The present lot, which contains photographs of Grand Duke George Mikhailovich, Grand Duchess Marie and their eldest daughter Princess Nina Georgievna as an infant, appears to date to circa 1901, the year Nina was born. Made in the workshop of Fabergé’s head workmaster, Michael Perchin, this rare frame clearly drew its inspiration from the surprise in the Imperial Pansy Egg (1899), an enameled heart-shaped photograph frame on an easel, also made in Perchin’s workshop. Both frames are made with functioning windows which are operated by a push-piece, positioned at the lower edge or point of the heart, and powered by an intricate mechanism located inside the back cover. While there are no extant records listing this frame, such an unusual, sophisticated object would have been costly.
The interior of the present frame is inscribed with multiple signatures for K. Ingman in both Latin and Cyrillic letters. Little is known of Ingman, and as yet there are no records that he worked for Fabergé, either in Michael Perchin’s workshop or elsewhere. However, church registers from 1900 to 1905 record Karl Richard Ingman as a goldsmith working in St. Petersburg. The 1900 edition of Ves’ Peterburg records Ingman’s working address as Kazanskaya, 9, a street where other Finnish workmasters who worked for Fabergé lived, including Holmström, Hollming and Nevalainen. By 1906, Ingman was no longer listed in Ves’ Peterburg, and his death is recorded in 1908. Further research has revealed that Karl Ingman was born outside Helsingfors in 1863. He left for St. Petersburg as a boy and worked in the city as a journeyman goldsmith in the 1880s, having spent time in the workshop of Tillander. Returning to Helsingfors, he qualified as a master goldsmith in 1889, and he is listed in the city’s register of goldsmiths from 1889 to 1893. By 1895, he was no longer listed in the registers, having likely returned to St. Petersburg.
We are thankful to Valentin Skurlov, Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm and Nikolai Bachmakov for their assistance with the research of the present lot.