A Russian gilded silver, cloisonné, and guilloché enamel cigarette case, Grachev, St. Petersburg, 1904-1908. Of rectangular form with rounded corners, the exterior of the case decorated with a shaped shield enameled translucent sky blue over an engine-turned ground and applied with red and green enameled gold paillons of ribbon-tied floral swags, all reserved within a pattern of blue, green, and red scrolling foliage against a gilded stippled ground, the gilt interior engraved with a scrolling monogram, the case contained in its original silk- and velvet-lined fitted wood box with the interior lining stamped with the gilt Cyrillic letters reading Br[others] Grachev S. Peterburg. Struck with maker’s mark, Cyrillic initials AP, and 88 silver standard. Dimensions: 3 3/8 x 3 in. (8.6 x 7.6 cm).
A paillon is a thin sheet of foil, usually silver or gold, placed between layers of enamel. On this case the rich sky blue transparent enamel was applied over the engine-turned ground and polished. The delicate gold leaves, blossoms, and ribbons, some slightly sculpted or colored with enamels, were then laid down and another layer of clear enamel was carefully applied to avoid movement of the delicate foils or creation of air bubbles. The piece was then fired once again and the surface polished to a high gleam. Working with paillons is painstaking, difficult work; complex decorative schemes like these floral swags created with paillons are seen only occasionally. The initials AP, a mark that appears frequently on Grachev’s enameled pieces, are thought to be those of Alexander Feodorovich Petrov (?-1904), who, together with his sons Nikolai Alexandrovich (?-1918) and Dmitry Alexandrovich (?-?), were the chief enamelers for the firm of Fabergé after 1895. Fabergé’s designer Frants Birbaum, author of a memoir recalling the history and work of the firm, described Nikolai Petrov as “most probably the best enameller in Russia.” On the family, see Tatiana F. Fabergé, Eric-Alain Kohler and Valentin V. Skurlov, Fabergé: A Comprehensive Reference Book, Génève: Editions Slatkine, 2012, pp. 238, 300-302, 371. The skill of the enameling suggests that it certainly should be attributed to Alexander Petrov.
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