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marked Fabergé with Imperial warrant, Moscow, 1896-1908 and 1908-1917, the inkwell with scratched inventory number 25323
The inkwell on a rectangular shaped base with old Russian style scrolls, depicting three boyars discussing amongst themselves, holding files in their hands and listening to Prince Shuiski sitting on a throne, with one inkstand on each side, the larger one with cut-glass body surmounted by silver-hinged cover realistically immitating a pile of paper standing in front of Prince Shuiski, further engraved, designed and hammered with Pan-Slavic motifs and set with a cabochon semi-precious stone; the pen tray depicting the distraught Boris Godunov; the handseal depicting Prince Feodor; the two silver-mounted electric lamps with pate de verre bulbs depicting at the base Russian people and soldiers waiting behind closed doors; the heavy silver knife with the handle depicting a gathering of Russian people within Pan-Slavic motifs
length of the inkwell: 16½in. (41.2cm.); height of the lamps: 11in. (28cm.) high
16kg 687gr. (535oz.)
By repute, designed and owned by Nicholas Roerich, the well-known Russian painter Wartski, London, July 1983
von Solodkoff, A. Masterpieces from the House of Fabergé, New York, 1984, p. 175, ill.
Hill, G. Fabergé and the Russian Master Goldsmiths, New York, 1989, p. 294, ill. pl. no. 273
Kirichenko, E. Russian Design and the Fine Arts 1750-1917, New York, 1991, p. 194, ill.
Forbes, C. & Tromeur-Brenner, R. Fabergé, The Forbes Collection, New York, 1999, p. 242, ill. p. 243
von Habsburg, G. Fabergé Imperial Craftsman and His World, London, 2000, no. 147, p. 100, ill.
Detroit, The Detroit Institute of Arts, Fabergé, The Forbes Magazine Collection, 1984, no. 91
Lugano, The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, Fabergé Fantasies from The Forbes Magazine Collection, 1987, no. 3, pp. 23, 24, 26, 30, 32, 34, 35, 41, ill. pp. 32, 33, 41
Paris, Musée Jacquemart-André, Fabergé, Orfèvre à la Cour des Tsars, 1987, no. 3, pp. 19, 20, 22, 26, 28, 30, 31, 37, ill. pp. 28, 29, 37
New Jersey, Pingry School, Fabergé Silver from The Forbes Magazine Collection, 1990, no cat. London, Sotheby's, Fabergé Silver from The Forbes Magazine Collection, 1991, no. 16, p. 27, ill. Copenhagen, Sotheby's, Fabergé Silver from The Forbes Magazine Collection, 1991, no cat. Vienna, Naturistoriches Museum, Treasures from the Czars, 1991, p. 74, ill.
Charlotte, The Mint Museum of Art, Fabergé Silver from The Forbes Magazine Collection, 1994, no cat. New York/San Francisco/Richmond/New Orleans/Cleveland, Metropolitan Museum of Art, H.M. De Young Memorial Museum, Museum of Fine Art, New Orleans Museum of Art, The Celeveland Museum of Art, Fabergé in America, 1996/97, no. 230, p. 235, ill.
Special notice
On rare occasions, Zachys and Christie's guarantee a minimum price to the consignor of property. This is such a lot. Guaranteed lots are also subject to a reserve, unless otherwise stated.

Lot Essay

Based on Modest Mussorgski's opera, Boris Godunov, set in Russia and Poland in the late sixteenth century, each item of the desk-set depicts scenes taken from the historicacl epic.
The massive inkwell in the purest Pan-Slavic style depicts three boyars (landed Noblemen) discussing the country's fate and being interrupted by Prince Shuiski. The pen tray representing the distraught Boris Godunov holding his face in his hands and the seal has the face of the expressionless Feodor, son of Ivan the Terrible. The lamps represent the conflicting political forces watching the scene from behind the tower.
The cast and chased desk-set is a tours de force of Fabergé with a Russian historical subject in a very pure 19th century Russian style.
The Slavic revival style in Russia started in the 1850's when the Russian intelligentsia and the art community began to explore and revive past Russian forms.

The most well-known art colonies were Alramtseva and Talaskino, where the main purpose was the creation of clothing, furniture, ceramics and utensils using and developing into new concepts early Russian art forms.

In this new cultural context, an atmosphere of Russian historicism appears amongst painters and also in the world of the silversmith especially in Moscow.

The Fabergé Moscow branch used this new trend in producing functional items transforming them, with the help of designers, sculptors and silversmiths, into staggering works of art such as this present desk-set.
Using the lost wax process in its Moscow workshops, Fabergé was able to give new dimensions to the field of historical Russian sculpture which was in the silversmith world at the time.

Fabergé was not only able to use and coordinate the talents of artists from different fields, but he had this unique talent at perceiving the moood of his clientele and using the success of artistic events such as theater or opera which was usually not the main concern of the silversmith world.

In fact, it is worth to notice that the desk-set was produced at the same time when Diaghilev was successful with his opera stages.

Rimski-Korsakov's version of Boris Godunov was staged by Sergei Diaghilev at the Paris Opera with Feodor Chaliapin playing the role of Boris in 1908 and was followed a year later by the production of Rimski-Korsakov's Ivan the Terrible again staged by Diaghilev with sets by Nicholas Roerich.

It is interesting to notice the similarity of the costume worn by Feodor Chaliapin in the Boris Godunov production and the ones cast and chased on the desk-set.

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