The "Gelos" collection for the Fine Art Fair: SILVER
At the turn of the ХХ and ХХI centuries in Russia were created interesting and significant collections of Russian jewellery firms' masterpieces, the best samples of which could adorn museums both in Russia and abroad. It is first of all the works of famous companies of K.Faberge, F.Lorie, P.Ovchinnikov, I.Khebnikov, V.Adler, G.Klingert, "K.E.Bolin" and "Shanks & Bolin" enterprises and others. In the collection presented to the readers' attention by "Gelos" firm different trends, sorts and undertones of Russian jewelery, gold and silversmith during the period of its flourishing - in the end of the XIX and the beginning of XX century. A significant part of the items belongs to the well-know Moscow collector Viktor Bondarenko.
The most outstanding figure among the jewelers of that period is "supreme and incoparable"genius (according to Empress Maria Feodorovna's definition) Karl Faberge. His works are by rigth at the top of contemporary antique Olimpus and are the actual adornment of the collection.
Typical and rare from different of points of view masterpiece of K.Faberge firm - company of Imperial Supplier - is the desk clock in nephrite and silver frame, decorated with "rose" cut diamonds. It was made in the main workshop of the company led by Henry Wigstrom. Namely under his supervision since 1903 famous imperial Easter eggs were made and the most important orders of czar family, other supreme persons and His Imperial Majesty Cabinet were fulfilled. Besides, the workshop also made precious habidashery, jewellery, cigar cases and clocks, carried out with the preciseness of real art masterpieces. According to the level of work, the match of first-rate materials and diversity of techniques it corresponds to the so called "objets de fantaisie"- pieces of art, which were a result of masters' from the famous company imagination work. Practical and pictorial at the same time it improved the human life of that period, having brought a special flavour in it.
The clock has a dial with fancy golden hands and Arabic figures; the background of it is decorated with oyster enamel on the guilloche ground of asteriated beams. It has an opal irridescent tone, which could be found only on the shuck of oyster shell, and that gives the name to this magnificient colour, considered to be the best in enamel palette of Faberge firm. Besides the dial has an inscription ""Faberge" which could be found in single cases in such of a kind monuments. The majority of clocks made by Faberge usually have standard dial of opaque enamel without inscriptions. In this regard the clock stands aprt being a rarity. A perfect sayan nephrite - a thick green colour, of deep spinach key was used for the frame of it. Toughness and at the same time viscosity of nephrite allowed to polish its surface up to the perfect condition: so the surface of the clock is polished to the mirror luster. The dial is bejeweled with "rose" cut diamonds the shining of them emphasizing the playing of irrdescent enamel colours and contrasting beautifully with a dark hyaline of nephrite. A silver-gilt adjoint base takes the form of a shpere with two scrolling-legs.
The clock is practicaly identical to the drawing from Henry Wigstrom's workshop album in which the nephrite clock with inscribed dial and enamel colours was decsribed (consult: Golden Years of Faberge/ Drawings and Objects from the Wigstrom Workshop, 2000. PP. 142,163). The book of drawings from H.Wigstrom's famous workshop regards to the later period of it existance. The same period the clock is dated, the mark on it relates to 1908-1917. The pictorial style of the clock is typical both for that period of time and to Henry Wigstrom's creative works - the distinctive features of which was exquisiteness and noble simplicity.
The clock works was made by Henry Mozer's firm with whom Faberge cooperated while creating of masterpieces of a kind. It is in good working order and in whole the clock is in the state of fair preservation. Such clocks are of single samples in Russian and foreign museum collections, that's why they are of a great rarity as well as golden links with blue cabochon inlays crafted by August Holming a master from St.Petersburg branch of K.Faberge's firm. The links are interesting from different points of view: first of all as an exquisite work of famous firm and as examples of the so called cabinet gems - ofiicial imperail gifts which were ordered by a special department - the Cabinet of His Imperial Majesty. This institution was engadged in material matters of imperial palace, in structure of it was a special stockroom with a large supply of precious things contained a base of cabinet items: gifts of emperors and empresses to their nationals, signs of imperial favour and monarchial largess. From the Cabinet stockroom - a peculiar kind of "czar jewellery-box" - the lords of powerfull country presented their nationals and foreigners. All the downfall of precious rings, pins, snuffboxes, medallions, cigar cases bejeweled with gems, miniature portraits gave an impression of an overwhelming wealth of a large kingdom and supported the prestige of the dynasty and the "atmosphere of a luxurious splendor" which was written about by contemporaries. The links were made during the last reign, within Nikolas II period.
