Fabergé’s silver animals are undoubtedly masterpieces of the craft of silversmithing. With each detail finely worked, they showcase exquisite quality and were extremely popular with Fabergé’s clientele. The firm's records show that another silver pheasant was purchased by Empress Maria Feodorovna in 1893. The inventory of Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich's palace, compiled in 1917, records both a silver pheasant and a capercaillie in his collection.
Julius Rappoport was the creator of most of Fabergé’s superbly modelled animal figures, many of which were functional objects that served as wine or water ewers, bell-pushes and table lighters. His earliest figures date from around 1890, the same period as the present lot.
Fabergé was not the first silversmith to produce large animal models in silver, however, his creations are distinguished by their considerable degree of realism. German silversmiths have produced bird-shaped drinking vessels since the 17th century. A number of fine examples of these works are held in the Kremlin Armory and the Hermitage, and may have inspired Fabergé to produce his creations. His animals, however, have a detailed finish showcasing their meticulously chased coats and plumage.
Comparable large models of a capercaillie and a pheasant by Julius Rappoport, also modelled as wine ewers, were respectively sold at Christie’s, Geneva, 12 May 1984, lot 317, and Christie’s, Geneva, 12 November 1986, lot 164.