two ‘Fabergé-style’ items, a cup (left) and a bell push (right) both with ‘spurious’ marks and unfortunately, reversed object descriptions in the hard copy catalog. (Christie’s New York, July 23-24, 2013, Lot 159) Property from the Estate of Mr. & Mrs. George W. Potter, Jr. Sale Room Notice: The cup is marked for Fabergé, and is not ‘spurious’. The maker’s mark is for Alexander Petrov. The gold and enamel plaques on the bellpush are marked for Fabergé, but are later mounted on a ‘hardstone’. (Ed. note: Is the material white onyx? Not specified in the auction lot description.)

Estimate: $1,200-1,800, both objects sold for $43,750
(2021 value – $50,100)

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2020: 59 Years after the 1961 Auction
Fabergé gold-mounted and guilloché enamel bowenite bell push, workmaster Michael Perchin, St. Petersburg, 1899-1903, “struck on the mounts, undersite and feet with workmaster’s initials”. Estimate 7,000 – 9,000 GBP, did not sell.

(Sotheby’s London, December 2, 2020, Lot 37)

Observations from the 2013 New York auction when the bell push was paired with a cup, or is it perhaps a vase? The low estimate of $1,200-$1,800 for both objects with a Christie’s ‘spurious’ Fabergé marks designation came with a surprise. Lo and behold, these ducklings turned into swans achieving a final sale price with its commission of $43,750. A buyer must have thought one or both were genuine to pay so much above the estimate. The Sale Room Notice did the trick: “Please note that the cup is marked for Fabergé, and is not ‘spurious’. The maker’s mark is for Alexander Petrov. The gold and enamel plaques on the bellpush are marked for Fabergé, but are later mounted on a hardstone base.” Alexander Petrov is described in the Fabergé literature as a specialist enameller, or unidentified workmaster. (Lowes, Will, and Christel Ludewig McCanless. Fabergé Eggs: A Retrospective Encyclopedia, 2001, pp. 181, 227). Enamellers were not entitled to mark their wares. So AP may be a workmaster (Sotheby’s London, November 27, 2007, Lot 259), a topic yet to be studied in some detail.

My observations after the 2020 London auction when the ‘re-purposed’ bell push alone did not sell. It is a somewhat awkward piece and does not resemble any bell push produced by the Fabergé firm:

  • The bell push is 5 inches long for a single button bell push. Most original Fabergé bell pushes are 2-3.5 inches square, rectangular, or round, so the proportions are off.
  • The bell push was ‘re-purposed’ as an electric one. The wires were not included nor did the author look at the interior mechanism to verify if it was intact when he viewed the object.
  • The gold support for the diamond-set moonstone push appears high and envelops the push piece.
  • The two diamond encrusted enamel panels were not set flush or below the bowenite base as they should have been. They were raised above the base and there is no harmonious flow to the design.
  • All of this makes sense when one discovers the Fabergé object in its original box was originally made to be used as a belt or cloak clasp when it sold at auction in 1961.

‘Re-purposed’ en suite Fabergé Objects from the 1902 von Dervis Exhibition
By Anna and Vincent Palmade (USA), and Dmitry Krivoshey (Russia)
Among hundreds of original Fabergé objects found during the research for our forthcoming book about the Charity Exhibition of Fabergé Artistic Objects, Old Miniatures and Snuff Boxes (March 9-15 [OS], 1902) in the von Dervis Mansion, St. Petersburg, Russia, there are two objects ‘re-purposed’ from their original use:

  • Standing Fabergé thermometer converted into a ‘vase’, and
  • Fabergé barometer converted into a clock and … back to a barometer.

The loans for the venue came from the Imperial Russian family, the nobility, and business elite of the time. By an uncanny coincidence, these turn-of-the century weather instruments made between 1887-1899 by the Mikhail Perkhin studio (in existence from 1896-1903) happen to be en suite, and belonged to the collection of Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna (1875-1960), sister of Emperor Nicholas II.

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Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna (1875-1960),
Sister of Emperor Nichols II, ca. 1894
(Unknown Author, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons)
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Xenia Alexandrovna’s Vitrine, von Dervis Exhibition, March 9-15 [OS],
1902 (Left) Fabergé Barometer – (Right) Standing Fabergé Thermometer
(von Habsburg, Géza, and Marina Lopato.
Fabergé: Imperial Jeweler, 1993, p. 432, illustration 363)
The thermometer on the right side, second shelf from the top of Xenia Alexandrovna’s vitrine made in the Mikhail Perkhin’s studio has the stock number 58779 suggesting it was completed toward the end of 1897. Of gilded silver with a distinctive tapering circular bowenite base, it has a spiral chevron ribbing connecting a beaded ring to a tied ribbon underneath a red enamel band, and is topped by a laurel wreath above another red enamel band. In the 2020 Baltic Auction Group lot description (June 9, 2020, Lot 16) the thermometer is now an agate vase. Did the ‘vase’ replace the original fragile thermometer after a fatal accident? The hall marks on the object do not appear to agree.
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Fabergé Standing
Thermometer
(von Habsburg,
and Lopato, Ibid.)
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Fabergé ‘Agate’ Vase, Stock
Number 58779 Sold for €20,000
(Baltic Auction Group, Tallinn,
Estonia, June 9, 2020, Lot 16)
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Edge of ‘Agate’ Vase,
Unknown Perkhin Mark in Beaded Circle

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Bowenite Base with Perkhin Partially Cutoff Mark, Post-1895,
St. Petersburg 88 Silver Mark

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Typical Post-1895 Perkhin Marks on the Original Thermoter Base – 58779
(Stock Number Toward the End of 1897) Fabergé, Upside-down Workmaster Mark М.П.
(Active 1886-1903), Assay Master Mark – Date, All Applied by Hallmarking Tools.

The identification of the two objects (1902 photograph and the 2020 auction lot) was made possible by juxta-opposing the perfectly matching and distinctive bases. The actual dimensions of the original thermometer from the 1902 Xenia vitrine display is based on the measurements of well-known nearby objects, i.e., Xenia’s stunning card box now in the British Royal Collection (RCIN 9126). A second verification1 is the mention of the ‘red enamel’ in the description of the thermometer in the 1918 inventory (#998) of Xenia Alexandrovna’s pieces: “Thermometer of Ural green stone with red enamel and gold in Louis XVI style by Fabergé in a box”. The description includes the dimensions “diameter at the base 8 cm, at the top 3.5 cm, 25 cm high” matching the thermometer in the vitrine.

The search for von Dervis exhibition objects in numerous fascinating archival records, auction catalogs from 1934 to the present, and publications after 1917 has yielded interesting results, including our 2007 discovery2 of two missing Imperial Eggs. In the present case study, the second object of interest is a barometer on the bottom shelf of Grand Duchess Xenia’s vitrine. Its journey from 1902 to the year 2000 unveils hallmarks indicating this gilded silver barometer was also made by Mikhail Perkhin before 1899.