All the imperial gifts were classified and had set prices from several thousand rubles for stumptuous snuffboxes and imperial portraits to 100 and 20 rubles for brooches, rings, limks and tie-pins. According to this classification the items were chiseled with this or that imperial emblems. The links were mostly decorated with crown or coat of arms. The state sybloms which brougth a special notial meaning were the main character and disctinctive feature of cabinet items. These gems with coat of arms marks jewellers usually called rings - "eagles", links - "eagles" and so on.
The service in the Cabinet of His Imperial Majesty was the main activity for a large number of the best Russian jewellers: K.Blank, K.Gan, F.Kekhly, K.Bock, I.Morozov, S.Arndt, "K.E.Bolin"firm and of course K.Faberge. He delivered a large amount of precious things to the Cabinet supply. The production and realisation of jewellery in the department was a properly organized process. As a rule the things were rather standard especialy rings, bracelets, pins and links. An emblem was put in the centre which depending the classification was less or more decorated with gems. So, the present links adorned with blue round cabochons and takes a form of relief double-head eagles, precisely craftwed with tiny details. Sapphire cabochon inlays are slightly "sink" into the gold surface of a noble yellow-green undertone skillfully written down the graphic relief. A figurative the main part of the links has a plain gold lateral welt and and it is chained with stems in the form of gold round billets with attenuating in the middle.
The art pieces are restrained and elegant at the same time; the eagle drawing with a bit grotesquely drawn necks (a result of refined stylisation) is typical for such kind of cabinet items made by Holming. The closest and almost absolute imitations to these links are the links in the form of gold and sapphire-caboshons with a stem in a form of the billets, sold in Sotheby's auction in Geneva. They were made a bit later in 1908 - 1913 and presented to a capitan Nilson. The links are put into the case coated with red leather with beige velvet in side. The links from Moscow collection are rather valuable as due to the certain reasons a number of jewelery with imperial symbols in Russia is exteremely small.
The works of Moscow branch of K.Faberge's firm established in 1887 preserved much more then memorable masterpieces of main St.Petersburg company. Nevertheless, single kinds of Moscow production were unique in their own way and expensive during the period of Faberge, as well as nowadays. It's first of all representative silver works with pictorial casting, for a example a silver frame to the vase for fruits, carried out in 1896 i.e. in rather early period of Moscow factory working. This time distinguished by the emphasisingly decorative production with predomenance of hand made chasing samples. But even among the magnificient silver ware made by Moscow factory during the first decade there are not many items with genre compositions as this frame. It is decorated with a cast putto figurine playing the pipe, sitting at the shell or at the stylised rich leaf. His figurine depicted in a sophiticated turn is noted for gracefulness and naturality. All the details are throughly worked out was it curly hair or thin fingers or small childish body. The bins for inlays made in the form of round stylized waves with a perfect chasing relief. The item is a bright example of a modern style "third rococo" with its emphasizing ornamentality and facetious exquisity. The value of item contributed by the fact that practicaly the same frame was published in the ancient catalogue of K.Faberge firm 1899 (№ 32, p. 39-40). It is specialy noted that the vase "for sweets, gam and etc." chiseled with a chased figurine of art work". Besides the frame with putto-musician only two items from this catlogue got the status of art objects. In this regard this marvellous work has also a documentary evidence of its implement to K.Faberge's masterpieces. The frame is described in a book "Unknown Faberge. Projects and products of Faberge firm from museum and private collections" published in Moscow 2003 (P. 124).
