Two spectacular silver vegetable dishes from dinner services used by the 18th century Russian Empress, Catherine the Great, are to be sold at Bonhams Fine Silver and Gold Boxes sale in London on 18 June. They are estimated at £30,000-50,000 for the pair, the auction house said in a press release.
The vegetable dishes are among the survivors of the 22 silver table services ordered by Her Imperial Majesty for the new seats of regional government which she established in Russia. She wanted each centre of government to have a complete service of its own to avoid the need to transport silver from place to place during her tours of the country. Catherine ordered five services from Russian silversmiths but the others were commissioned from artisans in London, Augsburg and Paris. Four of the French-made services employed the talents of the greatest silversmith of the 18th century, Robert-Joseph Auguste. He was involved in sets for Moscow, Kazan, Nizhny-Novgorod and Ekaterinoslav, later known as Ekaterinburg where the Imperial Family was murdered in 1918.
The two vegetable dishes in the sale represent a mystery. Although they look perfectly matched, in fact the ornate covers are from the service made by Auguste for Moscow while the dishes themselves are from the Ekaterinoslav service made by one of his colleagues, Louis Lenhendrick. Exactly the same mismatch of dish and cover is found in the silver vegetable dishes from the same makers and services in the collection of the Louvre in Paris.
Catherine the Great's desire for monumental and extensive table services as an expression of her wealth and her appreciation of western taste is most spectacularly shown in the famous Orloff Service by Jacques-Nicolas Roettiers. Various tureens and plates from this service were in the collection of Jaime Ortiz-Patiño and sold in 1992; for examples of gold boxes from this collection, see lots 1, 2 and 31. From 1776, Catherine's agents ordered twenty-two further services for the Gubernatorial capitals newly created in her reorganisation of the administration of the Russian Empire. Five were from Russian silversmiths and the rest from outside the empire: Paris, London and Augsburg. In Paris, they turned to Roettiers successor Robert-Joseph Auguste, for four; Ekaterinoslav (1776-1778), Kazan (1778), Nijni-Novgorod (1778-1779) and Moscow (1782-1783). For the former, Auguste had to enlist the aid of Louis-Joseph Lenhendrick, who had collaborated on the Orloff Service.
Robert-Joseph Auguste (1723ca.-1805) was a sculptor and royal goldsmith to Louis XV and Louis XVI of France, whose coronation crown he made. Unusually for the time, Auguste appears to have worked outside the normal guild system; he was made master in 1757 but very little of his production of the next ten years still exists, five gold boxes through the 1760's. The recall of plate during the reign of Louis XVI means that little of Auguste's work made for French patrons survives, however we are fortunate that he had magnificent orders from foreign courts including Count de Creutz, a Swedish Ambassador, King George III and Catherine the Great. Auguste was an excellent exponent of the new Neoclassical style, radically different to the flamboyant and naturalistic Rococo that had passed in the middle of the century and an evolution of the Classical style; with fewer references to architectural forms. The designs of the services show a little more restraint than that for the Sachsen-Teschen Tureen by Jacob Ignatz Wurth sold in these rooms on 13 June 2013, ex lot 151.
The services were re-called to St Petersburg on Catherine's death by her successor, Tsar Paul the First. The next full published assessment of the remnants is by Baron A de Foelkersam, in 1907. Sadly his detail for the present services is not as extensive as for the Orloff service, but he does include the bill for Moscow service: 232,200 livres (including commission) for 2351 marks (18,808oz) of silver. He also provides a tally of pieces that were melted for bullion through the 19th century.
In the aftermath of the Revolution, the new Soviet Government sold some of the remnants of the services along with other treasures from the Imperial collections. Jacques Helft recounts: "It was during this same year  that I secured from the Trade Representatives of the USSR at Berlin, a large consignment of French Goldsmiths' work," which included the Orloff table service (Helft, p.29).