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Fabergé Barometer
(von Habsburg, Géza, and Marina Lopato,
Fabergé: Imperial Jeweler, 1993, p. 432, illustration 363)
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Fabergé Circular Wall Barometer
Sotheby’s London
June 7-8, 1948, Lot 276
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Clock with Hands
Christie’s London
December 18, 1956, Lot 148
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Barometer
Christie’s New York
October 25, 2000, Lot 536
The barometer has endured a tortuous life!

  • 1948 – first reappeared in its original state as a Fabergé circular wall barometer – at a Sotheby’s London auction (‘the property of a Gentleman’) with the dark finial ‘garnet’ dial also visible in the 1902 von Dervis photograph. Final bid to Wartski £140.
  • 1956 – reappeared at Christie’s (‘Property of R.T. Leather Esq.’) converted into a clock with hands which are clearly not the original Fabergé style, price realized £315 (300 guineas) to Manston Graeme, in a leather case.
  • 1982 – barometer sold on December 10, 1982, to Ricky di Portanova by British antiques dealer, Wartski.
  • 2000 – price realized $21,150 at Christie’s New York auction from the voluminous Ricky di Portanova Collection, re-converted barometer with different features from the original 1902 version: A broader white dial, now bearing English inscriptions in bold letters, and the clear moonstone which replaced the dark ‘garnet’ dial finial. Between 1956 and 1982, the clock was thus removed and replaced by a barometer with a different design than the original one, the restorer presumably being aware of the piece’s original function. The distinctive style of the piece leaves little doubt the Fabergé pieces featured in the collage above are one and the same, and further confirmed by the analysis of the dimensions of the piece in the 1902 photograph which matches the measurements given in the three auction catalogs. Despite being located in different spots in Xenia’s vitrine, these two stunning Fabergé pieces made by Perkhin before 1899 are so closely related in style and combined function of weather gauges, they must have constituted an en suite set. They share in particular a very distinctive tapering circular bowenite base with matching decorations underneath a red enamel band, and are both topped with a laurel wreath.

Neither the barometer nor the thermometer found in Grand Duchess Xenia’s vitrine at the 1902 von Dervis Exhibition are among the Fabergé invoices to Grand Duchess Xenia, all of which are kept in the Russian archives and are now open to researchers. It suggests the Fabergé pair was offered to Xenia Alexandrovna, presumably from the same donor as perhaps a set – otherwise, it would have been quite a coincidence for two identically-styled and related pieces to have been given to the Grand Duchess by two different donors. Being en suite with the thermometer bearing the stock 58779 suggests the wall barometer was given the stock number 58778 or 58780. The stock numbers 58777 and 58781 are a flower and a cigarette case.

Our thanks to James Hurtt, who suggested a possibility for Xenia’s barometer. Is it the one Emperor Nicholas II bought from Fabergé for 270 rubles on May 21, 1899, with the stock number 59810, and has this description: “Barometer, nephrite ring, with gilded silver ornaments Louis XVI, with red enamel and anchor”?3 The bowenite might have been confused for nephrite, and the anchor (not seen nor mentioned in the known pictures and descriptions of the barometer) a decoration referencing the naval career of Xenia’s husband, Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich (1866-1933).

Maybe a stock number can still be found on the barometer, contact: Christel McCanless


ENDNOTES:

1Sales of Fabergé & Other Objects from Grand Duchess Xenia’s Palace in the 1920s”, July 22, 2019, Winter Palace Research (Courtesy Joanna Wrangham)
2 Palmade, Anna and Vincent, “Two Lost Fabergé Imperial Eggs Discovered in an Archival Photograph”, Fabergé Research Newsletter, Modern Egg Discoveries.
3 Guzanov, A. and R.R. Gafifulin, Fabergé Items of Late XIX – Early XX Century in the Collection of the State Museum of Pavlovsk, 2013, entry 4072 for a Faberge purchase on May 21, 1899.

Auctions

The Digital Age – 2020 and Beyond, No More Auction Catalogs!
By Christel Ludewig McCanless and Rose Tozer (USA)
March 15, 1934 – Christie’s London had the first-ever Fabergé auction for 87 lots described in a hard copy catalog with an introduction by Henry C. Bainbridge, former London representative of the Russian Fabergé firm. A first-hand account of the 1934 auction with illustrations appeared in the Daily Mail, a British tabloid still in existence in 2022.
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McCanless, Christel Ludewig.
Fabergé and His Works: An Annotated Bibliography of the First Century of His Art, 1994, pp. 34-36.
Spring of 2020 – Some 86 years after the first auction, the digital age for auctions arrived with major changes in the auction market impacting Fabergé collectors and researchers. Auction house management has made changes, and it appears there are no more hard copy catalogs available via subscription for researchers to use now and in the future, except for three known exceptions in 2020-2021. Our special thanks to newsletter contributor Riana Benko and dedicated readers for searching the Internet to find the digital details containing Fabergé objects in ca. 70 large and smaller auctions for the two years studied.

May 25, 2021 – Andre Ruzhnikov, a dealer in Russian antiques, on his review website for a Christie’s London auction succinctly states the current state of affairs: “I love printed catalogues! They’re great for reference and information, etc. I hope this ill-conceived ‘new beginning’ of Online Sales Only is fleeting, and that catalogues will re-appear soon.” Fabergé researchers and contributors to the Fabergé Research Newsletter agree with this sentiment! In this new digital age, websites and teaser advertisements promoting objects under the hammer, or of a special interest subject area, are the new way of advising collectors/researchers about Fabergé auction lots. One may subscribe free of charge to receive the frequent advertisements via a personal email account.

Other changes along the way:

December 20, 2019 – “Christie’s Is Cutting Its Catalogue Pages and Print Materials in Half Next Year to Curb Its Environmental Impact”. The auction house in its news release states over “52% of lots sold worldwide were purchased by people who did not receive print catalogues. The statistics were even higher 70% for buyers from live auctions.”


Photographs of the objects are not always maintained for longer periods of time. An object at auction may include as many as 20 high-definition photographic illustrations with an automatic zoom feature. But if the object does not sell, the descriptive text and photographs may disappear quickly from the auction’s website. The new owner of an object may also choose not to have an illustration of his object posted.


The two major auction houses, Sotheby’s and Christie’s, both headquartered in London, have closed their Russian departments and no longer offer Russian-themed auctions in New York City.


December 2, 2020 – Sotheby’s, London, announced: “Russian Works of Art, Fabergé and Icons sale will take place as a Live Studio sale, to be conducted by an auctioneer behind closed doors. The sale will offer Advance bidding as well as real-time Telephone and Online bidding.” Prior to 2020, Sotheby’s provided a concise, one-page, listing of lots sold and the hammer price. Now to see the auction results one has to print an abbreviated version of the entire catalog which includes the lot number, photograph of the piece, the estimate, and the price realized. In short, a practical way to participate in auctions is through absentee biding, phone bidding, and through LIVE stream on websites. Each auction house has a set of rules to follow on its website. Online auctions for Fabergé objects are open for bidding a series of days and/or weeks in advance, and after that the records are archived with the price realized by the auction house websites. Unsold lots disappear right after the sale. Sotheby’s offers additional services – new to the auction world.