A collection of cigar cases made by one antiquary is pleasantly surprising by diversity of styles, materials, "fashions", jewelery techniques and pictorial trimming. The items crafted by different firms, masters both well-known and monogrammists whose marks are not yet decoded. The most appealing to our opinion are the memorable cigar cases connected with historical figures, for a example, with the great prince Konstantin Konstantinovich - the grand son of emperor Nikolas I, an outstanding political and military person, translater and poet. A cigar case with a mark of P.Ovchinnikov's firm - Imperial Court Supplier - inlaid with emblems, telling about life and activities of the great prince. The item in all appearances was made specialy for his 50-anniversary as it is chiseled with plated dates "1858" and "1908". The great prince was a chief of military-educational institutions probably that is why the inlaid relief natinal coat of arms, which was frequently the main sign of military establishments symbols, is firmed at the upper cover. Together with the cigar case the collection also includes the genuine photo of Konstantin Konstantinovich and a large group of students and professors of military college and a booklet "King of Judea" with the great prince's autograph. Being a company commander in the life-guard of Ismaylovsky regiment he organized the literature and music society "Ismaylovsky leisures" in order to attract his colleagues' attention to art. Non-ramdon the golden lyre is fixated at the cigar case. The history of Russian poetry Konstantin Konstantinovich entered under the nick-name "K.P." His poetic verses "Getting dark: we were sitting in the garden, the candle was glowing at the table... " responded in famous Pasternak's poem "The candle bleaming at the table….". Another poems of Konstantin Konstantinovich having become romances are well-known and, of course, a lullaby to his son John (subsequently massacred by bolshevists in Alapaevsk together with brother Konstantin and Igor and the great princess Elisaveta Fedorovna) amazing by the foreknoweledge of the tragic fate of his loved child.
A second memarable cigar case from the collection connected, by all appearances, with the great princes Elisaveta Fedorovna, canonized together with three Konstantins. The item made in Moscow has an engraved italic inscription "Elisaveta" looked similar in outline to the way Elisaveta inscribed her photos. The great prince Sergey Alexandrovich's - Moscow general-governor who was blown up by the social-revolutionary terrorist Kalyaev - widow, she after her husband death come away from social life and devoted herself to the care of sick and poor people. The cigar case is inscribed in Cyrillic "Elka, 1906. Hospital". Probably it was presented to some wounded soldier during Russian-Japanese war, when Elisabeth Fedorovna rent the house not far from the Kremlin and organized there a hospital. Later she found at Bolshaya Ordynka street in Moscow the Martha-Marian monastery with poor-house, hospital and orphan asylum on the model of monastery of active type. Sisters-deaconess leading by prioress Elisabeth took care of women and old people of poor class, orphan-children and hopelessly sick people. As she did not need wealth any more mother Elisabeth handed out a part of her treasures and sold another one to build the monastery. She started using simple and strict items as for example lorgnette made by Henry Wigstrom with black enamel colour from the collection of Fund "Connection of times" established by the businessman Viktor Veksilburg. The cigar case from this collection is simple and exquisite at the same time: the only adornment on it is a stem of expressive profile.
Another cigar cases from the collection are interesting first of all due to their pictorial solution. A number of them are magnificent provided by the firms they were carried out. It is for example a famous company of Adler a participant of world-wide art and industrial exhibitions, the owner of "medal of progress" crafted a perfect cigar case with a picture of carved house with a window made in champleve -enamel technique at the reverse and a marvelous portrait of a girl in colorful peasant clothes at the cover.
Famous Lorie firm, the history of which started in 1871, not without reason connected with Moscow branch of K.Faberge firm. The stores of both companies situated in one building of Merchants society at Kuznetsky bridge - diamond street in Moscow capital. The company was engaged in crafting of silver, gold and jewellery pieces. The works of Lorie firm were noticed at various art and industrial exhibitions and shows, for example at First international art and industrial exhibition of metal and stone art objects, hold under the patronage of her Imperial majesty the great princess Elisabeth Mavrikeevna in 1904 in St.Petersburg. F.A.Lorie got a silver medal of the exhibition, while the golden medal was given to the famous courtier firm F.Kekhli. In 1912 the trading house of the same name was established the founder members of which the employees of Moscow branch of Faberge firm Julio (Yuly Akimovich) Gverriery and Aleksey Fedorovich Lemkul. Just after the reorganization of the company in 1913 the fastidious cigar case was made of two sorts of gold with a clamp decorated with small roses. It was crafted by one of the best jewelers of Moscow - Egor Kuzmich Cheryatov - whose mark combined with a hallmark of "F.Lorie" firm.
