L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i



Sunday, January 26, 2020

Lost splendor - images from the Fersman Catalogue


Tiara made at the beginning of the nineteenth century for the Empress Elisaveta Alexeievna, consort of Alexander I.

If you wait long enough, the internet usually coughs it up. I can't count how many times I've searched for a large, good quality image of some painting or photograph that fascinated me, and just couldn't find anything sufficient. No matter how hard I tried, no matter the trickery employed. And then, often long after the initial search, I gave it another go and, voilà, there it was. Case in point are these images from the famous/infamous Fersman Catalogue.
 

Following the Emperor’s abdication in 1917, noted geochemist and mineralogist A.E. Fersman, with help from experts and jewelers including Agathon Fabergé, was tasked with photographing and cataloguing Russia’s crown jewels and other important jewelry belonging to its imperial family. In 1925-26, the Bolshevik government published the result, "Russia’s Treasure of Diamonds and Precious Stones." It consisted of one hundred plates, many of which were different views of the same object. Approximately twenty copies of the Fersman catalogue are known to exist today.


The jewels in these photographs were all collected during the Romanov dynasty, beginning with the reign of Peter the Great and continuing into that of Emperor Nicolas II.The items strewn across the table in that famous photograph were considered the most valuable, historically, but there were large reserves of loose stones as well: diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, rubies, pearls. And the Bolshevik cache of looted jewelry also included important pieces that had been personally owned by other members of the extended Romanov family and by the Russian aristocracy, all of which had been quickly "nationalized." Fersman stated that the precious objects pictured in his catalogue were part of the country's great artistic heritage and would "never be sold or done away with." But the new government, desperate for cash, started selling off its pilfered treasure almost immediately after the Revolution. A large percentage of the jewelry - magnificent works by the likes of Cartier, Boucheron, Chaumet, Bolin, and Fabergé - was simply dismantled, the stones pried out and sold for the materials. And once the catalogue was published it was given to potential buyers; much of what I've shared here was sold to Anglo-American syndicates and subsequently auctioned, whether intact or broken up. Most of what survives today, what the Bolsheviks held onto, is kept in the Kremlin's Diamond Fund.


As the portfolio pages have very wide borders, I've cropped the images to the edges of the photographs themselves so that they'll view as large as possible here. I haven't included the Imperial Crown or other of the regalia, though they certainly feature in Fersman's catalogue. I'm nothing like a completist with the captions in this post; I haven't the time this go 'round to do all the research for that. (I assure you, that that breaks my pedantic little heart!) So I've only noted details of the various owners, designers, etc., when I already knew the information and didn't have to look anything up. I figure diamonds and pearls can speak for themselves, but where I've been able to identify the variety of colored stone(s) in an image, I've done so.

Partly disassembled necklace set with sapphires.
The brooch at upper left is set with an emerald.
Diadem and paired necklace. (Two images.)
The brooch on the right is usually understood to be en suite with the above diadem and necklace.
Tiara set with sapphires.
Partly disassembled necklace.
Tiara later owned by Gladys, Duchess of Marlborough and, later still, Imelda Marcos.
Mantle clasp. (Worn as part of the wedding regalia of the Romanov grand duchesses.)
 (Worn as part of the wedding regalia of the Romanov grand duchesses.)
Earrings at the top, in the form of cherries; the attached gold wires were looped over the top of the ear to help support the weight. 
(Worn as part of the wedding regalia of the Romanov grand duchesses.)
Tiara set with a large pink diamond at the center. (Worn as part of the wedding regalia of the Romanov grand duchesses.)
(The "waterfall" brooch" at center bottom was usually worn as part of the wedding regalia of the Romanov grand duchesses.)
(Worn as part of the wedding regalia of the Romanov grand duchesses.)
Necklace set with sapphires.
Sapphire demi-parure made by the firm of Friedrich Koechli for the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. (Three images.)
The brooch on the right is en suite with the two pieces above.
Belt, partly dismantled in the nineteenth century in order to create the Romanov nuptial crown (see below).
Nuptial crown, created from elements of an eighteenth century belt (see above) sewn onto a red velvet frame. Now in the collection of the Hillwood estate.
(Worn as part of the wedding regalia of the Romanov grand duchesses.)
Aigrette set with sapphires.
The miniatures represent, left to right, top: Peter the Great, Tsar Alexander II (?), and Tsar Nicholas I. At bottom is the Tsarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich, 
Turquoise Tiara and brooch made by Fabergé for the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. (The brooch may be slightly out of scale.)
Partly disassembled necklace.
The brooch at bottom right is set with a very large, briolette-cut Ceylon sapphire.
Embellished Kokoshnik headdress.
The earrings and aigrette at center are set with sapphires.
The pendant at center - dubbed "Caesar's Ruby" - is set with a 52ct rubellite tourmaline.
Diamond, emerald, and pearl collier d'esclave assembled by Fabergé to be worn by the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna at the Winter Palace "Boyar" ball of 1903.
At top, an emerald Sévigné brooch by Fabergé and, at bottom center, an emerald set by Fabergé and worn as a pendant on the Empress' collier d'esclave (above).
This tiara was broken up after the Revolution but, decades later, the Soviets made a copy of it.
Emerald demi-parure made by Bolin (diadem and necklace) for the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. (Three images.)
While the diadem and necklace were the work of Bolin, the plastron - a bodice ornament - was the work of Fabergé.
(This, too, disappeared after the Revolution and, decades later a copy was made by the Soviets.)

These last three items were found in a little-known earlier publication - "The Russian Diamond Fund" of 1922 - but not included in the Fersman catalogue.

Tiara set with sapphires.
Sapphire brooch.
Partly disassembled necklace.



10 comments:

  1. Oh my gosh, what a treasure trove. Thank you for your persistence in looking for images, they are all truly breathtaking. I love a tiara - FM finally bought me one for my birthday this year - so I have something proper to wear while I clean the house.

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  2. What a wonderful surprise you have given us all today. Imagine my delight when I saw this posting in my inbox and then complete and utter amazement when I looked at photo after photo after exquisite photo! I have shared your blog with some of my friends and told them to look at your fabulous article. Thank you for giving us all a lovely gift.

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  3. So lovely, thank you for sharing! The pieces at Hillwood I've seen many times and are simply amazing. Astounding to think they were only such a small portion of this collection!

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  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  5. Oh my goodness!

    What a treat, thank you so much xx

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  6. Thank You Very Much, amazing..

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