  • Private Sales: Browse a selection of works currently available for private sale
  • Buy Now: Shop new arrivals

Christie’s London uses auction techniques similar to its competitor Sotheby’s London. An article dated February 11, 2021, announces “Christie’s Has Closed Off Public Access to Its 255-Year-Old Auction Archive, a Major Resource for Scholars, Citing Budget Concerns.” The library is considered to be the most comprehensive auction archive in the world.


Christie’s website conundrum for Fabergé objects:

[November 23,] 2020 | Live Auction 18370 Russian Art

Lot 134 A Jewelled Guilloché Enamel and Silver-Gilt Desk Clock, Marked Fabergé, with the Workmaster’s Mark of Michael Perchin, St. Petersburg, Circa 1890, Scratched Inventory Number 56659

Price realized GBP 87,500, Estimate GBP 70,000 – GBP 90,000 Closed: 22 Nov 2020

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This is What You See at the Lot Link
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This is What You See at the Auction Link

Lot 134 with number 56659 (above) is identified with two auction dates – November 22, 2020 (lower right, closed with date) and on the upper left hand corner there is a 2020 date without a month and a day. A click on 2020 leads to a November 23, 2020 entry which is the final date for the auction. A researcher’s conundrum would be what auction date does one cite in a publication, i.e., in the Fabergé Research Newsletter, or other publications? The answer is one should use the November 23, 2020 date for a research citation. The November 22 date is the closed date when no more bids via fax or e-mail will be accepted. One must register to bid by the November 22, since on November 23, one can bid in person, via online, or telephone. Future researchers may not understand this technique which was already used in 2013 for a two-day sale (Christie’s New York, July 23-24, Lot 159), and is now a digital technique without hard copy catalogs as a primary reference source. The use of additional terminology in order to ascertain correct auction dates would be helpful.


Bonhams London (November 25, 2020) and Bruun Rasmussen, Copenhagen (December 7, 2020) published hard copy catalogs along with their online PDF versions which may only be available from some auction houses immediately after the first sale announcement, or make it yourself. Does Sotheby’s offer this option?


November 20-21, 2021, the Wall Street Journal, headlines its report on the auction activity with this, “The Art Market in Overdrive: Auction Houses Set Record Sales Records … $2.3 billion frenzy of buying and selling.” No mention is made of Fabergé, however, the Woolf Fabergé sale (complete with a limited number of hard copy catalogs) at Christie’s London, November 29, 2021, yielded £5,203,250.


Art libraries, the custodian of auction catalogs for serious collectors and researchers, subscribed to hard copy auction catalogs until the mid-1990s. A difficult problem arose ca. 1995, when auction houses began uploading their auction records to the Cloud. As the cost of Cloud storage began to increase for uploading each new (current year) catalogs, an older year of auction records is taken down. Outcome – older auction records from 1998+ are available electronically at Christie’s, and from 2007 at Sotheby’s. Since auction catalogs are no longer being printed, art libraries had no choice but to discontinue their subscriptions creating large gaps in reference collections. In short, there is a black hole for researchers without auction records on the web – and now, for the most part, no hard copy catalogs after 2019 in libraries, except for the three known exceptions cited above.


In a chat with a Jeff Eger, an out-of-print hard copy auction catalog dealer, he mentioned researchers are using his services for provenance research in hard copy catalogs prior to the year 2020. He maintains one reference copy in his New Jersey warehouse, sells extra copies, or disposes of duplicates, and buys from libraries or collectors who no longer have room to house them, or are too few to be useful. His Fabergé auction catalog holdings are listed here.


Riana Benko supplemented her search for this 2020-2021 Fabergé auction review by using a Russian auction website which includes the two major auction houses, Christie’s and Sotheby’s, and smaller auction houses, all searchable by workmaster, type of objects, etc. Photographs have watermarks and registration is required.


According to the website ARTNET Price Database users may “find over 12 million color-illustrated art auction records dating back to 1985. We cover more than 1,800 auction houses and 340,000 artists, and every lot is vetted by our team of multilingual specialists.” A quick Fabergé search is free, and there are fee-based one day passes, and more options. Users of this website soon learn the data is not as complete as the details found in hard copy catalogs. Beware of Fauxberge and in the style of Fabergé!


A group of newsletter readers, who follow the auction market closely, agreed to discuss a few interesting objects from the Benko list. If there are oversights or additional research observations, please advise. Contact: Christel McCanless

Fabergé Electric Bell Pushes in Bowenite
By James Hurtt (USA)
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Polished Slab of Bowenite Serpentinite
(Gregory Phillips, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
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[Electric] Bowenite Bell Push, Mikhail
Perhkin, St. Petersburg, before 1899, Stock
Number 47426, Estimate $20,000-30,000,
Price Realized $25,000.
(Doyle, New York, April 28, 2020, Lot 4)
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[Electric] Bowenite Bell Push, Garnet,
Silver-gilt, Steel, Probably Mikhail Perkhin
with French Import Mark, 1899-1908
(Keefe, John Webster, et al. Fabergé:
The Hodges Family

Collection, 2008, pp. 144-145)
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[Electric] Bowenite Bell Push, Mikhail Perhkin, St.
Petersburg, ca. 1892, Stock Number 45298.
Purchased by Emperor Alexander III and Maria
Feodorovna, Returned, then Purchased by Three of
Their Children on January 20, 1893, and Given to
Their Parents for Christmas/New Year’s 1892-1893.
Sale Price Stayed the Same at 185 Rubles
(Courtesy Private Collection)
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[Electric] Bowenite Bell Push
on Three Feet, Mikhail Perkhin,
Stock Number 50766, Purchased
by Empress Alexandra
Feodorovna for 225 Rubles on
February 28, 1896
(Pavlovsk Entry #3441; Hillwood
Estate, Museums and Gardens,
Washington, DC)
All four electric gold-mounted bowenite bell pushes are in the 1890’s Neo-Rococo style by Fabergé workmaster Mikhail Perkhin (active 1886-1903), some illustrated in high-definition close-ups, and the Hillwood specimen displays the electrical features on its underside. The Doyle lot description includes an annotated list of Fabergé objects made from bowenite, a semi-precious stone analyzed in 1822 by George T. Bowen and named after him in 1850, and now the state mineral of Rhode Island (USA). Bowenite, before it was discovered to be from the Serpentinite family of stones, was mistaken for jadeite, nephrite, and chalcedony due to its similar color and appearance. There was not a term for it in Russia in the late 19th century, so one finds Fabergé pieces listed as ‘jade’ or ‘nephrite. It is often difficult to tell the difference without the right equipment and training. James Hurtt in his article, Cutting the Cord: An Exploration of Fabergé’s Mechanical Bell Pushes, Fabergé Research Newsletter, Fall and Winter 2018, addresses mechanical bell pushes not shown here. The identification of mechanical vs. electric bell pushes is not often mentioned in auction catalog descriptions.