It is possible that the present lot came from this consignment, as is suggested by evidence from the ledgers in the archives of Helft's client, Count Moise Nissim Camondo, published by Sylvie Legrand-Rossi. In July 1929, Moïse de Camondo bought from Helft, for 250 000 francs a pair of rectangular tureens by Auguste (1782) and a pair of round tureen covers by the same maker and date and two round plates by Louis-Joseph Lenhendrick (1777). In November of the following year, Camondo exchanged the latter pair and 40 000 francs for a second pair of the rectangular tureens (Les Arts Décoratifs, musée Nissim de Camondo, inv. CAM 256 and 257). Further, Helft had, the year before, given to the Louvre a dish and cover with the identical combination (Musée des Arts Décoratifs, don Jacques et Yvon Helft, 1928, inv. 26750 and 26751). It is also possible that the present lot are two of four tureens illustrated in a photograph of a showcase of Auguste's work in the 1926 Louvre, L'exposition d'Orfèvrie Française Civile. The cloches were purchased, in Paris, by the present owner's parents.
Helft gives a clue as to why the dispersal of the Imperial silver took so long: "I had dazzling hopes of success when my clients should come to inspect all these wonders; but as it happened the reception was guarded and cool." p. 29. Indeed, in 1942, after he had been forced to move to New York, he was still offering the Orloff Dish Covers and Moscow verrières sold to Ortiz Patiño, see plate 5.
At first glance the covers and dishes sit well together, despite the difference in dates and makers, probably because Auguste and Lenhendrick cooperated on the Ekaterinoslav service. The dishes can easily be assigned to this service with their prickdot engraved "EK2," as well as their date and maker. The covers must come from the Moscow service with their continuous bands of shallow flutes around the side rather than being separated into four panels, see illustration.
The numbering of the pieces is somewhat unexpected and may have been added later by the Hermitage; it appears to be by type of dish or cover rather than to keep covers and bases together. The present lots are incuse stamped "2" on both dishes and covers. The two pairs of rectangular compotiers and covers from the Moscow Service in the Musée Nissim de Camondo each have 1 to the base and 3 to the cloche. Other platters and plates sold recently have been marked "EK1," whilst the dessert plates from Ortiz Patiño Collection were marked "No3." This eccentricity may give a hint as to how the covers and bases became mixed either whilst in the Imperial Collection or at the point of sale by the Soviets.
Stranded Dowager Empress - Cigarette Case Comes up for Sale Topic: Auctions
Photo: Tennants Auctioneers
In August 1914, at the outbreak of World War I, the Russian Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna was refused permission by the Kaiser to continue her journey to her homeland of Russia. The Empress had been in England visiting her Brother-in-Law and Sister, King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, when war was declared. She rushed to travel home in the Imperial Russian train but on arrival at Berlin the Kaiser ordered that the train should not be allowed to proceed any further. The train was obliged to leave Berlin after hostile crowds broke the windows and tore down the blinds of the carriage in which Her Majesty was sitting. The train made it's way to neutral Denmark.
It was in Denmark, whilst waiting for arrangements for the Empress to return to Russia by ship, that the Empress met Mrs Walter Wall, an American from North Carolina who was similarly stranded by the outbreak of War and was staying at the Hotel d'Angleterre in Copenhagen. Also resident at the hotel at the same time was Prince Felix Yussopov who, himself, had only just escaped from the Kaisers clutches and two years later was to murder Rasputin.
The Empress and Mrs Wall struck up a friendship and when the Empress left for her homeland she made a personal gift to Mrs Wall of a small silver gilt and enamel cigarette case by the Russian court jeweller Ovchinnikov. The
Empress eventually returned to St Petersburg and in four short years was to see the revolution and the assassination of her son, Tsar Nicholas II, her daughter-in-law, her four granddaughters and the Tsars heir, her grandson Alexei.
Photo: Tennants Auctioneers
Notes: Lot 394. Russian Silver and Enamel Cigarette Case, by Ovchinnikov, St Petersburg circa 1890. Profusely decorated with foliate cloisonné enamels and arabesques, bear Imperial Standard Mark.
