A Fabergé silver and guilloché enamel Imperial presentation photograph frame, workmaster Anders Nevalainen, St. Petersburg, 1899-1904, with original signed photograph of Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich (1858-1915) by Imperial court photographer Charles Bergamasco. The surface of the rectangular frame enameled deep translucent red over a ground engine turned with a chevron pattern, applied with the Imperial Russian crown at upper center and with trailing vines centered with flowerheads, the bezel set with a mount of ribbon-tied reeds, the border with berry laurel border, with original beveled glass covering the aperture, the wood back applied with silver gilt suspension ring and set with wood strut. The frame containing an original photograph of Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich in regimental uniform, wearing the collar of the Order of St. Andrew and numerous other medals and awards, signed Konstantin in Cyrillic in pre-revolutionary orthography and dated 1870-1888, with Bergamasco impressed (and only partially visible) at lower right. Struck on lower rim with workmaster’s initials, K. Fabergé in Cyrillic beneath the Imperial warrant, 84 silver fineness standard and scratched inventory number 11421; the bezel struck with workmaster’s initials and 84 standard; the trefoil mount affixed to reverse struck with 84 silver fineness standard. 8 ¾ x 6 in. (22 x 15.3 cm).
Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich was unique among the Imperial family for having achieved both distinguished military and literary careers. He served in both the Imperial Army and Navy and on Imperial committees overseeing military academies. He and his wife, Grand Duchess Elizaveta Mavrikievna (born Princess Elisabeth of Saxe-Altenburg, 1858-1927), served as patrons of numerous artistic, literary, and scientific organizations, including the Imperial Archaeological Society, the Imperial Russian Musical Society, the Imperial Russian Academy of Sciences, including the photographic section, Pushkin House, and Moscow’s Polytechnic Museum. The couple sponsored several important exhibitions in St. Petersburg and Moscow around the turn of the century. Konstantin is best known as one of the last members of the Imperial family to have lived at Pavlovsk Palace and for writing poetry and plays under the pseudonym KR (for “Konstantin Romanov”), as well as his translations, including the first translation of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” into Russian.
Charles (Karl Ivanovich) Bergamasco (1830, Turin or Sardinia-1896, Saint Petersburg) first arrived in Russia in 1848 as a member of a troupe of actors. He performed at St. Petersburg’s Mikhailovsky Theater until he was injured when scenery fell on several performers. Bergamasco had already taken an interest in the new art of photography and in 1850 he opened the city’s first daguerreotype studio. (Some sources suggest that he continued a limited theatrical career while establishing himself as a portrait photographer.) His artistic skills matched his technical prowess: he studied watercolor at the Imperial Academy of the Arts and was awarded prizes for photography at international expositions, including Berlin in 1865, Paris in 1867, Hamburg in 1868, Groningen in 1869, St. Petersburg in 1870, Vienna in 1873, London in 1874, and Philadelphia in 1876. His theatrical connections paved the way to being named an official photographer of the Russian Imperial Theaters, granting him the very lucrative right to make photographs of the leading actors, actresses, and dancers employed there. This led to other court appointments and by the time of his retirement in 1891, he was a Court Photographer to numerous members of the Russian Imperial family as well as members of European royalty and nobility. His only true competitor in Russia was the Court Photographer Sergei Levitsky, undoubtedly because, as Russian journalist Vladimir Mikhnevich wrote in 1884, Bergamasco was able to capture images of all women as beauties and all men, no matter what their age, in the full bloom of their youth and strength.
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