27 November 2013
ST PETERSBURG, CIRCA 1900
Height 2 cm.
Provenance: Anonymous Sale; Fabergé, Russian Works of Art and Objects of Vertu, Sotheby’s New York, 6 December 1995, lot 402.
Realistically carved model of a hippopotamus, the eyes set with rubies.
Endearing and realistically carved miniature models of animals belong to Fabergé’s most spectacular and sought after objects. They reflect his fascination with nature, his studies and extensive travels across the world. Inspired by netsuke, Faberge’s animals differ from their Japanese counterparts, in the way they ingeniously combine different hardstones in order to suggest the natural qualities of the subject.
Fascination with the Orient also gave rise to new social traditions – the gifting of small carved objects for good luck and which symbolised prosperity, longevity and abundance was eagerly adopted by the Russian Imperial court.
Hardstone carving flourished in Russia and the vast stone resources enabled Carl Fabergé to fulfil his most audacious designs. Among the most distinguished hardstone carvers of the early 20th century were Derbyshev and Kremlev, whose execution of bird designs alongside those of the head workmaster, Henrik Wigström (1903) contributed to Fabergé’s enduring success.
The charm of these carvings also lies in the choice of materials – the brown and black speckled agate simulates the natural colouring of the owl’s plumage (lot 406) whereas the grey jasper contributes to the exquisite realism of the hippopotamus (lot 407). The small talons of the owl are executed in gold highlighting the precious nature of the object and the natural glow of the hippopotamus’s eyes are achieved by setting them with rubies or diamonds.
Notes on symbols:
* Indicates 5% Import Duty Charge applies.
Ω Indicates 20% Import Duty Charge applies.
§ Indicates Artist's Resale Right applies.
† Indicates Standard VAT scheme applies, and the rate of 20% VAT will be charged on both hammer price and premium.