The fact that Egor Cheryatov fulfilled the famous Lorie firm orders is quite explicable: his works distinguished by the graceful design and extraordinary skillful performance. The cigar case presented to the expertise is a bright example of it. It has all the features inherent to the best Russian firms - a superfine joint which is almost invisible, an exquisite contrast of a lusting exteriority at the front side and matted surface inside. The cigar case closed softly and noiseless, the clasp is delicately bejeweled with sparkling small "rose" cut diamonds. These very perfect technical features made Russian cigar cases popular all over the world - in Europe, America and far away in Siam. Having this kind of cigar cases was something kind of a visit card to the selected society. Another reason for popularity of Russian cigar cases was exquisite "fashions" of them. The present item has an elegant shape: it is flat and square, its surface consists of alternant horizontal strips of red and green ribbed gold. The decoration with geometrical relief pattern is considered to be the favorite of fashion of Emperor Nikolas II, probably this is a reason for the popularity of Russian cigar cases and their production of Russian jewelery firms.
Among inherited masterpieces of Cheryatov silverware is known, especially superb silver frames for crystal items. The things related to the precious haberdashery and also gold were rare. At this regard presented to the expertise cigar case is a rarity in its own way. It is also a historical monument as there are engraved memorable inscriptions in different languages connected with a development of vehicle industry in early period of the XX century: "М. М. Sychev 1 верста 22 sec. 163 1/2 версты per hour St.Petersburg 19 18/V 13" и "M. Sitschew Lorraine-Dietrich 175 Klm A'Hevre St Petersbourg ".
"Bolin" firm during its time was not less well-known then K.Faberge firm but by the fate will subsequently occurred in the shadow of its famous competitor and contemporary. For a long time the name of Bolin jewelers was known only by a few people as well as the name of Shanks their companions in Moscow. The reason for it is that the heritage of "Shanks and Bolin" firm is extremely limited: only single pieces in museum collections which seldom could be found at the antique market.
In Moscow jewelery sphere the company "Shanks & Bolin. Magasien Anglais" appeared much earlier then others, consequently so popular firms as K.Faberge, I.Khlebnikov, O.Kurlyukov, F.Lorie. The business was organized in1852 by Englishman James Stuart Shanks and Swede Henry-Konrad Bolin who was a brother of a famous Karl Eduard Bolin - St.Petersburg courtier jeweler and appraiser in His Imperal Majesty Cabinet. A British sovereign James-Stuart Shanks was born in 1824 and became a member of merchant society since 1867, while Sweden sovereign, a merchant of the 2 guild was in that status since 1874. In 1880-s the store of Shanks and Bolin located in Tretyakov's house at Kuznetsky bridge. Comparatively not long ago it was difficult to image the character of creative works made by the company during its early period and its assortment, but with a help of antiquaries and museum experts it was possible to clear out interesting and representative samples indicating the high level quality of the products, original design and bright and individual pictorial performance. Such sample is a brooch with a cameo in golden frame crafted by master Flink and put into a case of "Shanks and Bolin" firm. The material for cameo is rather rare - a volcanic tuff - a portrait of Rafael and his beloved Fornarina is made of it. An original case with an embossed mark of the firm and a lodgment for links (?) included in the set - is one more evidence of the authenticity of the object.
After Henry Konrad Bolin's death Shanks established his own business "Shanks & Co", Bolin's son - William James (Vasily Andreevich) called to his St.Petersburg cousins Edward and Gustav for help. They were the only jewelers in Russian Empire who got the inherited noble status for their success in art and industry and works of mercy. So in 1888 in Moscow appeared "Karl Edward Bolin" firm which had a name of the founder who established the famous jewelers' dynasty which occurred in the first half of XIX century in St.Petersburg.
Under Vasily Andreevich supervision the firm "Bolin" achieved the great success, having become one of the well-known companies in Russia, famed for its silverware. The firm cooperated with a fine master Konstantin Eduardovich Linke whose mark "KL" appeared at Bolin's firm works already in 1890-s. Konstantin Linke, one wrongly named in literature Karl, was born in 1865 or 1866, was a member merchants society since 1898, and lived at the turn of the XIX and XX centuries at Malaya Lubyanka street in the house of Ivanovsky monastery. A merchant of the 2 guild he for some time had his own silver store in the house of count Gr.Gr.Gagarin at Kuznetsky bridge and 1903 was an employee at the factory of gold and silver wares factory of "Bolin" located at Bolshaya Tsaritsynskaya street in the house of Krutovsky. In the collection presented to the readers there are two items crafted in different periods by Konstantin Linke for the "Bolin" company: as at the beginning of their cooperation before 1899; as well as in the period from 1908 to 1912. Both objects described in the catalogue "V.A.Bolin. Bolin in Russia. The courtier jeweler of late of the XIX - early of the XX" (М., 2001. СС. 246-247, cat.№№ 253, 255.). A silver seal ring with sumptuous leaves of distinct and expressive relief is a unique in its own way of the same popularity as one more seal ring worked out by "Bolin" firm which was crafted in Stokholm in 1919 where Vasily Andreevich lived long before the Revolution in Russia.
