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An Imperial hardstone portrait figure by Carl Fabergé,

of Kamer-Kazak N. N Pustynnikov, the personal bodyguard of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna.

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posed standing, almost to attention, heels together and hands at his side, he wears a long dark nephrite coat, Fabergé’s craftsmen have transformed this unyielding stone into a fabric which overlaps, bellows at the hem and rumples on the arms and chest,  it is trimmed with brown Caucasian jasper fur and gold braid enamelled with black Imperial Eagles between lines of translucent red enamel stitching, his medals and orders are represented in enamelled gold , his face and hands are carved from cachalong, an unusual form of opal named after the Cach River in the Bukhara province of Uzbekistan where it is found, the stone’s relative softness and pale milky white colour make it ideal for portraying Slavic skin and Fabergé’s craftsmen perfectly used it to observe the Cossack’s proud features, his eyes set are with cabochon blue sapphires, the hair and fulsome beard are carved from grey Siberian jasper, the belt from purpurine, the trousers and boots are fashioned from obsidian and he wears on his head a purpurine and black jasper fur shako with gold trim.

The heels of his boots are inscribed, ‘FABERGÉ’ in Cyrillic capitals on one, and, ‘1912’, on the other, the soles are further inscribed in Cyrillic, ‘N.N.PUSTYNNIKOV’, and ‘KAMERKAZAK since 1894’.

Contained in an  original silk and velvet lined fitted Fabergé hollywood case, the silk lining stamped in Cyrillic ‘Fabergé, St. Petersburg, Moscow, London’, in Cyrillic beneath an Imperial double headed Eagle. The box is that of the matching figure of his brother Cossack Andrei Kudinov, held at Pavlovsk.

St. Petersburg, 1912,
height 7 inches (17.8cm)

 

Provenance

Nicholas II, Emperor and Autocrat of All the Russias,
Confiscated by the The Bolshevik Government,
Armand Hammer,
Mrs. George H. Davis, Rhinebeck New York,
Thence by Descent,
Stair Galleries, Hudson, New York Sale, 26th October 2013,
Wartski, London.

Illustrated

 

This portrait figure of Nikolai Nikolaievich Pustynnikov, the personal Cossack bodyguard (Kamer-Kazak, or Chamber-Cossack) to the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna was commissioned from Fabergé by Tsar Nicholas II. Pustynnikov (1857-1918) accompanied the Empress whenever she left the safety of the Imperial residences and was held in very high esteem by the Imperial family. He faithfully served the Empress from the time of her marriage to Nicholas II in 1894 until the imprisonment of the Imperial family in 1917. A photograph of Pustynnikov accompanying the Empress Alexandra and her daughters Olga, Tatiana and Maria, in a horse-drawn sleigh, is reproduced by Alexander von Solodkoff, The Jewel Album of Tsar Nicholas II and a Collection of Private Photographs of the Russian Imperial Family, Ermitage, London, 1997, p.193. The Tsar ordered from Fabergé another figure of Kudinov, the Kamer-Kazak to his mother the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna. Following the Revolution the Imperial Family’s possessions were confiscated by the Bolshevik government. The figures of Pustynnikov and Kudinov were taken by the new government to the Pavlovsk Palace, outside St. Petersburg.

The figure of Pustynnikov remained at Pavlovsk until the 1920’s when it left Russia with the American entrepreneur and art dealer Armand Hammer, who sold it to Mrs George Davis of Manhattan and Rhinebeck, New York on December 11th, 1934. No more than fifty hardstone human figures by Fabergé are recorded. They are on a level of rarity with the Imperial Fabergé Easter Eggs. Portrait figures, the depictions of actual persons rather than representations of national types are rarer still. The design for the figure of Pustynnikov dated 31st January 1912 is contained in the design album of Fabergé’s Chief Workmaster Henrik Wigström. Although the production of the figure was supervised by Wigström, it was probably carved by either, Derbyshev or Kremlev, the master lapidaries. They worked from a wax model produced by the sculptor Boris Frödman-Cluzel. Henry Bainbridge, Fabergé’s agent in London and biographer wrote; “The Tsar Nicholas II commissioned Fabergé to make stone models of these guards. They were to be portraits from life, the two Cossacks attending at the Fabergé studios where they were modelled in wax,” For an essay on the sculptor Boris Frödman-Cluzel see, Valentin Skurlov, Fabergé Firm Artist and New Discovery of Fabergé’s Stone Sculptures, Carl Fabergé, Goldsmith to the Tsar, National Museum, Stockholm, 1997, where the author notes (p.37), that, “as late as 1925 the figurine of Chamber-Cossack Pustynnikov was still at the Pavlovsk Palace Museum, together with his ‘brother’ Chamber-Cossack Kudinov.”

The figures of the Kamer-Kazaks, Pustynnikov and Kudinov were the most costly figures made by Fabergé. Their price of 2300 roubles each was more than double the cost of the second most expensive figure purchased by Nicholas II during the period 1908 to 1912, which was the boyar, at 950 roubles  and almost three times thecost of the famous dancing Moujik, at 850 roubles, formerly in the collection of Forbes Magazine and now owned by the Link of Times Foundation, St Petersburg.