WORKMASTER: HENRIK WIGSTRÖM, St. Petersburg; MINIATURE BY: VASILII ZUEV, 1909
Estimate: $200,000 - $400,000, SOLD: $413,000 (Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium);
4 7/8 x 4 1/4 in.; 12.5 x 10.8 cm
Rectangular, centered with a miniature of Emperor Nicholas II
- within a diamond border and
- surmounted by a diamond-set Imperial crown,
- the ground enameled translucent ivory over a sunburst guilloché ground and
- applied with diamond-set wreaths in the 4 corners,
- the outer framing band of nephrite within a border of ribbon-tied reeds and
- chased gold acanthus tips,
- with ivory back and shaped gold strut,
- struck with work-master's initials & Fabergé in Cyrillic,
- also with scratched inventory number 2194,
- the miniature with a cardboard backing numbered '319'
1. Isfandiyar Jurji Bahadur, Khan of Khiva (1871 - 1918)
3. M.T. Heller II, Scottsdale, Arizona
4. A la Vieille Russie, New York
5. Sotheby's New York, 23 June 1983, lot 571
6. Private Collection, Las Vegas
7. Private Collection, New York
8. Thence by descent to the present owner
- The gift of a jeweled portrait of the sovereign was the most prestigious award that could be bestowed in a court;
- in Imperial Russia, the jewelled presentation table portrait (nastolnyi portret) was the rarest of all imperial gifts
- According to research by Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm,
- jewelled table portraits were awarded to only 9 Russians and 10 foreigners during the reign of Nicholas II.
- The majesty of the reward was intended to match the status of the recipient &
- table portraits were restricted to only the most senior of court officials or foreign dignitaries.
- Tillander-Godenhielm suggests that table portraits were almost always reserved for the figures of such seniority
- that they had already received numerous orders and another still more splendid gift had to be found to mark an anniversary or achievement.
Court documents indicate
- that this presentation table portrait was first mentioned in June 1909,
- when the Head of the Chancellery of His Majesty’s Cabinet requested permission to use
- 3 jewel-quality nephrite plaques cut at the Peterhof Lapidary Manufactory &
- placed in the Cabinet’s stores as the basis for 3 table portraits.
- The nephrite plaques had originally been purchased with the intention of making panagias or crosses for higher clergy
- serving at the 1896 Coronation festivities, but had not been needed
The task of designing and creating the unique table portraits was given to the court jeweler Fabergé
- On July 1, 1909, the firm presented the Cabinet with a bill (fig. 1) noting that:
- a frame (ramka) with inventory number 2194
- had been mounted with 92 diamonds
- costing 1,086 rubles and
- that the frame should now be valued at 1,766 rubles.
- (The other 2 were valued a bit less at 1,608 and 1,584 rubles respectively)
Cabinet officials assigned their own, internal inventory number of 28
- which appears in red on Faberge’s invoice
- just below the firm’s inventory number
- (see the illustration)
- The Cabinet’s inventory number is as important as that of the firm, because:
--- the Cabinet’s inventory system indicates that in March 1913, the table portrait was given to the firm of Carl Blank
--- to be mounted with one of several miniature portraits of the Emperor by Vasilii Zuev.
Valentin Skurlov has shown that His Majesty's Cabinet kept detailed lists
- indicating which miniature was combined with a given jewelled frame.
- According to court records (fig. 2):
- the frame numbered 28
- was mounted with a miniature valued at 200 rubles and
- was reassigned the new inventory number 39.
Some confusion exists as to which miniature was used
- one entry in the Cabinet’s records indicates miniature 311 &
- another miniature 331.
- The small piece of paper placed beneath the mammoth ivory miniature of the offered lot is numbered 319
- All 3 are described as miniatures of the Emperor in the inventory &
- it seems that there might have been some confusion or simply a misplaced number.
Whatever the case:
- the jewelled table portrait created by Fabergé,
- mounted by Blank and
- now valued at 1,966 rubles
- was presented shortly thereafter to Isfandiyar Jurji Bahadur (1871-1918), the Khan of Khiva
The Khan was a logical recipient for a table portrait:
- he already had a number of orders and awards &
- his continuing support for the Russian Imperial government was essential
- to maintaining the stability of Russia’s southern borders
- as the world situation became increasingly chaotic.
When the Khan died in 1918
- in the midst of both Revolution and Civil War,
- the jewelled table portrait briefly disappeared into the whirlwind
- before reemerging on the international art market.
On the table portraits, see:
- V. Skurlov, "Nastolnye medalony," Antikvarnoe obozrenie 2003, no. 1, pp. 32-34 and
- Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm, "The Russian Imperial Award System", 1894-1917, Helsinki, 2005, pp. 155-159.
For other table presentation frames by Fabergé, see:
- Christie's New York, 25 October 2000, lot 510 (presented to Nasser-al-Mulk, Regent of Persia, in 1914) and
- Sotheby's Zurich, 23 November 1978, lot 136. For a table portrait by Bolin, see Sotheby's London, 1 December 2005, lot 347.
We are grateful to
- Svetlana Chestnykh for assistance in researching this lot.
- Fig. 1 The invoice from Fabergé for this frame from Cabinet records about purchases from jewellers in 1909, courtesy of Svetlana Chestnykh
- Fig. 2 Cabinet records indicating the offered lot was set with a miniature and given to the Khan of Khiva, courtesy of Svetlana Chestnykh
- Fig. 3 Isfandar Jurji Bahadur (1871-1918), Khan of Khiva, circa 1913