SOLD! Rediscovered Fabergé Sedan Chair sells for 463,600 GBP

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A rare and enchanting gold-mounted nephrite miniature model of a sedan chair went on the block today at The Cotswold Auction Company in Cirencester.

The sale, filled with a relatively uninteresting group of objects went on for hours mostly selling lots below 100 GBP, before arriving at lot 555 at approximately 10:28 AM Eastern Standard time.

Viewers of the sale were subjected to a fairly awkward break, as the computer was changed, and bidders and viewers online were forced to open a new screen in their browser.

The camera turned sideways, and the lot was offered horizontally.

Bidding opened at 60,000 GBP, and rose quickly with phone bidders, experiencing delays because of poor mobile phone service and simultaneous translation. There was a leap in bids to 250,000 GBP at 10.30, and the hammer price kept rising. by 10.31 the bidding was at 340,000 between a bidder in the room and a Russian phone bidder — finally selling for 380,000 GBP to the phones.

The lot hammered down at 380,000 GBP — a final total of 463,600 GBP (plus 22% sales commission), which came to roughly $572,597 in US dollars.

A Rare Fabergé sedan chair model resurfaces at auction in Cirencester

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An exceptionally rare gold-mounted nephrite Sedan chair by Fabergé has resurfaced in a provincial British collection coming up for auction in Cirencester. Sedan chairs by Fabergé are rare, but they constitute a distinct group of objects produced by the firm.

This particular example was known and is pictured in Kenneth Snowman’s 1962 ‘bible’- The Art of Carl Fabergé.

Auctioneers Elizabeth Poole and Lindsey Braune commented: "Discovering the sedan chair in Kenneth Snowman’s book was rather a spine-tingling moment. It belongs to a family who collected some absolute gems in the early 20th century – and have looked after them ever since."

The sedan chair is estimated at £60,000-80,000.

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See the original article here

Some other examples of Fabergé sedan chairs are seen below:

Fabergé and Stroganoff School masterpiece discovered at regional auction


On June 19 at Morphy’s Fine and Decorative Arts auction, an unrecognized Fabergé silver-mounted Stroganoff School ceramic vase dated 1903 and with impressed marks, came to the block with an estimate of $600-900. Sixty-seven bids later, the 7½-inch-tall vase sold at $141,450.

Sources in the field indicate that the vase was sold to a buyer in Moscow.

The heretofore unknown vase joins a rare group of Fabergé-mounted Stroganoff School ceramics. While at Christie’s in 1996, I sold a much larger scale work by the two firms which graced the cover of the Russian Sale catalogue.

A Fabergé silver-mounted cEramiC vase by the StroganofF school, ca 1901. Sold christie’s New york, april 18, 1996.

A Fabergé silver-mounted cEramiC vase by the StroganofF school, ca 1901. Sold christie’s New york, april 18, 1996.


How Lovely a Country This Is -- Part II

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Part Two of the article on the history of the little-known visit of Grand Duchess Victoria Melita to the United States in 1924.

Part two focuses on the actions and the activities of the Grand Duchess as she visits New York, Philadelphia, and Washington DC, and the news of growing emigre conflict over her visit from Europe. As she arrives in Washington DC, this politicized disinformation from abroad becomes a distraction against which the Grand Duchess must fight.

From the article:

The following day, the Grand Duchess was taken on a tour of Philadelphia, but mostly, the press noted her elegant clothes and comportment, rather than her impressions of the city.  The press commented on her Romanoff heirloom jewelry, fur-trimmed brown suit and matching brown shoes with sensible heels.  It noted that the pale blue accessories worn with her brown ensemble matched her eyes, “the same color as those of her cousin, the Prince of Wales’.”  Despite a degree of  confusion over her title (Philadelphians were not really sure whether she was an empress, a grand duchess, a princess, or “the Queen of Russia”), her important status was acknowledged by the people of the city.[14]  The Grand Duchess left Philadelphia for Washington, and one may presume that she and her party were in high spirits.  Press reports do not indicate anything other than smooth sailing, until the Grand Duchess arrived in Washington.  As the Grand Duchess and her party made their way towards the nation’s capital and the very large events there planned by Mrs. Lansing, word may have come to the party that all was not well in New York.  