Ceramic and Silver Dish Sells for Almost Six Times Its Estimate
By Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm (Finland)
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Hagelstam & Co., Helsinki, Auction Ending on June 11, 2020, Silver and Ceramic Ashtray (Lot 1352)
by Anders Nevalainen with 15 Detailed Photographs Sold for €14,000.
(Courtesy Thomas Luoma, Hagelstam Auctioneers)

My preferred name for a charming Fabergé item is to call it a ceramic and silver dish encased in a holly wood Fabergé box imprinted St. Petersburg, Moscow, Odessa, and made by Antti Nevalainen (active 1885-1917) during the first years of the 20th century. The idea how the unpretentious glazed ceramic dish was transformed into an elegant object with three silver flowers balancing on its rim appealed to me. The piece was created in the Stil Modern, the Russian interpretation of Art Nouveau, then at the height of fashion in the Empire. In the auction catalog the maker of the ceramic dish was not identified, nor were the silver flowers specified, facts which did not hamper the interest in the dish, since it sold at for €14,000, an amount close to six times above its estimate of €2,500.

I decided to include our Russian colleagues in the discussion: Galina Gabriel from the Stieglitz Academy of Art and Industry, and the two scholars and sisters, Galina Korneva and Tatiana Cheboksarova. They soon determined the unclear signature at the bottom of the dish was the well-known M.S. Kuznetsov Company, which by the early 20th was responsible for almost two-thirds of the pottery and porcelain output in the Russian Empire. After a lively discussion, the silver flowers were identified as viola tricolor (Cupid’s delight), a wild pansy with dark purple upper petals, light violet side petals, and a yellowish lower petal. It blooms between May and September and grows in abundance on dry meadows, banks, fields, and seaside beaches in and around the St. Petersburg region. There is a lot of folklore connected to the flower, probably a reason why it was chosen to decorate the ceramic charming dish.

Research by Christel Ludewig McCanless – In the same auction a silver and enamel beaker (Lot 1357) by Henrik Wigström with photographs allowed a potential buyer to examine the piece on-line, since the auction rooms were closed. The Fabergé Schnapps glass with its identified military provenance, in a case before belonging to another prize, and the stock number 11854 sold before:

  • June 11, 2020, Lot 1357, €4,000/estimate €3,000
  • November 22, 2018, Lot 2023, €7,000/estimate €7,000
  • May 7, 2018, Lot 69, two days after the T113 auction website states object sold for €9,500/estimate €7,000 (At newsletter press time, the past auction database suggests this lot did not sell, estimate €7,000.)

James Hurtt, newslettter contributor, in his “interactive” peer review added these observations for the ceramic dish: “A lot of interesting information contained in this article, and love all of the photo images the auction house published.” On the the small beaker with the military emblem attached to the lid of the box there appears to have been stamped the mark used by [Antti Nevalainen – workmaster marks A N and AN wm-an – active 1885-1917] based on the style of the object. When one looks closely at the mark one sees under the Fabergé mark an ‘A’. The N must have been polished away by mistake, or the marking iron slipped.

Unfortunately, dates when past auctions took place are cited as “auction closed” without specific date details by this auction house – not very helpful for collectors or researchers. The staff at Hagelstam has advised the archival database is being revised, and will be uploaded in its new format at a future time.


Sotheby’s London, December 2, 2020: An auction entitled Fabergé & Vertu Property from the Brooklyn Museum, Sold to Support Museum Collections was a de-accessioning sale of 17 works of ‘Fabergé and Vertu’ from the Helen Babbott Sanders gift assembled in the 1950’s, and donated to the Brooklyn Museum (New York) in the 1980’s. It raised $3.3 million for the museum. (Moore, Susan. “Art Market”, Apollo, February 2021, p. 58) Two outstanding Fabergé objects discussed by Sotheby’s Helen Culver Smith, Director of the Russian Department, in a video are a clock and a vase:
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Lapis Lazuli and Nephrite Clock,
Fabergé in Cyrillic, 72 Standard, with
Scratched Inventory Number 24697
(Sotheby’s, London, December 2, 2020,
Brooklyn Museum Sale, Lot 11,
Estimate: 80,000 – 120,000 GBP,
Price Realized 402,200 GBP)
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In 1916 an Original Design Sketch with a Production
Number of 15165 for this Fabergé Clock from the
Forthcoming Publication of Henrik Wigström’s Second
Album of Drawings
by Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm,
et al. (Sotheby’s Overview, Illustration
Courtesy Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm)
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Balleta Vase (Sotheby’s, London,
December 2, 2020, Lot 12,
Estimate: 250,000 – 350,000
GBP, Prize Realized 934,600 GBP)
Archival research shared by newsletter readers suggests an error occurred with the date on which the clock was sold in London to Mrs. W.B. Leeds on January 15, 1915, and the design sketch illustrated above dated 1916.
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Entry from the Official London Sales Ledgers
(von Solodkoff, Alexander. Fabergé Clocks, 1996, p. 42)
  • The matching stock number 24697 for the Leeds/Brooklyn Museum clock sold in January 15, 1915, for £20 would have been made in 1914, and therefore, predates the Wigström design sketch dated 1916.
  • Mrs. Leeds bought five clocks from the London branch in 1915-1916.
  • The design sketch illustrated next to the Leeds clock is dated 1916, and is incorrectly attributed to be “the original design for this clock, recorded under number 15165” in the overview of the Sotheby’s London, December 2, 2020, auction. Design and production sketches are a separate numbering system from stock numbers. (Adams, Timothy, “Fabergé Design Sketches and What They Teach Us”, Fabergé Research Newsletter, Fall and Winter 2018)
  • Kieran McCarthy in his book, Fabergé in London: The British Branch of the Imperial Russian Goldsmith, 2017, states the last shipment of merchandise from St. Petersburg to London was in June 1914.
  • Sotheby’s auction entry calls the jewels studding the jade wreath peridots, yet they are demantoid garnets. Much later in another description, the correct name is given.

Fabergé Imperial Presentation Box – Quintessentially Fabergé
By Timothy Adams (USA)
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Imperial Presentation Box Made in 1897 by Fabergé Workmaster Mikhail Perkhin in St. Peterburg
Sotheby’s London, Estimate GBP 150,000-200,000, Price Realized GBP 200,000/$270,000 June 15, 2018, Lot 344
Piguet, Geneva, Estimate CHF 100,000-150,000, Price Realized CHF 170,000/$192,000, December 8, 2020, Lot 216
(Illustrations Courtesy Piquet, Geneva)

A Fabergé case on the market twice in recent years exemplifies the highest qualities of gold work from the Fabergé firm. The well-documented provenance, the quality of complex gold-work techniques, and the uniqueness of the iconography give this box a special place in my list of favorite pieces of Fabergé.