Bolin firm did not have competitors in the sphere of producing several items, first of all in making art silver frames for faceted crystal. The quality and significance of these frames were unsurpassed. An evidence of it could be a silver vase for fruits with a cut glass inlay chiseled with a pictorial casting takes the form of two mascarons - grotesque men's beard masks which formed an acanthus leaf and with horns in forehead as handles of the vase. Masters of two generations from families of Shanks, Bolin and Linke engrained in ancient Russian capital in XIX century, had become the bright representatives of Moscow school of jewelery.
Remarkable works of Moscow jewelery school were the masterpieces of Gustav Klingert's firm in particular sumptuous massive bailer made of almost two kilos of silver with cabochon inlays of different colours. It is related to the gifting works which were presented in cases of anniversaries and memorable dates or were given as a prize at different competitions. In Gustav Klingert's heritage - an outstanding representative of Moscow German community and well-known numismatic collector - such large and resemblant samples are single that is why the large decorative bailer is a rarity. It is also interesting as a bright example of neorussian style an early period of the XX century with its "conscious stylization". As the things of such kind did not have practical use the main attention was paid to their decorative appearance.. Artists and masters allowed their imagination full play and exaggerated the bailer sizes much more then their real ancient Russian prototypes were, they transformed and modified antique shapes; their ornaments were fancy combination of old Russian traceries and decorative elements of European style (Art Nouveau).
The Russian style was the main trend of silversmith during the second half of XIX and beginning of XX centuries. This period was famous for the renaissance of enamel painting in all its kinds. The most formidable was a technique of glass enamel production, transparent and glowing like a medieval stained-glass window. It gave the second name to this technique - panel enamel, which stroke by its polychrome and intense colours. Russian jewelers, especially P.Ovchinnikov's and I.Khlebnikov's companies were the monopolists in producing such kinds of art objects, the example of it is a fastidious vase with a bowl decorated with transparent panel enamel and a base chiseled with colourful enamel in filigree. Russian masters made a lot of experiments with enamel and the so called enameled lacquers, among which the most popular was a glost of purple colour. An intense, maroon glost covered a pair of decorative spoons made in P.Shulgin's workshop depicting flying unicorns (at the background of summer and winter landscape), amazing by its delicateness and beauty of the colours.
Among the numerous workshops and companies in Moscow the leading position had the firm of I.Khlebnikov established according to one sources in 1871, according to another - a bit earlier. An annual production of the company by the time reached a giant sum of 1 million rubles; at the factory were engaged 300 masters of different specializations and 75 pupils, but besides the factory, the pieces for the Imperial court Supplier I.Khlebnikov were produced in the other workshops. All in all a numbers of employees spread up to 1000 persons. The firm considered to be the "high grade" and was engaged in producing gold, silver and diamond items mostly art objects. Among the wide assortment the definite place is given to the silver frames for the cut plumbic glass (crystal). A demonstrative decanter is distinguished by a harmonic accord of sparkling crystal and exquisite silver frame, made by the firm in the period of 1899 -1908; a fancy shadow-figure of a decanter handle takes the form of a branch or a snake proofed the influence of modern style with its cult of expressive lines.
The peak of Russian jewelry production at the turn of the last and previous century would not be possible without foregoers - the masters of the first half of the XIX century - whose names are sometimes unknown. But they greatly contributed the development of the Russian jewelery production during the early period of its foundation. A master-monogrammist crafted a memorable mug inlaid with medallions depicting portraits of Emperor Nikolas I with Maria Fedorovna, czarevitch the great prince Alexander Nikolaevich (the future emperor Alexander II) and his consort czarevna the great princess Maria Alexandrovna. According to the marks the mug was made in 1845 and it is the item devoted to the important political events and dates of Imperial life and czar family: in 1845 there were 20 years since Nicolas I had acceded the throne. The elegant openwork with interlaced cartouche medallions with imperial family portraits is distinguished by the refined performance and resembles the gold-tissue lace laid down the surface of this antique exquisite piece art which among other represented items is a bright example of talent and skill of Russian jewelers.
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