Estimate: £1,000 - £1,500
Tennants Auctioneers, Leyburn, North Yorkshire, Great Britain. Spring Fine Art Sale. 28th / 29th March 2014
Important Romanov Letters, Photographs to be Auctioned at Paris Topic: Auctions
Olivier Coutau-Begarie have announced their next Souvenirs Historiques auction to be held on March 21st, 2014 in Paris, France. The auction will offer correspondence and photographs of the Imperial Court of Russia and the Royal Courts of Britain, Greece and Denmark. More than 3,000 letters and 4,000 photographs to members of the members of the Romanov, Orleans, Windsor and Oldenburg families, from Princess Marie d'Orléans (1865 - 1909) and her husband Prince Valdemar of Denmark (1858-1939) will be offered.
Of particular interest are the correspondence addressed to the Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia by her brother, Prince Valdemar. These rare and unpublished letters cover the period 1917-1925, recording the tragic events of the Russian Revolution, from the fall of the Romanovs to the exile of members of the Russian Imperial family. They also reveal the final moments of Tsar Alexander III in 1894, and the splendour of the coronation of the last Tsar of Russia in 1896. The photographs were taken by the princess and her father, Prince Robert, Duke of Chartres, between 1890 and 1909. They include previously unseen photographs of the Romanov, Windsor, Oldenburg and Orleans families.
The auction will take place at the Hotel Drouot in Paris on Friday 21st March, 2014. Further details of this auction will be posted on Royal Russia as they are made available.
Rare Russian Coins & Medals Fetch Over $5 Million at Auction Topic: Auctions
A gold medal produced in 1913, on the 300th Anniversary of the Romanov Dynasty sold for US$315,900
Struck to commemorate the 30th Birthday of Tsar Alexander II’s fourth son Grand Duke Vladimir, an 1876 25 Roubles topped The New York Sale, Auction XXXIII and was purchased for US$380,250. The proof-like gold 25 Roubles is one of only four large gold coin types issued by Imperial Russia. Of the four, the 25 Roubles coin is the rarest and most elusive, as only 100 pieces were struck. [Lot 1235]
Vladimir was president of the Academy of Arts and a famous Patron to many artists. His military career was tarnished after the Bloody Sunday massacre in 1905, when hundreds of unarmed protesters were killed outside the Winter Palace as they marched to present a petition to Tsar Nicholas II. Although he was away from the city at the time and claimed no responsibility, Vladimir’s reputation never recovered.
This rare commemorative issue was from the collection of Åke Lindén, a man of international stature who’s aim was to own an example of every type coin, from every county in the world, since 1850. Born in Stockholm, his passion for coin collecting was inspired by his father who travelled widely all over the world, bringing back different coins from each country he visited. The New York Sale included the first coins from his collection to be offered and Baldwin’s are extremely proud to be presenting his entire collection of world coins as part of their 2014 auction calendar in London and Hong Kong.
An important piece of Russian financial history was included in the Lindén Collection. An 1876 Imperial 10 Roubles attracted some competitive bidding and was purchased for US$351,000. The coin was produced as part of a set of major currency reforms, which were designed by famous Russian Finance Minister Sergei Witte to stabilise and place the Russian Rouble on the gold standard. [Lot 1313]
Also included in the reforms, and from the Lindén Collection, was an 1895 Half Imperial 5 Roubles which sold for US$234,000. Witte issued the series of special dual denomination gold coins to huge success, providing stability and stimulating economic development. [Lot 1314]
Sold as part of the famous 1981 Schweizerischer Bankverein auction a gold medal produced in 1913, on the 300th Anniversary of the Romanov Dynasty, was purchased in this sale for US$315,900. The medal brought the highest price of any Russian medal or coin in the Schweizerischer Bankverein auction. It is one of only a few known to exist in gold. [Lot 1384]
The house of Romanov was the second and last Imperial dynasty to rule over Russia, which ended with the forced abdication of Tsar Nicholas II and the start of the Russian Revolution. The medal depicts the conjoined busts of Nicholas II and Michael Feodorovich, the first Russian Tsar of the dynasty.
