A Russian Alexandre II ormolu-mounted malachite low table
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A Russian Alexandre II ormolu-mounted malachite low table

THE TABLE TOP CIRCA 1860; THE BASE LATE 19TH CENTURY

Details
A Russian Alexandre II ormolu-mounted malachite low table
The table top circa 1860; The base late 19th Century
The shaped stepped oval top with four scroll and foliage cartouches, above a baluster stem with foliate terminal, flanked by four scroll legs, on scroll and foliate sabots, on later glass bun feet; the wooden base painted to imitate malachite
26 in. (66 cm.) high; 39½ in. (100.5 cm.) wide; 29¾ in. (75.5 cm.) deep
Provenance
Marjorie Merriweather Post, The Treasury Room, Tregaron, Washington D.C.
Literature
Illustrated in A Taste for Splendor, Russian Imperial and European Treasures from the Hillwood Museum, Art Services International, Virginia, 1998, p.30.
Special notice

No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 17.5% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.

Lot Essay

In 1835, large deposits of malachite, a stalagmitic form of green carbonate of copper, were found on one of the estates of the Demidov family. This discovery enabled Russian artisans to use malachite in lavish ways never before imagined. Always used strictly as veneer except in very small objects, malachite was applied either in a random arrangement, or in a pattern recreating the veins of malachite, as seen on this table top. Malachite was usually cemented to a slate or a metal base by employing a technique known as Russian Mosaic. Ground malachite was then added to cement to form a breccia, a glue that hardened quickly. The malachite breccia ensured that the seams between small pieces would be less noticeable. As the technique for cutting malachite plaque to form a pattern was not developed until about 1845, this table top probably dates to circa 1855, the same date as the Louis XV style malachite fireplaces in the Winter Palace and in the Iusupov Palace, St Petersburg.

In 1895, Charles William Merriweather Post invented a coffee substitute called Postum. Two years later, he created Grape-Nuts, a highly successful granular breakfast food which made him a millionaire.
In 1914, Marjorie, his only child and sole heir, inherited the Postum Cereal Company at age twenty-seven. She married first in 1905, a second time in 1919. In 1935, she met Joseph E. Davies at a dinner party and married again a couple months later. In August 1936, President Roosevelt appointed Joseph to be the American ambassador in Moscow, where he and Marjorie arrived early the following year. While in Moscow, the Davies' had the chance to visit the palaces and collections previously owned by the Imperial family and the Russian aristocracy. Lacking hard currency, the Soviet authorities decided to sell off part of the confiscated works of art, the sales of which were arranged through dealers as well as through commission shops. It is through the latter that the Davies' bought most of their collection. At the outbreak of war, Marjorie and Joseph settled back in Washington D.C., their home town, where they bought the Parmelee Georgian mansion. Marjorie commissioned the architect Charles Platt to remodel the house, adding large vitrines to exhibit her ever growing collection of Russian items. A 'Treasury' room was added to display the more original pieces, such as the present table.
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