Lot Content

Global notice COVID-19 Important notice

by Fabergé, unmarked, St. Petersburg, circa 1910, with scratched inventory number on the egg 23865 and on the watch 9829(0?)

The hinged egg of transparent white enamel over a silver coloured ground partially engraved and finely painted with a white opaque enamel design imitating frost, each half shelf set with a silver-mounted rim of seed-pearls and a small thumbpiece, the egg opening to reveal in a fitted compartment a platinum mounted trapezoidal shaped pendant with matt finish rock-crystal cover applied with platinum-mounted rose-cut diamond frost crystals, revealing through a highly polished window, the dial and the arms of a small watch (arms and movement replaced), with platinum mounted rose-cut diamond rim and hanging loop, in original wood fitted case stamped Fabergé with Imperial Warrant St. Petersburg, Moscow - the egg 9.9 cm long, the watch 6 cm high

Dr. Emmanuel Nobel
Parisian dealer A.A Anatra
Jacques Zolotnitzky, A la vieille Russie, Paris
American Private Collector and by descent
Snowman, A. Kenneth, The Art of Carl Fabergé (Londn, 1964) p.113, pl.387
Habsburg-Lothringen, Geza von, and Solodkoff, Alexander von, Fabergé Joaillier à la Cour de Russie (Fribourg, 1979) pp.108, 118, 158, pl.141, p.120, cat.69
Solodkoff, Alexander von, 'History of the House of Fabergé', Masterpieces from the House of Fabergé (New York, 1984) p.36
Solodkoff, Alexander von, Fabergé (London, 1988) p.47
New York, Hammer Galleries, Presentation of Imperial Easter Gifts by Carl Fabergé (1939) catalogued as the "Snowflake Egg"

Lot Essay

Carl Fabergé, jeweller and goldsmith to the Russian Imperial Court delivered approximately fifty-six Easter Eggs for the Tsars Alexander III and Nicholas II between the years 1885 and 1916, which were presented to Tsarinas Maria Feodorovna and Alexandra Feodorovna. The whereabouts of only forty-seven of these are now recorded in various private and institutional collections.

Besides the Imperial commissions, Fabergé also created Easter Eggs for wealthy patrons, both Russian and foreign. These include the Duchess of Marlborough Egg, made for Consuelo Vanderbilt in 1902; the 25th Wedding Anniversary Egg, made for Zenaida Yusupov in 1907, and the Ice Egg, made for Dr. Emmanuel Nobel around 1910.

Without any doubt, Dr. Emmanuel Nobel can be considered as one of Fabergé's best customers (quoted in Birbaum's memoirs, St. Petersburg, The State Hermitage Museum, Fabergé: Imperial Jeweller (1993) p.454): "E. Nobel, one of the kings of oil, was so generous in his presents that at times it seemed that this was his chief occupation and delight. Orders were constantly being made for him in the workshops and from time to time he came to have a look at them. Often he only decided for whom the present should be when the work was finished."

According to H.C. Bainbridge, Dr. Emmanuel Nobel "...was a man of very original ideas.
For Dr. Nobel a dinner party was no dinner at all unless the ladies present were suitably rewarded. On one of these occasions, wishing to recall a Russian winter, he conceived the idea of giving all the ladies present an icicle. Fabergé carried this out in pendants and brooches in rock-crystal with a matt surface adorned with small diamonds in frost design." (H.C. Bainbridge, Peter Carl Fabergé (London, 1949) p.58)

The surprise of the Nobel Ice Egg is similar to the snowflake pendants and brooches mentioned above (for such items see Christie's Geneva, May 10, 1990, lot 70 and also St. Petersburg, The State Hermitage Museum, Fabergé: Imperial Jeweller (1993) p.303-305

Since the publication of Bainbridge's memoirs, it was discovered that this series of snowflakes was designed by Alma Theresa Pihl (1888-1976), daughter of the Fabergé workmaster Oskar Pihl and leading designer in the Fabergé workshop of August Holmström. (A. Keneth Snowman, Apollo, Two Books of Revelation (London, 1987) p.155) and it is easy to see that the present Easter Egg was also probably designed by the same artist.