For more information on this auction, please refer to the following article;
Valuable Tsarist Russian Coins to Be Auctioned in New York Topic: Auctions
Coins from one the world’s most prolific collections will be sold in New York on Thursday 9th January at Baldwin’s auction, in association with Dmitry Markov Coins & Medals and M & M Numismatics.
The collection was formed by Swede, Åke Linden. Born in Stockholm, but brought up in Karlskoga, he was a man of international stature, serving for a number of years as Assistant General Director of GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade), now the World Trade Organisation. He was inspired to start collecting coins as he travelled from country to country as part of his job and became intrigued by the volume and variety of different local currencies he encountered. His aim was to own an example of every type coin from every country in the world since 1850, and he set about the task with passion and a methodical and a single minded approach.
The auction includes several exceptional Russian coins from the collection, including potentially the most expensive in the sale. Struck to commemorate the 30th birthday of the Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, the 1876 proof-like gold 25 Roubles is one of only four large gold coin types issued by Imperial Russia. Of the four, the 25 Roubles coin is the rarest and most elusive, as only 100 pieces were struck. Depicting a crowned double headed eagle the present example is uncirculated and in exceptional condition. It is expected to sell for US$200,000 [Lot 1235]
An 1897 Imperial 10 Roubles and an 1895 Half Imperial 5 Roubles, both proof-like, uncirculated, and extremely rare, are two further examples of the impeccable taste of this discerning collector. The 5 Roubles is one of only 36 struck and each coin is estimated at US$100,000. [Lots 1313 and 1314]
Both the coins were produced as part of a set of major currency reforms, designed by famous Russian Finance Minister Sergei Witte, to firstly stabilise the Russian Rouble , and then to place it on the Gold Standard. Witte issued a series of special gold coins which had dual denominations and could be traded in European countries as part of the European Monetary Union. The reforms were hugely successful at providing stability and stimulating economic development.
Two further coins, a 1902, Gold 37 ½ Roubles – 100 Francs, the highest denomination of a Russian coin ever struck, and a 1896 Nicholas II Coronation Commemorative 2 ½ Imperials – 25 Roubles, were also produced during this period of reform and each is estimated at US$75,000. [Lots 1311 and 1312]
All four coins are part of the Åke Linden collection.
Elsewhere, a gold Paul I 1798 5 Roubles , formerly in the collection of the famous numismatist, the Grand Duke George Mikhailovich, is one of a number of coins in the collection from his assemblage. In choice uncirculated condition it is estimated at US$35,000. [Lot 1154]
Comprising every coin ever produced from the Russian Empire, the Michilovitch collection was subsequently seized by the communists. The gold and silver coins and medals were to be sold in Luzern in September 1939 but the sale was cancelled due to the outbreak of war. In 1951 the coins were catalogued by Baldwin’s for a Christie’s sale in London, while around that time a U.S. dealer negotiated a private treaty purchase of the copper coinage and sold that part of the collection to the Smithsonian Institution, where they remain. Coins from the Michalovitch collection are always eagerly sought by contemporary collectors.