On the eleventh, a piece was published from Paris via the Chicago Tribune which ran in the New York Times, claiming that 300,000 émigrés had sworn to back Grand Duke Nicholas, and that the remains of the Russian Imperial Army had sworn loyalty to him.  The article further went on to outline Grand Duke Nicholas’ plans to create a constitutional assembly, and to list the names of the organizations that supported him, including the Union of Russian Officers Abroad, and the Monarchist and Nationalist Union.   The article roundly denounced Kirill and his claim, and made particular note of the fact that the Parisian papers were full of scorn for the important reception currently being offered Grand Duchess Kirill in the United States, particularly papers which referred to her as the Tsarina.  The article made it clear that while Grand Duke Kirill had the better and only legal claim to the throne, he was “profoundly unpopular” and that most émigrés had thrown their support behind Grand Duke Nicholas, including General Baron Wrangel.  All of this information in the Times appears to have little corroborating support in European papers of the time, indicating that it may, in fact, have simply been a reprint of a propaganda leaflet printed in Paris at the time, sent to New York by supporters of Nicholas [15]

to read the full article Part II, click here.

Notes from Russian Week in London

According to Simon Hewitt, the recent Russian Week sales were up 2.6% from November, with totals moving from 35m GBP to 26m GBP.  The leap, however, was entirely due to the staggering 9.2m GBP paid for a Petrov-Vodkin still life which counted for more than 25% of all Russian works sold this season (1200 lots).

Sales figure chart from Russian Art & Culture.

Sales figure chart from Russian Art & Culture.

Though buy-in rates averaged at 39%, they were sharply reduced at Christie’s this season, falling from 35% last season to 25% this month.  Christie’s rose to the head of the pack, surpassing the other houses by virtue of the sale of the Petrov-Vodkin.

While the market appears to have slow but steady growth, these figures are not the full picture. There is certainly demand for works of exceptional quality and rarity, and pre-2008 prices are occasionally realized, but all the houses have difficulty finding exceptional high-value consignments of sufficient rarity and provenance to attract buyers. In addition, these figures largely reflect paintings sales, and do not give a full picture of the Russian market, as no special attention is paid to decorative arts.  

This season, the highlights of the decorative arts sections were two pieces of exceptionally rare Fabergé miniature furnishings.  One, an empire style chair after designs by Klenze and created by workmaster Michael Perchin which had been offered before at Sotheby’s.  The second was an exceptional Louis XVI style miniature table a ecrire in the manner of Weisweiler, also created by Perchin before 1899 formerly in the Forbes Collection.  Both lots were withdrawn before the sale with no official explanation.

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As a result, the Fabergé win of the season went to Bonham’s, whose collection of hardstone animals fetched six-figure prices which were amongst the season’s highest.  Other items of note were a Ruckert Kovsh at Christies. Silver held steady as it has in the past few seasons, but there was an encouraging boost in early Soviet porcelain which appears to be of interest to collectors again, when the piece is of exceptional rarity and condition.

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How Lovely a Country This Is -- Part I

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A two-part article on the history of the little-known visit of Grand Duchess Victoria Melita to the United States in 1924. The trip played out against the political backdrop of a turning point in Russian-American relations as old loyalties to Imperial Russia were abandoned for a new recognition of the emerging Soviet state.

This is another piece in the series of updates and revisions to past material where I have found new and interesting information. To those interested in the Romanovs in exile, this is quite a tale of a very brave woman on her own during a tough political moment.

From the article:

“It was clear to both Grand Duke Kirill and Grand Duchess Victoria that this kind of visit, one in which the Grand Duchess would be received with honors by distinguished members of foreign society, would be an advantage in consolidating support for his claim. Whether the Imperial Couple hoped for official U.S. recognition for their claim is unrecorded, but rather than dwell on the difficulties, they were ultimately persuaded by Mrs. Loomis’ assurance of success:

The Chairwoman requested Her Majesty to come with a retinue of two ladies
 and a man. All travel was to be on one of the best liners and in the most luxurious hotels, the grand scale expense to be born by the Club.