Original provenance: Presented to First Lieutenant-General Théodor Feldmann, Head of the Imperial Alexander Lyceum on December 3, 1897, who returned the box to the Imperial Cabinet in exchange for the monetary equivalent, an option of the day in Imperial Russia. Two years later on November 15, 1899, the box is presented to Baron Maximilian von Lyncker, House and Court Marshall of noble rank for Kaiser Wilhelm II. In 1966, its discovery in a Swiss safe begins another life for the box. The center medallion with the diamond cypher of Nicholas II is topped by an Imperial diamond crown. The large diamonds used in the piece indicate the importance of the recipient(s).

The complex gold and enamel work on the box created in the workshop of head workmaster Mikhail Perkin (active 1886-1903) features his often-used technique of gold appliqué or cage-work over guilloché enamel. The rich translucent strawberry red enamel is laid over an engine-turned ground, and then elaborate gold appliqué designs with acanthus leaves, vine tendrils, two griffins rampant with swords and shields are added. It is a rare example of the Romanov family emblem (the griffins with swords) used instead of the State emblem of the double-headed Imperial Eagle. The quality of the chasing and engraving of the gold displays the attention to detail Fabergé’s workmasters strove for in their work. The gold appliqué serves two purposes – one is purely decorative, and the second keeps the enamel surface from being scratched, or worn away over time. The use of multi-colors of gold add to the richness of the box, while the green and pink gold floral and dot border is a delicate complement to the bold center design.

James Hurtt noticed two different stamps by Mikhail Perkin on this box – an earlier one used before 1895, and a later stamp Perkin used after 1895. A discussion among the essay contributors brought forth a possible explanation. Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm’s theory:

“Important commissions solicited by the Cabinet of His Imperial Majesty to the jewelers were not always straightforward. François Birbaum, chief designer with Fabergé’s firm in his reminiscences, is witness to that in his memoirs (von Habsburg, Géza, and Marina Lopato. Fabergé: Imperial Jeweler, 1993, pp. 444-461) Sometimes the workshop had begun work on an important presentation box, but for some reason work on it was interrupted. For example: the Cabinet had enough boxes in stock and therefore delayed its order, the box therefore remained semi-finished in the workshop. Assaying and marking took place at a stage when the object was still not completed and before it was enameled. So, my hypothesis is the workshop had already marked the flange of the box in 1895, or earlier with the master’s mark then in use. The Cabinet okayed delivery of the box only in 1897, the year the box was delivered to the Cabinet and was given the Cabinet number of 49. The box was naturally at that point hallmarked and marked according to the Assay Laws and now bore the new master’s mark of Perkhin on the lid and base. The ‘old’ master’s mark on the flange could not be removed and in fact needed not to be removed because it was that of the workmaster in charge of the work, although no longer in use.”
Has this unique marking occurred on other original Fabergé objects? Contact: Christel McCanless


Sotheby’s London, Treasures, December 10, 2020:
“It is Sotheby’s honor 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 1947 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 organized a full program of exhibitions in Europe, North America, Asia. Baron Heinrich expanded his father’s collection into one of the greatest private collections 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.”
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CLICK THE ABOVE PICTURE FOR A LARGER VIEW
Varicolored Gold-Mounted Nephrite Desk
Set, Workmaster Henrik Wigström, Collection
of Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza
Sold for 571,600 GBP
(Sotheby’s, London. Treasures,
December 10, 2020, Lot 34)
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Rosebud Egg in the
Forbes Magazine Collection
(Courtesy Fabergé Museum,
St. Petersburg, Russia)
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Rosebud Hot Air Balloon
(Permission Granted by Bill Teasdale)
Earlier collectors featured on the electronic Sotheby’s Catalogue Note for Lot 34 include extensive biographical details about two other well-known Fabergé collectors – Sir Bernard Eckstein (1894-1948) and King Farouk I of Egypt and Sudan (1920-1965). Why? Because the 12-piece desk set had these previous owners for some of its pieces before Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza assembled the complete set in the 1970’s.

In 1987, the Baron hosted the Forbes Magazine Collection in his Villa Favorita, Lugano, Switzerland. In the foreword to the exhibition catalog (Fabergé Fantasies: The Forbes Magazine Collection, p. 7), he writes about his Fabergé objects, “… as a Fabergé collector, 20 years younger than Mr. Forbes … Today I own altogether 24 examples … among them a twelve-piece set of jade in the Louis XVI style, while Mr. Forbes has over 300 pieces … mine may seem rather marginal.”

Long time Fabergé enthusiasts may recognize the Rosebud hot air balloon shown above. Another passion of long-time Fabergé collector and balloon enthusiast Malcolm Forbes (1919-1990), added quite a bit of excitement (when the winds were just right!) to several Fabergé exhibition events in Lugano, Switzerland, San Diego, and Moscow during the years 1987-1990. The Lugano exhibition (April 14 – June 7, 1987) featured 134 objects from the Forbes Magazine Collection.


Bukowskis Stockholm, December 10-11, 2020: The inkwell shown in 20 high-resolution photographs beautifully illustrates what Fabergé’s head workmaster Perkhin’s studio was stylistically crafting in 1890. Auction lot does not identify the material used. Readers, any clues? Contact: Christel McCanless

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Fabergé Hardstone and Gold Inkwell, Mikhail Perkhin, St. Petersburg, 1886-1895. Stock Number 43799
(Bukowskis, Stockholm. December 10-11, 2020, Winter Sale 629, Lot 226)

January 11, 2022, press release states “Bonhams Announces Acquisition of Bukowskis”, the leading auction house in the Nordic region. Bukowskis Auction House history: “On 22 April 1870, the Polish nobleman Henryk Bukowski received the official permit from the Stockholm Governor’s Office stating that as a foreigner he could trade in works of art and antiques – this date is considered to be the beginning of the activity of his company, Bukowskis. (Courtesy Wikipedia)


Christie’s London, November 29, 2021: A press release summarizes the good news on a recent auction …
“A Selection of Fabergé Masterpieces from The Harry Woolf Collection” November 29, 2021, Total Realized £5,203,250, 98% Sold by Lot, 99% Sold by Value, Achieving more than Double the Pre-sale Low Estimate.
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Harry Woolf Fabergé Auction, Overview and Auction Catalog
(Christie’s London, November 29, 2021)
Only two kosvhes (Lots 80 and 85) out of 86 Fabergé objects did not sell. A collection of 83 auction catalogs with working notes made by the late collector sold for GBP 3,250. A small number of hard copy 2021 Woolf auction catalogs were available, and at newsletter press time as a PDF.

A review of the successful auction was written by Andre Ruzhnikov. Some objects still in the Woolf Fabergé Collection are on view at the Victoria and Albert Museum until the venue closes on May 8, 2022.

