A Rare Imperial Presentation Charger
Highlights Christie's Russian Art Sale

Rare and Important Parcel-Gilt Silver and Enamel Imperial Presentation Charger Marked Sazikov with the Imperial warrant, St. Petersburg, 1882.
Photo: Christie's Images Ltd

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Offering rare works of exceptional provenance and historical importance, Christie’s April 23rd auction of Russian Art (separate release available) will present the finest and freshest Russian works of art to recently come to market. Among the major sale highlights is an extraordinary silver and enamelled Imperial presentation charger by Sazikov (estimate: $400,000-600,000). The sale will be preceded by a public exhibition at Christie's Rockefeller Center Galleries from 17 April-22 April.

Mark Moehrke, Director of Russian Works of Art at Christie’s, stated: "Imperial presentation chargers rarely appear on the auction market and it is our privilege to offer a work of such historical importance."

Such large chargers, or bread and salt dishes, were offered on coronation day during the reigns of Emperors Alexander II, Alexander III and Nicholas II by visiting provincial dignitaries who presented the Emperor with bread and salt in an elaborate ceremony held in the Kremlin Palace. Of traditional circular form, the chargers vary in design and were executed by the leading silversmiths and jewelers of Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Offered for the first time at auction, the charger has belonged to the same family since it was purchased by a diplomat in Europe in the early 1930s. Exhibiting exquisite craftsmanship, the present lot was likely presented on the coronation day of Emporer Alexander III and Empress Maria Feodorovna in Moscow in 1883.

The center of the work bears an enamel plaque depicting the Romanov griffin, surmounted by a crown and flanked by two Imperial double-headed eagles. An inscription in Russian reads: 'To His Majesty Emperor Alexander III Alexandrovich, Autocrat of all Russia, Grand Duke of Smolensk, etc., etc., and the consort of His Majesty, Empress Maria Feodorovna / An earnest gift from the loyal subjects of the Smolensk nobility 1883'. The borders of the circular charger are engraved with foliate scrolls in the old Russian style and set at intervals with enamel roundels depicting cities and villages of the Smolensk region.

Smolensk, among the oldest cities of Russia, was mentioned in records as early as 863 A.D., two years after the founding of ancient Rus. It was home to one of the most venerated Orthodox icons, the Smolensk Hodegetria or Mother of God of Smolensk, which was attributed to St. Luke and kept in Assumption Cathedral. Valued by tsars for its military importance, this walled city on the Dnieper River was a vital fortress that defended the route to Moscow. The Battle of Smolensk in August of 1812, a battle of two of the largest armies ever assembled and the first of the ultimately disastrous French invasion of Russia, ended with Napoleon capturing the evacuated and burning city.

Founded in Moscow in 1793 by Pavel Fedorovich Sazikov, the Sazikov firm was one of the most prestigious in Imperial Russia and from 1846 was one of the main suppliers to the Imperial Court. In the latter half of the 19th century, Sazikov was a regular exhibitor at international exhibitions and won numerous awards.

Additional highlights of Russian works of art include a large and important two handled porcelain vase, by the Imperial Porcelain Factory in St. Petersburg, dated 1843, period of Nicholas I (estimate: $700,000-900,000), and a wide selection of cloisonné enamels and more than 60 works by Fabergé. In 2009 Christie’s New York established a market share of more than 60% for works of art by the renowned house of Fabergé in the US.

Source: Art Daily
9 April, 2010