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A JEWELLED SILVER-GILT MOUNTED NEPHRITE BOWL
Fabergé: A Royal Tradition. The following group of works by Fabergé, once in the possession of H.R.H. Princess Mary, has strong links with the Royal Collection both in the manner of its acquisition and the high quality of its workmanship. It typifies the enthusiastic way in which Fabergé items were exchanged by generations of royal collectors. Exquisitely jewelled and enamelled pieces by Fabergé were favoured royal gifts, often given to commemorate important family events, such as birthdays, Christmas and Easter. Their exchange reflects the close relationships between the Russian, English and Danish royal families during the period. The present collection was formed primarily of Fabergé pieces left or gifted to H.R.H. Princess Mary by King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra and by King George V and Queen Mary; it includes both personal purchases as well as gifts from the Russian Imperial family. Royal enthusiasm for Fabergé first flourished during the reign of King Edward VII, whose consort Queen Alexandra had been introduced to Fabergé's work by her sister Empress Maria Feodorovna, wife of Emperor Alexander III of Russia. King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra patronised Fabergé during its most successful and prolific period of production, buying pieces in St Petersburg from the 1880s and encouraging the establishment of Fabergé's London branch in 1903. Works by Fabergé were also regularly sent to Queen Alexandra by her sister and Emperor Alexander III. In 1894, the visit of Alexandra and Edward (then the Prince and Princess of Wales) and their son the Duke of York (later King George V) to St. Petersburg for the funeral of Emperor Alexander III and the marriage of Emperor Nicholas II coincided with the Princess Alexandra's birthday, which was spent at the Anichkov Palace. After seeing his mother's birthday presents, the young Duke of York recorded in his diary: 'Motherdear's birthday saw all the presents, she has got half Fabergé's shop.' (C. de Guitaut, Royal Fabergé, London, 2011, p. 20). The tradition of exchanging gifts from Fabergé continued under Emperor Nicholas II. Notably, the circular yellow enamelled miniature photograph frame in the present collection was purchased by Empress Alexandra Feodorovna from Fabergé's St Petersburg branch on 11 June 1900 (lot 610). While Queen Alexandra's primary interest lay in animals and flowers, she also acquired everything from fans to desk clocks, snuff-boxes and parasol handles. The interest of Queen Alexandra and King Edward VII in both personal and functional Fabergé pieces is represented here by a guilloché enamelled nephrite cigarcutter applied with the King's cypher (lot 606). The cigar cutter was most likely purchased as a gift; Alexandra's accounts reveal that between 1902 and 1914 a total of £3,197 was spent on Fabergé, of that £2,614 was paid from the Queen's own 'presents' account. King Edward VII equalled, if not surpassed, his wife's enthusiasm for works by Fabergé and was particularly interested in the elegant and fashionable cigarette cases made by the firm. The vibrantly enamelled cigarette case presented here (lot 614) is closely related to a photograph frame in the Royal Collection (inv. no. RCIN 15168), which is decorated in the blue and red of King Edward VII's racing colours. Both works were acquired from Fabergé's London branch and inspired acquaintances of the King, such as Leopold de Rothschild, to commission similarly personalised items. From diplomats to royal contemporaries, Queen Alexandra and King Edward VII's passion for Fabergé influenced many in their international circle to become patrons of the firm. Their greatest influence, however, was on the next generation of royal Fabergé collectors: H.R.H. The Princess Victoria, H.M. King George V and Queen Mary. H.R.H. The Princess Victoria, the second daughter of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, often accompanied her mother on visits to Fabergé's London store. The Royal Family was always given the first opportunity to see new stock arriving from Russia, and Princess Victoria became an avid patron of the firm, buying pieces both for her own collection and as gifts. Like her mother, Princess Victoria's private purchases consisted mainly of animals and flowers as well as personalised pieces, like the jewelled fan applied with her initial in the present collection (lot 607). In addition to being an enthusiastic collector of Fabergé herself, Princess Victoria inherited many of the pieces from her mother's collection such as animals, flowers and parasol handles. Princess Victoria never married and the collection was bequeathed to her brother, King George V, on her death in 1935. King George V acquired pieces from Fabergé as both the Prince of Wales and later as King, detailing numerous visits to the London branch in his diaries. On 3 May 1903, he writes that 'He [Fabergé] has just come over from Russia, we bought about 43 of his lovely things' (C. de Guitaut, Fabergé in the Royal Collection, London, 2003, p. 17). King George V added to the collection desk accessories, cigarette cases and frames. Queen Mary shared the King's interest and purchased many pieces, often in the form of snuff-boxes and cigarette cases, given to King George V. Queen Mary also received Fabergé gifts from the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna. The most notable acquisitions made by King George V and Queen Mary occurred in the 1930s, when they purchased three of the Imperial Easter Eggs formerly in the possession of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. Records in the Royal Archives demonstrate that Queen Mary, an avid collector in many areas, took a particular interest in Fabergé and, in 1948, the London branch manager Henry Bainbridge described her 'as the greatest surviving connoisseur of Fabergé's craftsmanship.' In many ways, Queen Mary's greatest legacy was the detailed records she kept of each piece's history. Her approach to collecting has influenced successive generations of collectors, who place importance on imperial provenance. Born on the Sandringham Estate, H.R.H. The Princess Mary grew up amidst the Fabergé collections of her parents and grandparents. The commission of hardstone animals, constituting the largest order ever placed at Fabergé's London store, surviving in the Collection at Sandringham must have made a lasting impression on the young Princess. It is unsurprising then that Fabergé objects featured strongly in the decoration of the Princess's home at Harewood House, Yorkshire, following her marriage to Henry, Viscount Lascelles, later 6th Earl of Harewood, in 1922. The following group of works by Fabergé, from Princess Mary's collection, offers a rare study of both royal taste and of some of the finest works made by the firm.
A JEWELLED SILVER-GILT MOUNTED NEPHRITE BOWL

BY FABERGÉ, CIRCA 1900, SCRATCHED INVENTORY NUMBER 8790

Details
A JEWELLED SILVER-GILT MOUNTED NEPHRITE BOWL
BY FABERGÉ, CIRCA 1900, SCRATCHED INVENTORY NUMBER 8790
Of cauldron form, the slightly flared neck encircled with a diamond-set collar with cabochon ruby and sapphire terminals, unmarked
1¾ in. (4.4 cm.) high
Provenance
Probably H.M. Queen Mary (1867-1953) and by gift or descent to her daughter
H.R.H. The Princess Mary, Princess Royal, Countess of Harewood (1897-1965) and by descent at Harewood House, Yorkshire.
Exhibited
Yorkshire, Harewood House, Royal Harewood: Fabergé Exhibition, 31 March to 30 September 2012.

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Sebastian Goetz
Sebastian Goetz

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