A memoriam tribute written by a family friend, Alice Milica Ilich (Australia), entitled, “Harry Woolf, An Exceptional Man” appeared in the Fabergé Research Newsletter, Spring 2020.
Previous auctions, one exhibition, and the story of the collectors

  • Christie’s Geneva, November 18, 1980 (Collection of Josiane Woolf, Part 1)
  • Christie’s Geneva, May 12, 1981 (Collection of Josiane Woolf, Part 2)
  • Christie’s New York, April 19, 2002
  • Wartski, London, Carl Fabergé: A Private Collection, 2012
  • Biographical story of the collectors:

    Harry and Josiane Woolf
    Harry and Josiane Woolf
    (Courtesy Christie’s London, November 29, 2021, pp. 6-7)
    The special relationship between Harry Woolf and Fabergé dates back to the 1970s. Harry, Chairman of the successful London based pharmacy chain, Underwoods, subsequently sold to Boots in 1988, visited his newly retired father who was choosing to while away his days in front of some pretty average television shows.

    ‘I determined there and then to find a hobby, said Harry – so that my mind would be more satisfactorily occupied at a similar age’. He duly met a string of London dealers who worked in spheres as diverse as early clocks and contemporary art. None sparked much interest. Then, one night, a guest at a dinner party at his house in Hampstead posed the fateful question: ‘Why not Fabergé?’

    Harry was immediately attracted. In part because the jewelery house – like his paternal grandparents – were Russian; and in part by the stunning workmanship of the object he was shown.

    He soon started researching Fabergé and consulting experts before embarking on a passionate collecting mission that lasted the best part of 50 years. Harry passed away in November 2019 and just 5 days before he was still buying pieces.

    He was a generous lender to Fabergé exhibitions around the world, the excellence of his objects was highly sought after. The range in the collection being breathtaking, including, as it does, examples of all the renowned fields of Fabergé craftsmanship: from animal figures and photograph frames to perfume bottles, flower studies and brooches.

    It is a collection that surpasses all the prestigious examples previously sold at Christie’s: the Kazan (1997) and di Portanova (2000) collections, to name but two. With specific regard to the animal figures, only the British Royal Collection can be considered comparable.

    The House of Fabergé was issued a royal warrant by Emperor Alexander III in the mid-1880s, and its objects were soon must-haves among Europe’s elite, routinely serving as diplomatic gifts. One of the true highlights of the Woolf collection is an intricate, trompe l’oeil study of a wild strawberry plant in a vase of water. A similar flower study is part of the British Royal Collection.

    Harry was never one to follow trends. Everyone in the Fabergé market – dealers and auction house specialists alike – knew better than to steer him towards particular works. He preferred to rely almost solely on his instinct, taste and finely attuned eye. The end result was one of the most iconic Fabergé collections in private hands.


Sotheby’s London, November 30, 2021: Toby Faber, author of the historical narrative, Fabergé’s Eggs: The Extra-Ordinary Story of the Masterpieces that Outlived an Empire, 2008, and Helen Culver Smith, Sotheby’s London, International Head of the Russian Department, are seen here sharing the history of the Fabergé firm and objects from an auction (Sotheby’s London, November 30, 2021). Auction highlights include three Fabergé flowers reviewed by Andre Ruzhnikov on his website.
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Lot 405
Fabergé Jeweled Gold-mounted
Guilloché Enamel, Rock Crystal and
Nephrite Model of an Apple Blossom
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Lot 406
Fabergé Jeweled Gold-mounted en plein Enamel,
Rock Crystal and Nephrite Model of a Violet
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Lot 407
Fabergé Jeweled Enamel and
Hardstone Study of a Pansy,
Workmaster Henrik Wigström
(Courtesy Sotheby’s London,
November 30, 2021)
Fabergé flowers are not always marked and have been a topic of discussion among Fabergé researchers and enthusiasts for many years – has someone studied to a certain variety of Fabergé flowers and come to some conclusions? Contact: Christel McCanless

A quick look at the Fabergé bibliography on the Fabergé Research Site suggests these standard works have chapters about flowers. Please note after 2007 chapter headings are no longer cited in the bibliography listings:

  • Bainbridge, Henry Charles. Peter Carl Fabergé: Goldsmith and Jeweller to the Russian Imperial Court and the Principal Crowned Heads of Europe, 1949.
  • Snowman, A. Kenneth. The Art of Carl Fabergé, 1953.
  • Lesley, Parker. Handbook of the Lillian Thomas Pratt Collection: Russian Imperial Jewels, 1960.
  • von Habsburg, Géza. Fabergé, Juwelier der Zaren (English title: Fabergé), 1986.
  • Hill, Gerard, et al. Fabergé and the Russian Master Goldsmiths, 1989.
  • Keefe, John Webster. Masterpieces of Fabergé: The Matilda Geddings Gray Foundation Collection, 1993.
  • von Habsburg, Géza, et al. Fabergé: Imperial Craftsman and His World, 2000.
  • de Guitaut, Caroline. Fabergé in the Royal Collection, 2003.
  • Reed, Joyce Lasky and Marilyn Pfeifer Swezey. Fabergé Flowers, 2004.

Eggs

In Memoriam Tribute – Annemiek Wintraecken
It is still with a sad heart many of us recall receiving a Facebook post written by Annemiek Wintraecken (1955-2021) … “- as of October 11, 2021, this page will no longer be updated. It was great to share my passion of Fabergé Eggs with so many of you. My time is up, but as we all know, the Internet is forever, and so is Fabergé!” Annemiek’s website began in 2004, and soon became the Internet resource for anything connected to Fabergé Eggs.
mieks faberge eggs logo
Visit Fabergé Eggs: English | Dutch
Annemiek Wintraecken (right)
Visit in Grand Place, Brussels: Jean-Jacques
Wintraecken with Farah Miek's Dog, Farah's Paw Print , DeeAnn Hoff,
and Annemiek Wintraecken
(Photograph Courtesy Ms. Hoff)
Research colleagues Anna and Vincent Palmade struggling to find words to honor this Grande Dame of Fabergé shared these thoughts read at her private burial service:
“Annemiek’s love of and dedication to Fabergé was inspiring – she has been a big part of our lives for so many years, always inquisitive and generous with sharing information on her outstanding Fabergé Eggs website and beyond. Of her many outstanding Fabergé Egg discoveries, the one which stands out in our minds is her discovery of the new Egg Chronology which opened the door to finding the 1887 Third Imperial Egg – this game changing discovery came out of her relentless drive for completing the Fabergé Egg puzzle, her sharp and creative mind always ready to challenge the conventional wisdom. Fabergé research will never be the same without Annemiek, but her legacy will live on forever!” From Annemiek’s many friends and colleagues.
Her husband Jean-Jacques is honoring Annemiek’s research passion by keeping the archival website alive, however, no new information will be added.


