Lady Paget (1853-1919), née Mary 'Minnie' Fiske Stevens, was the daughter of a wealthy Boston hotelier. The family, who had moved to New York in the 1860s, entertained Edward, Prince of Wales at their Fifth Avenue hotel when he visited America. Upon her father's death, the family took up residence in England and the Prince of Wales reciprocated their hospitality, entertaining Minnie and her mother at Sandringham and Marlborough House.
In 1878 Minnie married Sir Arthur Henry Paget (1851-1928), a soldier, diplomat and grandson of the 1st Marquess of Anglesey. Lady Paget hosted parties and dinners at their home, organised numerous charitable exhibitions which were well attended by her Anglo-American contemporaries. She also helped to organise the first public display of Fabergé's works in Britain in 1904.
Lady Paget became one of the first patrons of Fabergé in London, continuously buying objets d'art until the shop's closure in 1916. The present model of a chimpanzee was purchased by Minnie on 12 December 1915, and recorded in the ledgers of Fabergé's London Branch under its scratched inventory number '24223'. It was subsequently sold by her direct descendants at Christie's, Geneva, 17-18 May 1994, lot 293 (described as agate), together with three other hardstone animals. A large purpurine box, purchased by Lady Paget from Fabergé's London branch on 30 November 1915 for £130, was sold at Christie's, London, 3 June 2013, lot 221.
The present monkey is described in Fabergé’s London ledgers as being carved from petrified wood, which is formed when plant material fossilises under the weight of sediment. In this process groundwater, rich in other minerals, flows through the sediment, replacing the original wood with silica, calcite, pyrite, or another inorganic material such as agate. This appears to be the case in the present specimen, which preserves details of both rings of wood, as well as agate. Fabergé’s use of a very similar specimen of agatised petrified wood can be seen in the jewelled and enamelled hardstone model of a French bulldog purchased by Mrs Mango from Fabergé’s London branch in 1916 and now held in an important private collection of Fabergé (Exhibition catalogue, The Last Flowering of Court Art: A Russian Private Collection of Fabergé, London, 2010, pp. 114-117, no. 41).
We are grateful to Dr. Valentin Skurlov for his assistance with the research of the present lot.