An exceptional Imperial Russian gold, enamel and diamond presentation box by Fabergé, workmaster Michael Perchin, Saint Petersburg, 1897, the openwork cover chased with two Romanov griffins over a red enamel ground, centred with a crowned, diamond cypher of Tsar Nicholas II on a white sun burst enamel diamond set oval, six further diamonds set in the shields and at each corner between a husk and bead border, 6.4x10.6x2.8 cm, 293g gros weight
Provenance: Presented by Tsar Nicholas II to Lieutenant-General Theodor Feldmann, Head of the Imperial Alexander Lyceum, 3 December 1897
Returned to the Imperial Cabinet by Lieutenant-General Feldmann, 16 December 1897
Presented by Tsar Nicholas II to Baron Maximilian von Lyncker, Marshall of the Household of the German Emperor, 15 November 1899
Discovered in the private safe of François Dupré upon his death in 1966
Thence by descent
Under the reign of Tsar Nicholas II, this magnificent box was purchased by the Imperial Cabinet from Fabergé to be used as a presentation box. As it was to be offered by the Tsar in recognition of service or as a gift, the standard ‘scratch’ numbers from Fabergé’s inventories were not applied. This box therefore was not sold through Fabergé’s shop so does not bear an invoice scratch number. Instead it was logged in the meticulous ledgers which the Imperial Cabinet kept, attributed a number and recorded along with information on the recipient.
According to the latest research by Dr Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm (1), between 1896 and the end of workmaster Michael Perchin’s tenure in 1903, only two Fabergé boxes with Nicholas II cypher are recorded with red enamel. On 25th April 1897, this red enamel box with “brilliants and rose” diamonds entered the ledger, numbered 49 at a cost of 1760 roubles. The size of the diamonds accounted for the considerably higher price compared to the other boxes purchased at half the cost.
Later that year on 3rd December, the box was presented to Lieutenant-General Theodor (Fedor Alexandrovich) Feldmann (1835-1902). As head of the Imperial Alexander Lyceum - the educational institution founded by Tsar Alexander I – Feldmann was charged with ensuring students received an education that prepared them for positions in Imperial service. Despite the prestige of being gifted such a box, it was also known as a way of providing indirect wealth to its recipient. Instead of cashing in one of the large diamonds, Feldmann returned the box in its entirety 13 days later. It is entered in the Cabinet ledger under number 66 with the description ‘red enamel brilliants’.
The box leaves the Imperial Cabinet ledger for a final time on 15 November 1899 when it is presented to Baron Maximilian Freiherr von Lyncker (1845-1923), Hofmarschall (House and Court Marshall of noble rank) for Kaiser Wilhelm II. A man portrayed in literary accounts as a rather toxic and forceful character, he reputedly exerted a certain influence over the Kaiser. Following the meeting on 8 November 1899 between the German and Russian Emperors at Potsdam near Berlin where Lyncker was present, Tsar Nicholas sent gifts to consolidate the eased relationship. As was usual, the Hofmarschall was also honoured for his position and role in the proceedings. The box left Russia for Germany and the von Lyncker family.
Nothing is known about the journey of the box during the war years until it is discovered in the safe of the Dupré family in 1966. François Louis Jules Dupré (1888-1966) was the grandson of Barbizon School painter, Jules Dupré. As an hotelier, he owned the George V hotel in Paris and was a successful business man. He collected art and bred racehorses, owning the stud Haras d’Ouilly which he bought in 1930. Upon his death, his wife Anna Stefanna Nagy Dupré cherished the box until her death in 1977. With no children, the box was received by her sister and in turn, in 2002, was inherited by the present owner.
Note (1): Dr. Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm – internationally renowned specialist and acclaimed author of “The Russian Imperial Award System, 1894-1917» ed. The Finnish Antiquarian Society, Helsinky, 2005