a miniature hardstone study of two owls naturalistically carved from fawn coloured agate their eyes represented by cabochon rubies, their feet carved from gold, perched on a finely rendered gold branch emanating from a rectangular white onyx block.
Chief Workmaster: Henrik Wigström
St. Petersburg, 1908.
Height: 5.8 cm
Base: 3.6 cm x 2.2 cm
The gold used in this study is 72 zolotniks, the highest employed in Fabergé’s workshops.
The owls were purchased from Fabergé’s London branch by Her Majesty Queen Alexandra on the 3rd November 1908 for £20, 10s. The study is described in Fabergé’s London ledgers as:
‘2 Owls of Satuarn, legs + branches of gold, 4 rubies in eyes, wht onyx pedestal
To H. R. H. Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood, granddaughter of Queen Alexandra and daughter of Their Majesties King George V and Queen Mary.
Thence by descent.
Royal Harewood: Celebrating the Life of the Yorkshire Princess, Harewood House, March to June 2012.
Fabergé in London: Romance to Revolution, Victoria & Albert Museum, London 2021-2022.
Fabergé in London, McCarthy, Kieran (London, 2017), pages 42 & 43.
Fabergé in London: Romance to Revolution, edited McCarthy & Faurby, (London, 2021), page 174.
Queen Alexandra, wife of King Edward VII was Fabergé in London’s foremost customer. According to Henry Bainbridge, Fabergé’s English agent, the opening of the London branch was conceived by Fabergé as a ‘modest gesture’ towards the Queen. He compared her patronage of Fabergé with that of the Russian Emperors and described her as the firm’s ‘Great Patroness’. The joy the Queen derived from Fabergé’s works was infectious and shared by her family; King Edward VII joined her in buying Fabergé and her son King George V became one of the firm’s most discerning customers.
On the day Queen Alexandra bought the owls from Fabergé in London, she also acquired pieces from the renowned Sandringham Commission, including the obsidian Dexter bull that has become the motif of the commission.
Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood.