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A JEWELLED GUILLOCHÉ ENAMEL AND TWO-COLOUR GOLD IMPERIAL PRESENTATION SNUFF-BOX
A JEWELLED GUILLOCHÉ ENAMEL AND TWO-COLOUR GOLD IMPERIAL PRESENTATION SNUFF-BOX
A JEWELLED GUILLOCHÉ ENAMEL AND TWO-COLOUR GOLD IMPERIAL PRESENTATION SNUFF-BOX
A JEWELLED GUILLOCHÉ ENAMEL AND TWO-COLOUR GOLD IMPERIAL PRESENTATION SNUFF-BOX
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AN IMPORTANT COLLECTION OF FABERGÉ MASTERPIECES AND IMPERIAL TREASURES
A JEWELLED GUILLOCHÉ ENAMEL AND TWO-COLOUR GOLD IMPERIAL PRESENTATION SNUFF-BOX

MARKED FABERGÉ, WITH THE WORKMASTER’S MARK OF MICHAEL PERCHIN, ST PETERSBURG, CIRCA 1890, SCRATCHED INVENTORY NUMBERS 1046 AND 1514

Details
A JEWELLED GUILLOCHÉ ENAMEL AND TWO-COLOUR GOLD IMPERIAL PRESENTATION SNUFF-BOX
MARKED FABERGÉ, WITH THE WORKMASTER’S MARK OF MICHAEL PERCHIN, ST PETERSBURG, CIRCA 1890, SCRATCHED INVENTORY NUMBERS 1046 AND 1514
Rectangular with rounded corners, the hinged reeded and dotted rose gold cover applied with an oval panel, enamelled in translucent oyster white over a wavy guilloché ground, within a ribbon-tied green gold laurel band, centring rose and old-cut diamond-set Imperial double-headed eagle beneath a diamond-set Imperial crown, with six gold-mounted old-cut diamonds within reeded borders, the outer border chased as ribbon-tied laurel band, with a diamond-set thumb-piece, rose gold interior, marked inside cover and base and on rim, also with French import marks; in a fitted Wartski case
3 5/8 in. (9.3 cm.) wide
Provenance
Acquired by the Cabinet of His Imperial Majesty from Fabergé's St Petersburg branch on 8 May 1896 for 920 roubles.
Presented by the Imperial Cabinet to an Acting State Councellor Vitkovskii, on the occasion of the Coronation of Emperor Nicholas II in July 1896.
With Wartski, London.
Anonymous sale; Christie’s, Geneva, 12 May 1980, lot 268.
Acquired at the above by the father of the present owner.
Literature
G. von Habsburg, M. Lopato, Fabergé: Imperial Jeweller, Milan, 1993, p. 279, no. 143 (illustrated).
E. Welander-Berggren, Carl Fabergé: Goldsmith to the Tsar, Stockholm, 1996, p. 122, no. 64 (illustrated).
U. Tillander-Godenhielm, Smycken: Från Det Kejserliga S:t Petersburg, Helsinki, 1996, p. 145, no. 136 (illustrated).
U. Tillander-Godenhielm, The Russian Imperial Award System 1894-1917, Helsinki, 2005, p. 218, no. 98 (illustrated).
M. Saloniemi, U. Tillander-Godenhielm, T. Boettger, The Era of Fabergé, Tampere, 2006, pp. 97, 161, no. 56 (illustrated).
Exhibited
Helsinki, 1988.
Helsinki, Museum of Arts and Crafts, 1991.
St Petersburg, State Hermitage Museum; Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs; London, Victoria & Albert Museum, Fabergé: Imperial Jeweller, 18 June 1993 – 10 April 1994, no. 143.
Helsinki, Smycken: Från Det Kejserliga S:t Petersburg, 1995, no. 136.
Stockholm, Nationalmuseum, Carl Fabergé: Goldsmith to the Tsar, 6 June 1996 – 19 October 1997, no. 64.
Stockholm, Christie’s, 1996.
Washington DC, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Fabergé and Finland: Exquisite Objects, 1996.
Lahti, The Lahti Art Museum, Fabergé: Loistavaa kultasepäntaidetta, 14 March – 4 May 1997.
Tampere, Museums in Finland and Moscow Kremlin Museum, The Era of Fabergé, 17 June – 1 October 2006, no. 56.

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Alexis de Tiesenhausen
Alexis de Tiesenhausen

Lot Essay

Throughout the reign of Emperor Nicholas II, the tradition of presenting lavishly decorated snuff-boxes adorned with State Emblems or the Emperor’s Portrait flourished as a means of compensating Russian and foreign dignitaries for the service to the Russian state. While the presentation of a snuff-box with the Imperial double-headed eagle or cypher of the monarch held symbolic value for the recipient, it also importantly held cash value.