There are some striking similarities between two of the Easter Eggs created for Barbara Kelch and two of the Imperial commissions. However, the "Nobel Ice" Egg, like the Kelch Apple Blossom Egg and the Kelch Pine Cone Egg, appears to have no Imperial prototype and can be regarded as a work of art in its own right. The design and the enamel technique used for the shell are unusual and perhaps unique among Fabergé's works, but the counter-enamel inside the egg, reminiscent of biscuit porcelain, appears on other works both as a counter enamel and as decoration.

Acquired in the early 1920's by Mr. Zolotnitzky of A la Vieille Russie in Paris from Mr. A.A. Anatra, the present egg is listed as follows in Leon Grinberg's notes, made in 1922:
"6. Egg made of porcelain by the Imperial porcelain factory imitating 'frost on a window'. Around the egg a double row of half-pearls. Inside the egg is a pendant of rock-crystal 'dépoli' with a decoration of diamonds like frost. The pendant has inside a minute clock, the reverse of the pendant is made of platinum.

This egg was bought on its own from A.A. Anatra for xxxxxxxx Francs. We have put it together with the other eggs and have the intention to sell the collection of seven items together. Dimensions of the egg 0.10 x 0.07, work by Fabergé."

[Additional information regarding the rpovenance was kindly provided by Alexander von Solodkoff, Ermitage, London].

"The other eggs" mentioned in Grinberg's notes refer to the six Kelch Easter Eggs acquired at the same time by A la Vieille Russie from the dealer Morgan in Paris (for more details on the Kelch Easter Eggs see lot ).

The Nobels

The Nobels were a Swedish family, originally from Nobbelöw in the south. Emmanuel Nobel (1801-1872) (whose grandson commissioned the "Nobel Ice" Egg) moved to St. Petersburg in 1833. He started a munitions manufacturing business with considerable success, but finally went bankrupt and returned to Sweden in 1859. His three eldest sons Robert (1829-1896), Ludwig (1831-1888) and Alfred (1833-1896) remained in Russia. A fourth brother, Emil Oscar died in an explosion in 1864.
Ludwig, who inherited his father's inventive mind, also made his fortune through munitions manufacture and later through the oil industry. His employees enjoyed working conditions of an unusually high standard. Alfred made his fortune in dynamite and left a large bequest in trust for the patronage of pacifism and culture. The Robert Nobel Refinery business was started in 1875, but Robert was not as successful as his younger brothers and returned to Sweden in 1879.
RThe Nobel Brothers Petroleum Production Company was formed in May 1879 by Robert, Ludwig and Alfred Nobel, developing from Robert's business, with Ludwig's financial backing. The aim was to improve the refinery of kerosene from the oil rich Baku region to the Caucasus and the Company rapidly became not only the leading kerosene producer in Baku, but was also producing more than the rest of the entire industry. The share capital increased from 3,000,000 roubles to 15,000,000 within five years, with Ludwig as the driving force as well as the majority shareholder. His extraordinary business talent combined with a capacity for imaginative and inventive direction led to may revolutionary innovations including continuous distillation and the design and construction of the World's first oil tanker. Following Ludwig's death in 1888 the Company came under the direction of his very able son Carl, who died in Switzerland in 1898. It then fell to Carl's brother, Emmanuel to take charge of the Company.

Emmanuel Nobel (1859-1932) unexpectedly proved himself to be a masterful director with a very good financial brain and an ability to choose excellent advisers and colleagues. He was responsible for the introduction of the Nobel Diesel engine and under his direction the Company continued to flourish. In 1914, about the time that he commissioned the "Nobel Ice" Egg, he became a Russian subject.

Six months before the October Revolution in 1917, which led to the nationalisation of the Company, Nobel's announced record profits. By this time Nobel's owned, controlled or had important interests in companies employing 50,000 workers, producing one-third of Russian crude, 40 of all refined oil and supplying two-thirds of the total domestic consumption. After 1917 Emmanuel left Russia with his family, to settle in Sweden.

More from Russian Works of Arts

View All
View All