A jewelled nephrite frog pillbox Fabergé, workmaster Michael Perkhin, St. Petersburg, before 1899, scratched inventory number 25261

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Lot 99*
A jewelled nephrite frog pillbox
Fabergé, workmaster Michael Perkhin, St. Petersburg, before 1899, scratched inventory number 25261

Sold for £ 225,062 (US$ 278,236) inc. premium
A jewelled nephrite frog pillbox
Fabergé, workmaster Michael Perkhin, St. Petersburg, before 1899, scratched inventory number 25261
the carved nephrite body set with diamond mouth and cabochon ruby eyes in diamond surrounds, the underside with diamond-set hinged compartment, 56 standard
length: 6.4cm (2 1/2in).

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Sir Bernard Eckstein, Sotheby's, 8 February 1949, lot 140
    Wartski, London
    Caroline, Lady Oppenheimer (1899-1971)
    Then by direct descent

    Literature
    Henry Charles Bainbridge, Peter Carl Fabergé: Goldsmith and Jeweller to the Russian Imperial Court & principal Crowned Heads of Europe, London, 1949, pl. 28

    Sir Bernard Eckstein 1894-1948) was a prominent businessman, collector and benefactor of the British Museum as well as owner of the Winter Egg, a hardstone pug dog and the proposed frog and mouse sold with Sotheby's in 1949.

    -----------------
    Caroline, Lady Oppenheimer (1899-1971), known as Ina, was the daughter of Sir Robert Grenville Harvey and Emily Blanche Murray. Her descendants recall that having been born a third daughter to parents hoping for a male heir, she was a rebel and a fighter with varied interests. After being sparingly educated at home by a governess, she helped run her parent's house at Langley Park in Buckinghamshire, gaining a reputation as a creative and elegant young woman who was also enterprising.

    In 1920, Ina married Sir Michael Oppenheimer and, according to family memoirs, moved to California then returned to England before settling in South Africa, bringing up their son there. Sir Michael died in an air crash near Johannesburg in 1933. Two years later, Ina married her late husband's uncle Sir Ernest, founder of the Anglo-American Corporation and chairman of De Beers. Although the couple were based in Johannesburg, Ina threw herself into creating her farm in the Transvaal. She supported several South African charities and became an accomplished wildlife photographer, documenting her travels in South African game reserves and abroad in a uniquely personal photographic technique that lent an impressionist quality to her work. Her interest in animals seems to have extended beyond doting on her own corgis to her collecting choices, as reflected in her charming menagerie of hardstone carvings.

    The breadth and quality of the group transport us back to the final years of Imperial St Petersburg and to eminent patrons of the House of Fabergé. The firm's unique access to native minerals that showcased the rich variety of deposits in the Ural Mountains and Caucasus dovetailed with the business vision of Carl Fabergé at its helm. It is well documented that he was an avid collector of Japanese netsuke carvings and tasked his designers with producing compact hardstone animals to delight the firm's sophisticated clientele. Family ties, particularly those of the Danish royal sisters married respectively to Tsar Alexander III and King Edward VII, bound the ruling houses of St. Petersburg with London. These dynastic links created opportunity for the exchanges of gifts that ignited international demand for the diminutive animals exquisitely captured by master lapidarists.

    By 1907, the taste for the charming figures resulted in Edward VII commissioning lapidary portraits of animals kept on his estate at Sandringham. A great many were also produced for sale through Fabergé's London branch and spread the fashion for the expressive models throughout the highest echelons of Edwardian society. These range in style from humorously carved to heavily stylised or naturalistic. Many have a lively, energetic quality such as the kitten in Lady Oppenheimer's collection captured alert as it extends its paw to an unseen object of its curiosity. Elsewhere, a pair of rabbits nestle into one another and recall endearing Beatrix Potter illustrations. Meanwhile a kingfisher stands to attention raised upon golden feet that confirm his attribution to Henrik Wigstrom's workshop. Another model with gold mounts is the nephrite frog who stares out from diamond set eyes and curving mouth, guarding the secret compartment fitted into his belly. Here, a snuffbox is almost a pretext to celebrate the play of contrasting minerals.

    The 20th century was an exciting period for collecting Fabergé, with firms such as Wartski in London and A La Vieille Russie in New York rising to prominence once the House of Fabergé was closed, following the Russian revolution. Opportunities extended by the Soviet government eager to trade nationalised treasures abroad for foreign currency were taken up by an elite group of merchants who gained a loyal customer base internationally. It is quite evident that Lady Oppenheimer had a discerning eye and access to the very best Fabergé the market had to offer. The resulting collection is a technical tour de force and its revelation as a single owner group is a landmark event.


    We are grateful to Christopher Cavey F.G.A. for providing technical and historical assistance with this collection.
Contacts
A jewelled nephrite frog pillbox Fabergé, workmaster Michael Perkhin, St. Petersburg, before 1899, scratched inventory number 25261
A jewelled nephrite frog pillbox Fabergé, workmaster Michael Perkhin, St. Petersburg, before 1899, scratched inventory number 25261
A jewelled nephrite frog pillbox Fabergé, workmaster Michael Perkhin, St. Petersburg, before 1899, scratched inventory number 25261
A jewelled nephrite frog pillbox Fabergé, workmaster Michael Perkhin, St. Petersburg, before 1899, scratched inventory number 25261
A jewelled nephrite frog pillbox Fabergé, workmaster Michael Perkhin, St. Petersburg, before 1899, scratched inventory number 25261
A jewelled nephrite frog pillbox Fabergé, workmaster Michael Perkhin, St. Petersburg, before 1899, scratched inventory number 25261
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