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6th-10th June 2016

Over a few days this month the London auction houses offered 1418 lots of Russian material. Those sold realised £17.3 million including the Buyers’ Premium. Embracing pictures, works on paper (including photographs), icons, sculpture, objets d’art, jewellery, porcelain, glass and silver, there was something for everyone.

Like many sectors of the market, the demand for things Russian has suffered since the global financial crisis of 2007-2008. Nevertheless. although now smaller, the market is strong for interesting and appealing pieces, and even stronger if a good provenance is offered too.

Sotheby’s not only sold the three most expensive Russian pictures, led by the £905,000 for Abram Arkhipov’s Peasant Woman in a Red Dress, but it also secured the highest price for a work by Fabergé. This was for a jewelled silver, enamel and seed-pearl icon of the Pelagonitissa Mother of God. It is one of the few known full-size icons created by Fabergé, all of which are of exceptional quality. It was fiercely contested to £245,000, which is 10 times its low estimate.

The Pelagonitissa Mother of God icon measures 23cm x 20cm and was created at Fabergé’s Moscow workshop during the period 1908-1917. It sold for £245,000. Courtesy Sotheby’s

Christie’s offered a gem-set parcel-gilt silver-mounted ceramic tobacco humidor. Its ceramic body was made by Moscow’s Imperial Stroganov School, while it was mounted in the city’s Fabergé workshops. This is a wonderful and rare example of Fabergé’s work in the neo-Russian style rooted in Slavic and Byzantine traditions and design. It was fought over to £134,500, or over four times its mid-estimate.

This Fabergé tobacco humidor was mounted at Fabergé’s Moscow workshop during the period 1908-1917. With a height of 21cm, it sold for £134,500. Courtesy Christie’s

Fabergé created a menagerie of miniature animals. It is the examples in hardstones that are generally better known. However, ornamental or functional objects were also conjured into the form of larger silver animals. They served as lighters, bell-pushes vessels for liquids or were purely decorative. At Sotheby’s a rabbit made an appearance in the form of a silver ewer. Realistically modelled and chased, the animal is presented sat on its hind quarters, its ears pricked as if listening to some distant noise. Its head is hinged and its interior is gilt. From its inscription we know it was made in 1907. It commanded £81,250.

A Fabergé silver wine ewer in the form of a rabbit. Moscow 1907. Height 27.3cm. It sold for £81,250

Not all antique Fabergé sells for five or six  – or in the case of Imperial Eggs – eight figure sums. Christie’s offered an exquisite small jewelled gold and silver-mounted guilloché enamel brooch. In the form of a flower, its five petals are pear-shaped diamonds and the stamen a small round one. Its stem – which is enamelled in translucent emerald over a ‘dash’ guilloché ground - surrounds the bloom and terminates in a diamond set twig and leaf. It was acquired in 1942 from Armand Hammer’s New York Gallery. Hammer introduced Fabergé and Russian art to the States in the 1930s. It is now known that he was selling on behalf with the Soviets. He had a tendency to claim his pieces had an Imperial provenance. The item was sold with a statement on Hammer Gallery’s paper claiming that this piece belonged to the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. Bearing the mark of Fabergé’s workmaster August Hollming, it was crafted in St Petersburg during the period 1899-1904. It was chased to £32,500, which is more than double its top estimate.

This turn of the 19th/20th century Fabergé flower brooch is 3.4cm wide. It commanded £32,500. Courtesy Christie’s

For the cigar-smoking man who has everything, Bonhams sale offered a gift solution – a diamond-set gold and silver cigar cutter in the form of a saw. Possibly not the most practical of implements, it was sold with its original red leather case. It was made by the Fabergé workmaster Mikhail Perkhin during the period 1896-1903. It sold for its low estimate, £6250.

The length of the Fabergé cigar cutter in the form of a saw is 10.2cm. It realised £6250. Courtesy Bonhams

All realisations include the Buyer’s Premium.

Fabergé collections are available online or in the international boutiques.

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