Romanov Treasures a Dazzling Success at Geneva Auction Topic: Auctions
Dazzling success for the fourth Russian Art sale at Geneva’s Hôtel des Ventes. Bidders from Europe, the United States and Russia gathered in the saleroom and busied the telephones all to take part in this exceptional auction presenting many objects of global importance. The total sale result surpassed *CHF 3.8 million, constituting a record result for a Russian Art sale at Hôtel des Ventes. *Prices quoted in this article are in CHF (Swiss Francs)
It was in the midst of a full and captive saleroom that the fierce battle ensued between multiple bidders seated around the room and on the telephones resulting in 100% of the letters from Tsars Nicholas I, Alexander II and their families being sold for a total of CHF 743,000 ($830,000). Almost the entire collection of 230 letters (pictured above) was sold to a Swiss Russophile collector, the same person who acquired the majority of the photographs from the Thormeyer collection in 2011 and who has a connection to Russian museums. The atmosphere was electric in particular for lots 83 and 84 which sold for CHF 243,000 and CHF 170,000, establishing world records for letters from Tsar Nicholas I at more than CHF 12,000 per letter. A record was also set for three letters from Tsar Alexander II that sold for near CHF 16,000 (lot 76). The letters belonged to the widow of an American Captain who obtained them in Europe and brought them back after Second World War having been deployed there for The Stars and Stripes newspaper. The vendor selected Hôtel des Ventes in Geneva for the sale of this piece of Russian history after having consulted with other auction houses in New York, London and Paris.
The Russian works of art also attracted many international bidders. The exceptional pair of Imperial Porcelain Manufactory vases (top photo) from Saint Petersburg was sold for CHF 1.58 million (lot 240). The vases were an imperial gift from Tsar Nicholas I to his sister-in-law Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna for Christmas in 1849. The provenance and authenticity were confirmed by the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg.
Having remained in the same family for 210 years, the gold snuffbox (below) by master maker Keibel of Saint Petersburg weighing 250g and set with 37 diamonds changed hands for CHF 522,000, setting a new world record for a Russian snuffbox from this period (lot 176). This unique box was given to Prince Comuto by Tsar Alexander I on 7th December 1803 for his appointment as Prince and Governor of the Septinsular Republic (Greece). The auction of these two spectacular pieces aroused great enthusiasm with the public who broke out in applause after the hammer fell on each lot.
Bernard Piguet, CEO and Chief Auctioneer at Hôtel des Ventes, is delighted with the results and underlines: "The auctioning of objects of such high quality that come from private collections and appear on the market for the first time always sparks off enormous excitement amongst collectors. It is not surprising they reached record sale prices as they were indeed exclusive and merited a certain level of attention".
Lot 92 consisting of 33 photographs (below) was withdrawn from the auction following a provisional judicial order from Geneva authorities after a request by the Russian Consulate. Their sale has been suspended until such time as the exact provenance can be established.
Private Letters of the Russian Imperial Family Sell in Geneva Topic: Auctions
A trove of letters from Russian royals revealing secrets of state and bedchamber and voicing scorn for the "hypocrisy" of Victorian court life in Britain drew big money, including some from Moscow, at a Geneva auction.
Written in Russian and French by two 19th-century tsars, an empress and a pride of grand duchesses, the 230 letters were found in a Massachusetts attic in the 1990s, and experts say they open a window into hidden corners of a long-vanished world.
In one, Tsar Alexander II tells his sister Olga, wife of the crown prince of the German Kingdom of Württemberg, that despite pressure he would not bring Russia into a short war setting Austria against France and Sardinia in 1859.
He adds: "Keep it to yourself."
In another, he recounts the problems caused for the straight laced royal family in St. Petersburg by a wild affair and subsequent secret marriage between their sister Maria and a low-ranking Russian count.
Almost the entire package of letters, sold Monday at Geneva's Hotel des Ventes auction rooms in 12 lots, are addressed to Olga — who married her German prince in 1846 and later became queen when he succeeded to the throne of the small Rhineland state.
The whole batch fetched more than 743,000 Swiss francs ($830,000) — a large sum for documents of this type — amid heavy bidding at the crowded auction room, with unidentified Russians bidding on the spot and by telephone.
Several letters from Olga's niece, another Maria, reveal antagonism between the Russian grand duchess — as daughters of the tsar were known — and her mother-in-law after she married Alfred, son of Britain's Queen Victoria.
