The Imperial Russian Court and more especially under the reign of Nicholas II was most reknown amongst the European Courts, for its lavish and expensive gifts to foreign dignitaries coming to Russia.
The responsibility of purchasing and allocating these gifts, under the strict supervision of the Tsar, was given to the Imperial Cabinet which was keeping a number of well detailed ledgers.
These ledgers contain the description of each item, its cost, the name of the Court supplier and the name of the recipient.
Thanks to the laborious research of Valentin Skurlov, our consultant in St. Petersburg, we are now able to trace the background of one of these Fabergé Imperial presentation snuff-boxes which were the most coveted items amongst Imperial gifts.
In fact, having been awarded the title of Court jeweller in 1884, Fabergé became one of the main suppliers of the Imperial Cabinet.
The present Imperial presentation snuff-box was purchased from Fabergé in St. Petersburg for a cost of 1250 rubles on 22 January 1899 and was entered under the number 32 in one of the ledgers of the Imperial Cabinet.
On 11 May 1899, the above snuff-box was re-registered under number 23 after inclusion of the miniature of Tsar Nicholas II painted by Blaznov at a cost of 85 rubles. After, it was delivered to the Emperor who then presented it to August, Count zu Eulenburg, Master of Ceremony of the German Kaiser Wilhelm II on 15 November 1899.
Fabergé Imperial presentation snuff-boxes were purchased by the Imperial Cabinet as unfinished, that is the cartouche on the cover was unmounted and therefore was able to contain either the cypher or the miniature portrait of the Emperor Nicholas, as he wished.
August, Count zu Eulenburg (1838-1921) received the above snuff-box during the visit of the Emperor Nicholas II and his wife, the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna in Denmark, Darmstadt and Skierniewice (near Warsaw), he was on friendly terms with his Russian counterpart, Count Vladimir B. Fredericks (1838-1927), Imperial Court Chamberlain to Tsar Nicholas II and he is said to have had a diplomatic correspondance with Count Fredericks around 1916 in order to avoid further war developments.
Fabergé enamel items with such specific guilloché combination: dots and moiré design are extremely rare and basically do not appear on the market.
It is intersting to notice that only forty-four presentation snuff-boxes set with a miniature of Nicholas II and produced by Fabergé or others were presented by the Tsar himself to russian or foreign dignitaries. Of these forty-four boxes, only half were executed by the Fabergé firm, for more than less than the number of Imperial eggs which totalled fifty. We are most grateful to Valentin Skurlov for this research on the above box and to Alexander von Solodkoff for the information he provided on August, Count zu Eulenburg. For another Fabergé Imperial Presentation snuff-box, see Christie's New York 20 October 1999, lot 96.