Sold at Sotheby’s 31 October 2006
HUNT & ROSKELL THE PRINCESS VASSILI KOCHUBEY VASE AND TRAY: AN ENGLISH SILVER-GILT VASE AND TRAY SET WITH POLISHED HARDSTONES,
JOHN SAMUEL HUNT FOR HUNT & ROSKELL, LONDON, 1849-50
the shaped two-handled oval tray cast and chased at the centre with the princely arms of Beloselsky-Belozersky supported by four cherubim, encircled by grotesque hounds and trophies of fruit and set with thirty-two coloured hardstones, the goblet-form vase on a bracketed knopped stem with high dome foot and set with a further forty-two hardstones, in German lobate style on grounds of diaper and matting both stamped Hunt & Roskell Late Storr, Mortimer & Hunt and with mid-19th century St Petersburg import marks, the tray numbered 3735, the vase 3734
vase 51.5cm., 21¼in. high; tray 76cm., 30in. long
9303gr., 299oz. all in
READ CONDITION REPORT
Princess Vassili Kochubey, 1851
The Great Exhibition, London, 1851
Nicolas Ikonnikov, La Noblesse de Russie, Paris, 1959, p. a491, p. h103
John Culme, The Directory of Gold & Silversmiths: Jewellers & Allied Traders 1838-1914, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1987, vol. 1, pp. 245-246
Donald Mandich and Joseph Placek, Russian Heraldry and Nobility, Boynton Beach, Florida, 1992, p. 25
Rudolf-Alexander Schütte, Die Silberkammer der Landgrafen von Hessen-Kassel, Kassel, 2003, pp. 332-333
This vase and tray were featured in Hunt & Roskell’s Great Exhibition display as part of a suite belonging to Princess Vassili Kochubey, accompanied originally by two tazze and a casket.
The princess was born Hèléne Bibikov in 1812, daughter of Pavel Gavrilovitch Bibikov of St Petersburg and Elsaveta Andreevna Zakharjevsky, who later married Count von Benckendorff, hero of the Napoleonic Wars. Hèléne married firstly Prince Hespère Alexandrovitch Beloselsky-Belozersky (1802-1846), a major-general and aide-de-camp to Czar Nicholas I; the couple’s great-great grandson, Prince Paul of Yugoslavia, would rule that country as regent from 1934-41. After Hespère’s death, his wife wed Prince Vassili Kochubey (1812-1850), actual state counsellor and son of Prince Viktor Kochubey, the great statesman and imperial chancellor. The Princess, who through her marriages amassed estates of 72,000 acres, died in St Petersburg on 15 February 1888.
A glittering figure in court circles from her youth, the princess served the Imperial Household first as a maid of honour and then as one of the “very select” ladies of honour; she was later invested with the order of St Catherine. (Ulla Tillander-Godenhielm, The Russian Imperial Award System, Helsinki, 2005, p. 32) Upon the death of Prince Beloselsky-Belozersky she inherited his family palace on the Nevsky Prospekt. After undertaking extensive renovations from 1847-48, the result was, famously, a copy of the Stroganov Palace, sited directly across the Fontanka River. It is most likely that the present tray and vase were ordered for the redecorated palace, and therefore retain the arms of Beloselsky-Belozersky.
The vase and tray, two of the eighty-one silver objects displayed by Hunt & Roskell at the Great Exhibition, were listed in the 1851 catalogue as “a silver-gilt vase and salver, style of the 16th century, set with antique gems… property of the Princess Basil Kotschoubey [sic].” (Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations 1851: Official Descriptive and Illustrative Catalogue, London, 1851, vol. 2, p. 687). The polished hardstones, displaying individual features, would have been rare and valuable at the time, and together they form a spectacular collection of Russian minerals. Included are Kushkuldin, Orsk and Ural jaspers, Ural amazonite and rhodonite, Korgon porphyry, Turkestani jadeite, spessartine garnet, and a variety of agates.
Following the retirement of the great silversmith Paul Storr, the firm of Storr & Mortimer continued on as Mortimer & Hunt and then, from 1844, as Hunt & Roskell. The senior director of the firm was Storr’s nephew and long-time assistant John Samuel Hunt; at the time of the Great Exhibition, he oversaw a thirty-five person company producing silver and gold objects as well as fine jewellery. Hunt & Roskell’s factory was destroyed in the Second World War, though they retained their Old Bond Street retail premises until 1965.
With this tray and vase, Hunt & Roskell appear to draw more from 17th century German metalwork than from the 16th century, as cited in the exhibition catalogue, with the lobate forms and knopped bracketed vase stem recalling Augsburg and Nuremburg cups of the 1620s and 30s. Incorporation of hardstones into silver-gilt was rare in that period, however, and is more probably derived from later models, such as Tobias Baur’s agate-set Augsburg tea service, dated 1695-1700, now in the collection of the Staatliche Museen Kassel. The 19th century revival of such techniques was a patriotic Russian reply to the Saxon mining industry, known throughout Europe for its splendidly coloured minerals. Russian quarries were by this period producing stones of increasing quality and diversity, fufilling early predictions: “Siberia will yield vast quantities of minerals… [via] thousands of miners, each stronger than a thousand Saxons.” (Antoine Chenevière, Russian Furniture: The Golden Age 1780-1840, London, 1988, p. 259) This vase and tray, an extraordinary marriage of Russian materials and English technique, would have been a bold answer to the German craftsmanship also on display in the Great Exhibition.