Maria, who held the title of Duchess of Edinburgh and lived until 1920, writes in 1878 of the "hateful slander" spread around the British court about her often-absent husband and of the queen's own "authoritarianism" and coldness.
She also reveals her anger when she discovered that morals around the tsarist court were not so different from those in the hated entourage of Victoria. She tells her aunt of her bitterness at discovering, after her mother died, that her much-loved father had had a series of mistresses and a number of illegitimate children.
Hotel des Ventes director Bernard Piguet says the letters were sent for Monday's sale, which included jewellery, paintings and vases from tsarist times, by the widow of a U.S. army captain who brought them home from Germany in 1947.
He said there was no indication of how the officer, who also worked as a journalist for the U.S. forces Stars and Stripes newspaper, came by them. But they had been authenticated by specialists.
"I think they are a real treasure for anyone interested in Russia's cultural heritage," he told reporters. The American widow and her family did not want their names revealed.
Piguet's auction house has earned a name for Russian sales since he took over what was a declining business in 2005. Last December, it sold four letters written during World War I by Tsar Nikolai II for a Swiss record of nearly $125,000.
And in 2010, it sold a huge batch of letters written by the doomed Nikolai's brothers and sisters over several decades to a Swiss tutor of the imperial children in the last 15 years of the 19th century.
Rare Russian Coins to Be Auctioned in New York Topic: Auctions
Deep-pocketed coin collectors will soon have a chance to own several valuable pieces of Russian financial history as ultra-rare coins from the tsarist period are scheduled to be auctioned in New York in January.
The most valuable coins come from the collection of the Swedish collector Ake Linden, who served for years as a senior executive at the precursor organization to the World Trade Organization, according to London-based coin dealer Baldwin’s, which is running the auction.
Linden’s ambition was to own an example of every coin struck in the world after 1850, and in the process of achieving that aim he acquired what is likely to be the most expensive item at the auction, a 25 ruble gold coin issued in 1876 to celebrate the birthday of Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich.
Only 100 such coins were ever struck, and Linden’s is expected to sell for $200,000, Baldwin’s said Thursday.
Other rare items culled from Linden’s collection include coins that were introduced around the turn of the century by Russian Finance Minister Sergei Witte as part of his efforts to stabilize the ruble and to place it on the gold standard.
An 1897 imperial 10 ruble coin and an 1895 half-imperial five ruble coin from this period are estimated at $100,000 each, according to Baldwin’s.
The auction will also feature pieces from the collection of Russian Grand Duke George Mikhailovich, who had sought to own an example of every coin ever issued in the Russian Empire prior to his execution by the Bolsheviks in 1919.
The auction will be held on January 9 in New York, as part of the 42nd Annual New York International Numismatic Convention.
Highlights of the Paris auction on Monday, December 16th, 2013 include;
an album of photographs of the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, taken by one of her ladies-in-waiting
an album of 47 engravings on the description of the funeral of Emperor Nicholas I in 1855
a magnificent portrait of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna by the German painter Friedrich Kaulbach
gold shirt buttons of Tsarevich Alexei, decorated with his monogram
the correspondence and the publications of the Harold G. Graf (1885-1966), who served as chancellor to the Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich, Head of the Russian Imperial House from 1918 to 1938
objects from the collection of the Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna (1882-1957), wife of Prince Nicholas of Greece, which includes two frames enamelled by Carl Fabergé; a rare miniature representing the children of the Emperor Paul I; a cigarette case made of quartz with a golden mount and diamonds by Carl Fabergé; a gold pendant with a photo of her mother Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna wearing the helmet of the Chevaliers-Gardes in miniature
porcelain plates from the imperial services of the Farm of the Palace at Peterhof with the cipher of Emperor Alexander II, and those of the marriage of the sister of Nicholas II, the Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna and Duke Peter Alexandrovich of Oldenburg in 1901
*Note: The full catalogue consists of 364 pages. I have only included the pages from the catalogue which reflect the Romanov letters and photographs being offered in the auction. Test is in French only.