An exceptional Fabergé gilded silver and guilloché enamel desk clock with sepia ornament, workmaster Henrik Wigström, 1908-1917. Square, enameled salmon pink over a moiré guilloché ground further enriched with finely painted floral swags suspended from ribbon knots in warm sepia tones, the white opaque enamel dial with black Arabic chapter numerals and pierced gold Louis XV hands, with chased leaf tip bezel and rim, with wooden back and scrolling silver strut, struck with Fabergé in Cyrillic, workmaster’s initials, and 91 standard. 4 1/8 x 4 1/8 in. (10 x 10 cm).
Although the provenance of this clock in the early twentieth century remains to be re-discovered, the extensive use of the rare warm sepia ornament suggests that it was a particularly important and expensive piece. This type of decoration in sepia, white (en camaïeu), or gray (en grisaille) enamel colors was painstakingly hand-painted by a miniaturist after the first five to six layers of enamel had been fired but before the final, clear finishing layer was applied and the enamel was buffed. The technique was perfected in the workshop of Fabergé workmaster Henrik Wigström and featured most prominently in both of the 1914 Imperial Easter eggs. The 1914 Catherine II egg presented to Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna (Hillwood Museum) is decorated entirely en grisaille by Imperial miniaturist Vasilii Zuev with allegorical scenes of the arts and sciences inspired by the work of French artist François Boucher, while the Mosaic Egg presented to Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (Royal Collection) contains a surprise of a jeweled and enameled miniature frame painted with the profiles of the five Imperial children en camaïeu on a pink enamel ground.
The Moscow Kremlin Armory Museum holds a nearly identical rectangular clock by Wigström, also enameled over 91 standard silver. See E.B. Gusarova, et al, The World of Fabergé, Moscow: Red Square Publishers, 1996, no. 134, p. 131. The Royal Collection contains four nephrite boxes with similarly painted panels with views of British monuments purchased by King George V and Queen Alexandra from Fabergé’s London branch. This clock, made in exceedingly pure silver of 91 standard, was probably intended for sale through the firm’s London branch. (Russia’s 88 standard silver did not meet the requirements of British law.) Karl Fabergé was careful to stock the London shop with items that would appeal to his most important customers and it is possible that this clock was intended to tempt a member of the royal family or someone seeking out a gift for them.
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