The recipients of diamond orders and gifts with the emperor’s miniature portrait or cypher could be discretely sold back to the Cameral Office of the Cabinet of His Imperial Majesty in return for its cash value by the recipient himself or, following his death, by his heirs. It is therefore not uncommon to see snuff-boxes presented on one occasion, then re-entered in the Imperial Cabinet Ledgers at a later date.

These ‘redeemed’ snuff-boxes were re-entered in to the cabinet’s stock books, cleaned, restored and often sent to jewellers, such as Hahn and Fabergé to be adapted and enhanced in value for presentation to another recipient. The most common form of enhancement was the addition of diamonds and the replacement of the central cartouche.

An analysis of awards and gifts from the period of 1896 to 1917 by Dr Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm demonstrates that 166 of approximately 280 Imperial presentation snuff-boxes with cyphers were sold back to the cabinet, making them the gift most commonly redeemed during the reign of Emperor Nicholas II (U. Tillander-Godenhielm, The Russian Imperial Award System 1894-1917, Helsinki, 2005, pp. 309-312).

The present Imperial snuff-box affords the opportunity to study one such exchange. In an invoice from Fabergé to the Cabinet of His Imperial Majesty, dated 8 May 1896, this example is recorded under scratched inventory number 1046 as a 'snuff-box with a cypher and crown', costing 930 roubles. This invoice indicates the date that the snuff-box was purchased from Fabergé, not the date that it entered the Cabinet’s stock books.

On 28 June 1896, this gold snuff-box was entered into the Imperial Cabinet ledgers under the number 21, as part of a group of snuff-boxes with the Emperor’s cypher presented surrounding the Coronation of Emperor Nicholas II. The box is listed with inventory number 1046 and as ‘red gold with brilliants’. The brief descriptions of other snuff-boxes in the Imperial Cabinet ledgers include either their material, such as jasper, or the colour of enamel as the identifying aspect of an Imperial presentation snuff-box.

In connection to the Coronation of Emperor Nicholas II on 14 May 1896, this snuff-box was presented on 6 July 1896 to an Actual State Councellor, Vitkovskii, director of the Siedlce (Sedlets) Board of Finance. Surrounding the coronation of Emperor Nicholas II, at least eighteen Russian recipients of snuff-boxes with the Emperor’s cypher have been found to receive gifts, mainly in July of 1896. Coronation gifts were largely bestowed months after the celebrations, as it was impossible to complete them all for the actual day. Most of the other Russian recipients, like Vitkovskii, held roles in the treasury and board of finance (U. Tillander-Godenhielm, op. cit., p. 324).

In addition to the inventory number 1046 scratched on the flange of the present Imperial snuff-box, the inside cover is further engraved with later number 1514. It appears that this snuff-box was redeemed by Vitkovskii for its cash value and redesigned.

The second inventory number corresponds to the period of 1898 to 1899, suggesting that the box was sent to a jeweller to be adapted for a new recipient at that time. The design of a snuff-box was changed depending on the rank and importance of a new recipient and it appears that the cypher listed at the original time of purchase from Fabergé was replaced by the present enamelled cartouche set with a diamond Imperial double-headed eagle.

Imperial Presentation Snuff-boxes applied with the Imperial double-headed eagle instead of a jewelled cypher or portrait of the Emperor, such as the present snuff-box, are very rare. According to the research of Dr Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm, information on only four presentation snuff-boxes with the imperial double-headed eagle has survived (U. Tillander-Godenhielm, The Russian Imperial Award System 1894-1917, Helsinki, 2005, pp. 218-219).

Another comparable Imperial Presentation snuff-box by Michael Perchin, centring a double-headed eagle, was first sold by Sotheby’s, London, 11 July 19060, lot 165 and later formed part of The Kazan Collection of Fabergé, sold Christie’s, New York, 15 April 1997, lot 180. The Kazan snuff-box was originally presented to Armand Mollard Chef de Protocol at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, during the first visit of Emperor Nicholas II to France in 1896. Armand Mollard (1862-1930) had been specifically responsible in 1893 for the official reception of the Russian navy in Toulon. Interestingly, the design of the snuff-box presented to Mollard is also constructed primarily out of pure gold and diamonds, with thin white champlevé enamel borders.

We are grateful to Dr Valentin Skurlov and Dr Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm for their assistance with the research of the present lot.

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