Many considerations made Her Majesty waver in her decision to
 go. Although she was receiving the best possible endorsements of Mrs. Loomis, Her Majesty did not know the woman well and was concerned about her tact in dealing with Her Majesty. Her Majesty was also reluctant to go at the expense of the Club since this would place her in a position of
 dependence and oblige her to act in accordance with the desires and needs 
of the organizers of the trip which might not concur with her own. Finally, she was worried about the stress generated by a month of traveling.

Yet Her Majesty understood the importance of this trip for the worldwide promotion of her husband's cause. It could also provide useful contacts in the USA and, not least help in gathering funds for the poverty-stricken Russian emigration.

After much vacillation, much advice and much correspondence 
with Mrs. Loomis, Her Majesty agreed to go."

To read the full article Part I, click here

Russian Imperial Court Costume


Russian Court dress is known for its sartorial splendor and the isolation in which it developed. Russians had inherited a religious and sumptuary legacy from Byzantium, and so the clothes of the Russian court were the rich silks of the east; long robes heavily embroidered and sewn with pearls and precious gems. These caftans (robes) and Sarafans (over robes) would have been at home in Beijing, Constantinople, Samarkand, or any of the legendary cities along the Silk Route. Russian court dress remained largely unchanged from the 10th century until the 17th.

When Peter I (the Great) took the throne, he advocated the Europeanization of the Russian Empire. Discarding the ancient title of Tsar and assuming that of Emperor, he moved the capital to the westernmost port of the Empire, and created the breathtaking city of Saint Petersburg on the Neva River, near the Gulf of Finland. Peter also abolished the ancient modes of dress and manners of living that had marked the Muscovite court. Women were removed from the Terem (isolated living quarters), and all members of the court were required to adopt western dress.

This article was originally written for the Alexander Palace website. It has been expanded for this website.

to read the full article, click here

The Russian Imperial & Royal Order of St. Stanislas

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The Imperial and Royal Order of St Stanislas, today one of the Russian Imperial Orders of Chivalry, has a most complicated history amongst the Russian honours, both before the revolution and after.  Beginning its existence as the second in precedence of the Polish Royal Orders of Chivalry, it became, after its assimilation into the Russian Imperial Awards system the most junior of the Russian Orders, as well as the most frequently awarded until the revolution of 1917.

This article was originally published in Royal Russia No. 6 (Summer 2014).

to read the full article click here.

The Russian Imperial Order of St. Catherine

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Sometimes, one feels the need to revisit an earlier subject when new information becomes available. After finding a cache of information about the Catherine Institutes in St. Petersburg and Moscow, I felt it was time to revisit my article on the Russian Imperial Order of Saint Catherine, written almost 20 years ago for the wonderful Alexander Palace site.

Now that we have access to so much more information, I hope that you will enjoy reading this new piece as much as I did revising it and including new information and new resources on the subject for Russian speakers.

To read the full article, click here

That Night at Versailles

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There have been frequent comparisons drawn between Marie Antoinette, the last queen of France, and Alexandra Feodorovna, the last empress of all the Russias.  Both arrived from foreign courts full of youth and inexperience, both were initially adored by their adopted people yet later vilified by them, and both were to meet tragic and brutal ends.  The mournful comparison is popular, and the romantic myth has plagued popular histories published since the Russian Revolution; however, the story that Alexandra Feodorovna occupied the rooms of Marie Antoinette at Versailles is false, as a rediscovered French primary source reveals. 

The myth of the “Night at Versailles” first appears in Baroness Buxhoeveden’s “The Life and Tragedy of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna” in 1928. The story was repeated in Robert K Massie’s “Nicholas & Alexandra,” in which Massie writes simply: “at Versailles for an evening, Alexandra was assigned the rooms of Marie Antoinette…” citing Buxhoeveden for the information.  Bukshoeveden, it appears, is to blame for the cascade of false repetitions about the Empress’ visit and it’s purportedly tragic associations.

To read the full article, click here