Two interesting essays with news about Fabergé egg surprises appear in this edition of the Fabergé Research Newsletter.

About the 1885 Fabergé Hen Egg: A Prototype Review
By Géza von Habsburg (USA)
The 1885 egg traditionally accepted as Fabergé’s First Imperial Egg (A.), was probably sold by the Bolsheviks in the late 1920’s. It re-appeared in the West, consigned by Derek Berry to a Christie’s London auction (March 15, 1934, Lot 55), sold for £85 ($430) to Mr. R. Suensen-Taylor, and was owned by the family of Lord Grantchester until 1976. It once contained a crown and single ruby drop (since lost) as surprises. Days before the auction, the egg was mentioned by Eugène Fabergé (1874-1960), the Russian craftsman’s oldest son, in a letter to Henry C. Bainbridge, the firm’s former representative in London: “As I told you, there are none of the Imperial Easter eggs, except the original one (author’s bold characters) like a hen’s egg.”1 From then on, the egg was recognized by all subsequent scholars as the first egg of the celebrated series.
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(A.) 1885 First Fabergé Imperial Egg
(Courtesy Fabergé Museum,
St. Petersburg, Russia)
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(B.) Danish or Rosenborg Egg (Golden Egg with Hen)
in the Danish Royal Collection, ca. 1720
(Courtesy Fabergé Chamber, Amalienborg Museum)
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(C.) Golden Egg with Hen (Green Vault Egg), ca. 1720 (McCarthy, Kieran, and Hanne
Faurby. Fabergé: Romance to Revolution [2021], pp. 207-209, 226, pl. 180; Photograph
Courtesy Grüne Gewölbe Museum [Green Vault Museum], Dresden, Germany)
The Danish or Rosenborg Egg (B.) – A. Kenneth Snowman in his seminal Fabergé monograph2 suggested, and it has since been universally accepted by researchers, that an 18th century hen egg in the Danish Royal Collection exhibited at Rosenborg Castle served as the inspiration for Fabergé’s first egg. The Danish-born Russian Empress, Maria Feodorovna, may indeed have seen the Rosenborg egg on one occasion, when it was exhibited at the Copenhagen Art and Industry Fair in the Summer of 1879. The Russian Imperial couple was present at its opening, and the Empress might therefore have seen this Danish treasure, and appreciated such a thoughtful reminder from her doting husband, Emperor Alexander III.3

The Green Vault Egg (C.) – In 1988 another, virtually identical example, was consigned by the widow of Prince Ernest of Saxony, youngest son of Frederick Augustus III of Saxony, the present author’s uncle, to the auction house Habsburg Feldman, Geneva4. At the time Joachim Menzhausen, curator of the Dresden Green Vault, identified the object has having been formerly owned by Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony, King of Poland, and listed in the Saxon Royal Collection with Inv. Nr. VI, XIII. Exhibited to the general public for centuries as a curious attraction, the egg was thus accessible to Carl Fabergé (1846-1920), presumably a regular visitor to the museum until the death in Dresden of his father, Gustav, in 1893, when his visits may have ceased. In 2004, research by Dirk Syndram, then curator of the Green Vault, revealed the Dresden Egg was acquired by Augustus the Strong at the Leipzig Fair in 1705.5 In 2021, the Dresden Egg was offered privately to the Green Vault Museum (Grüne Gewölbe Museum in Germany) and acquired amidst fanfares by Dirk Syndram for €200,000 with the aid of the Siemens Foundation. The headline in the prestigious German newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitschrift6, is titled “Die Krone in der Henne im Ei” (the crown in the hen in the egg) with an article by Andreas Platthaus, and a large color illustration subtitled “possibly the prototype for Fabergé’s Easter eggs”. The possibility of a connection between the Dresden Egg and Fabergé’s 1885 Egg was first mentioned in 1999 by Mogens Bencard, Keeper of the Royal Danish Collections.7 The present author shared this opinion in the Fabergé Research Newsletter, Fall 2013, and more recently in the publication accompanying the 2021-2022 Victoria & Albert Museum Fabergé exhibition8.

Other recorded prototypes:

The Habsburg Egg – Yet another very similar early 18th century egg is known in the Habsburg Imperial treasury at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. Both the Danish and the Habsburg examples were exhibited side by side as alternative prototypes together with Fabergé’s First Hen egg in the 1986 exhibition held in Munich.9

The Baden-Baden and Sachsen-Coburg-Meiningen Eggs – Two further similar eggs are known through period inventories and descriptions, one in the Baden-Baden margravial treasury, another formerly in the Sachsen-Coburg-Meiningen collection.10

A second Danish Egg – Another similar egg is recorded in the Danish Royal collections as having belonged to Queen Anna Sophie, neé Rewentlov, second wife of King Frederik IV, mentioned in her diary on June 26, 1722: “A golden egg, wherein a hen, and in the hen a motto with small diamonds”, and later described: “One gold egg, wherein is an enamelled gold hen; within the hen is a seal with a royal crown and 40 small brilliants, 6 small rose-cut diamonds, 5 pearls and a red cornelian engraved with a motto”.11 The differences between the Rosenborg Egg and this description led Mogens Bencard to believe there were two eggs in the Danish Royal Collection. All 18th century eggs must have been considered by their owners as precious, fascinating curiosities, and by general agreement were probably produced in the same workshop.

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(D.) LEFT: Oval Agate Casket with Enameled
Silver-gilt Mounts, Attributed to the Jeweler Le Roy,
ca. 1700 (Green Vault Museum, Dresden)
RIGHT: 1894 Renaissance Egg by Fabergé
(Fabergé Museum, St. Petersburg,
Photograph Géza von Habsburg)
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(E.) Object of Vertu by Moritz Elimeyer, with a Ring, Set with One Sapphire and Numerous Diamonds in 14k Gold.
(Schloss Ahlden auction, May 18, 2019, Lot 2738; Courtesy Géza von Habsburg)

Proof, if necessary, of Fabergé’s familiarity with the treasures of the Green Vault, is provided by another of the Russian master’s Easter eggs, the 1894 Renaissance Egg (D. RIGHT) based on an early 18th century oval casket (D. LEFT) attributed to the jeweler Le Roy in the Dresden Green Vault. Their close similarity was first noted by A. Kenneth Snowman. Both of these objects were also exhibited side by side at this author’s 1986 Munich exhibition as evidence.12

The Elimeyer Egg – A mid-19th century gold egg coated in white enamel and containing a jeweled hen and sapphire ring in its original fitted case stamped Elimeyer, Dresden, was sold at a Schloss Ahlden auction, May 18, 2019, Lot 2738. The gold- and silversmith Moritz Elimeyer (1810-1871) was Goldsmith and Supplier to the Saxon Court, as well as to Queen Victoria. This egg too, attests to the popularity of the Green Vault Egg in Fabergé’s time. I thank my colleague Alexander von Solodkoff for alerting me to the Schloss Ahlden auction and for researching this egg.

