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Imperial Presentation Box


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SKU: 1511-039 Category:


A Russian gold & enameled Imperial presentation portrait box,Pierre Theremin, ST. Petersburg, 1799, the miniature by Franz Gerhard von Kügelgen (1772-1820). The slip-on cover set with a portrait miniature of Grand Duke Alexander Pavlovich, later EmperorAlexander I, with gold-embroidered red collar, wearing the blue moiré sash & breast star of the Russian Order of St. Andrew, glazed with a gold frame, on a navy blue guilloché enamel ground within a champlevé enamel border of alternating fleurs-de-lys & demi-paterae, the side with a similar alternating upper band above blue guilloché enamel with white opaque borders. Dimensions: H. 7/8 x Dia. 3 3/4 in. (2.2 x 9.5 cm). Gross weight: 229 grams.


Presented to the Great-Grandfather of Louis Clarke (1881-1960), Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum (1937-1946), by Alexander I, by tradition
Thence by descent to Louis Clarke
Gerald, 7th Duke of Wellington, gifted to him in Clarke’s will

Pierre Theremin settled in St Petersburg in 1793 & was alderman of the Foreigner’s Guild from 1800 to 1801 &, in that year he delivered four gold boxes to the Court Office for 1,580 roubles. By 1802, Theremin had left for Geneva where he spent the rest of his life, see Alexander von Solodkov, Russian Gold & Silver (London, 1981). It is interesting to compare the present lot to another box by Theremin of the same date, still held by State Hermitage Collection (see illustration); though the portrait on the box in the Hermitage is a relief cameo it is clearly of the youthful Grand Duke. Further, they have remarkably similar borders & enameling & may have been made as a contrasting/complimentary pair.

Franz Gerhard von Kügelgen (1772-1820) was born in Germany but a bursary from the Elector of Cologne allowed him to travel, first to Italy between 1791 & 1795, & later to Russia where he stayed in St. Petersburg until 1798. Here, Kügelgen received notable success at the Russian court & Schidlof notes that at this time he was commissioned to paint a miniature of the Grand Duke Alexander Pavlovich, later Emperor Alexander I, see Leo R. Schidlof, TheMiniature in Europein the 16th, 17th, 18th, & 19th Centuries, vol. 1 (Graz: Akademische Druck- u. Verlagsanstalt, 1964), p. 450.

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