An Imperial Russian Chandelier at Christie's
This chandelier was to become part of the objects leaving the Imperial Palaces after the Revolution.
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The unusual and extraordinary characteristics of Russian chandeliers from the late 18th century, are one of the main elements that gives beauty to Russian palaces and distinguishes them to other princely residences from the same century. Though the Russian masters rarely signed their works, recent research done in the archives, notably by Igor Sytchev, curator for Russian decorative bronzes at the State Hermitage Museum, has helped gather more knowledge of these objects, making it possible not only to quote artists’ names, but also to attribute masterpieces to their creators.
The imperial chandelier, which will appear on the French market at Christie's Paris on 17 November 2010, is exceptional. It is attributed to Johann Zekh, one of Saint-Petersburg’s most celebrated masters of his century. Zekh is most notably known for creating important chandeliers in the 1790’s in Saint-Petersburg. After delivering a lantern chandelier for the Winter Palace apartment for the Grand Duke Alexander Pavlovitch in 1796, he was asked by the Imperial Cabinet to supply eight tall chandeliers for the Throne room.
It is known that Zekh supplied 21 chandeliers from 14 different models for the Mikhailovsky Castle (built between 1798 and 1801), as Paul I wanted it as luxuruous as possible. Upon the Emperor’s death in 1801, his wife, the Emperess Maria Feodorovna, gave up Mikhailovsky Castle, and the chandeliers were sent to various Imperial residences (Winter Palace, Gatchina, Tsarskoie Selo, or Pavlovsk).
So it is then highly probable that the present chandelier, from Pavlovsk Palace, is one of those delivered by Zekh for the Mikhailovsky Castle. Until the beginning of the 20th century, this chandelier was in the parade bedroom of Emperess Maria Feodorovna at Pavlosk, as the photographies from this period show.
Upon Maria Feodorovna’s death, the Grand Duke Constantin Pavlovitch inherited Pavlovsk Palace, but when he died in 1831, without a legitime male heir, the estate went to his nephew the Grand Duke Constantin Nikolaievitch. It is interesting to note that under Nicholas I, the apartments occupied by his parents, Paul I and Maria Feodorovna, recieved memorial status. Therefore no modifications were made, and they were considered almost as museums. It explains why at palaces like Gatchina, Tsarskoie Selo and Pavlovsk, a large part of the late 18th-early 19th century fittings remained untouched until the Russian Revolution.
Afterwards, this chandelier was to become part of the objects leaving the Imperial Palaces after the Revolution, when the Bolshevik government decided to sell numerous art treasures to help fund the new regime.