Another Candidate?

At a recent exhibition at the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, a new candidate was presented as Fabergé’s First Egg which engendered a lively discussion about the 1885 egg and its origin. The owner of this egg, a Russian businessman, had first loaned it to the Fabergé Museum in Baden-Baden, Germany. Despite requests, no Western Fabergé specialist has been authorized to examine this egg. However, its style, surprise (it contains two miniature ruby pendants), and its all-to brief history with an 1898 date, have turned most Fabergé experts firmly against it.13


ENDNOTES:

1 Fabergé, Tatiana, Proler, Lynette, and Valentin Skurlov. The Fabergé Imperial Easter Eggs, 1997, p. 94, note 86 (quoted from a letter in the Tatiana Fabergé Archives)
2 Snowman, A. Kenneth. The Art of Carl Fabergé, 1962, pp. 76, 78, 142-143. (A revised and enlarged edition with new information was published in 1962. All subsequent editions and impressions are reprints of this edition.)
3 Bencard, Mogens. The Hen in the Egg: The Royal Danish Collections, 1999, pp. 30 ff. (“The Danish Egg and Fabergé’s Imperial Eggs”)
4 Habsburg Feldman, Geneva, November 16, 1988, Lot 255.
5 Syndram, Dirk. Schatzkunst der Renaissance und des Barock, 2004, p. 15, note 2.
6 FAZ Feuilleton, October 19, 2021, Nr. 243, p. 9.
7 Bencard, 1999, p. 34.
8 von Habsburg, Géza, “The Legacy of the Imperial Easter Eggs” in Fabergé: Romance to Revolution, [2021], pp. 207-209, 226, pl. 180.
9 von Habsburg, Géza, Fabergé, Hofjuwelier der Zaren, Hirmer Verlag, 1986, cat. 532, 662-663. A German edition was published by Habsburg Feldman Editions, in 1987.
10 Bencard, 1999, p. 28.
11 Bencard, 1999, p. 21, note 8; Berner Schilden Holsten, Henrik. Dronning Anna Sophie paa Clausholm, 1911, p. 42.
12 von Habsburg, 1986, cat. 538, 661.
13 The Art Newspaper, March 17, 2021: “Hermitage Director Responds to Accusations of Fakery in Fabergé Exhibition”.

Lost Surprises of the 1895 Fabergé Rosebud Egg Have Been Identified
By Chad Solon (USA)
Nicholas II gave his wife Alexandra Feodorovna a small red enamel Easter egg in 1895. It was the first Fabergé egg he gave her after their marriage, a tradition he continued for Easter until the 1917 Revolutions ended it. The egg originally contained a yellow enamel rosebud with a tiny diamond and ruby crown. Suspended from the crown by a chain was an egg-shaped ruby pendant. Today the Rosebud Egg is in the Fabergé Museum in St. Petersburg, with only the rosebud; the crown and ruby pendant have been considered as missing for more than three quarters of a century. They have recently been identified, hiding in plain sight.
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Lapis Lazuli Egg with the Crown and Ruby Surprises,
Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio
(Courtesy Peter Carl Fabergé, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons)
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Lapis Lazuli Egg and Surprises Similar
to 1920’s Wartski Archival Illustration
(Photograph Courtesy Chad Solon)
While researching the Lapis Lazuli Egg in the Cleveland Museum of Art, I made a discovery. Long attributed to Fabergé, the museum’s small egg has a shell of lapis lazuli bordered with pearls. Upon opening the egg, an enamel yolk appears inside of which is a diamond and ruby crown which encloses a ruby pendant in the shape of an egg, just like those of the Imperial Rosebud Egg. A 1920’s photograph by the London antique jeweler Wartski shows the 1895 Rosebud Egg open on its side with its three original surprises in the foreground. The crown is slightly out of focus and angled to show the side instead of the front. When I compared it to a side view of the crown in the Lapis Lazuli Egg, it was obvious they were one and the same. The ruby pendant was clearly identical as well.
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1895 Rosebud Egg with Its Crown, Ruby Pendant Surprise, and Rosebud
(Courtesy Wartski 1920 Archival Photograph)
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Lapiz Lazuli Egg Crown and Ruby Pendant Surprises,
Cleveland Museum of Art, Ohio
(Courtesy Peter Carl Fabergé, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons)

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1895 Rosebud Egg
(Fabergé Museum,
St. Petersburg, Russia)
A number of elements of the Lapis Lazuli egg are inconsistent with similar eggs from the Fabergé genre. They include decorative details and design elements, such as how the egg opens. Because the crown and ruby fit perfectly inside the yolk, it follows the egg was made to house the surprises. It is known the 1895 Rosebud Egg was exhibited along with all of its surprises at the 1935 Exhibition of Russian Art at 1 Belgrave Square, London, so the Lapis Lazuli Egg must have been created sometime after that date. My findings were published in the The Burlington Magazine1, a British decorative art magazine published continuously since 1903.

After the publication of my article, Juan F. Déniz from Gran Canaria (Canary Islands), contacted me with the news he too had independently come to the same conclusion about the Lapis Lazuli Egg surprises. He provided some additional information and juxtaposed the various components for our study process. We were able to identify four photographs of the Rosebud Egg and its original surprises dating them to the 1902-1935 era. While some are not as clear as others, there can be little doubt the extant archives show the same objects now associated with the Lapis Lazuli Egg. It is our hope in the near future the crown and ruby are studied together with the Rosebud Egg, and are placed in the yellow rosebud once again. Having them neatly fit inside would banish any lingering doubts that they are in fact the lost surprises.

Throughout my research, I was encouraged by the ever-thoughtful Annemiek Wintraecken, who for years maintained her scholarly website, Miek’s Fabergé Eggs.2 She was never too busy to offer a word of encouragement, share an insightful comment, or connect me with a fellow Fabergé scholar. Unfortunately, my update on the Lapis Lazuli Egg and its surprises will stand as the last update to her website, due to her untimely death last year. She will be missed by all who knew her.


ENDNOTES:

1 Solon, Chad, “The Lapis Lazuli Egg in the Cleveland Museum of Art”, Burlington Magazine, September 2021, pp. 828-831.
2 Lapiz Lazuli Egg and 1895 Rosebud Egg Details on the Wintraecken Faberge Eggs website.

Exhibitions
(Updates are posted in Exhibitions on the Fabergé Research Site)
Permanent

  • New York City, New York. Metropolitan Museum of Art – The Matilda Geddings Gray Fabergé Collection will continue to be exhibited. The museum hopes to expand its website with video clips and other material to celebrate the collection and make details of these intriguing pieces more accessible.
Temporary
Forthcoming
  • York, United Kingdom. National Railway Museum
    Mid to Late 2022
    The 1900 Trans-Siberian Railway Egg from the Kremlin Armoury Museum, Moscow will be shown.
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