A hardstone figure of a Cossack bodyguard, found in an attic in Rhinebeck, New York, has turned out to be a long-lost Fabergé portrait figure commission by Czar Nicholas II in 1912. When Colin Stair sells it at his auction gallery in Hudson, New York, on October 26, he could sell it perhaps for $1 million.
“It came with all its papers. We have its bill of sale,” said Stair. “We have done our homework, and we know who he is.” Stair said the published presale estimate is $500,000/800,000, but he is hoping it will be his first million-dollar lot.
The figure has been identified as an image of the Imperial Cossack bodyguard named Nikolai Nikolaevich Pustynnikov (1857-1918), who protected the last Empress of Russia, Alexandra Feodorovna. The figure left Russia in the 1920’s with American entrepreneur, collector, and dealer Armand Hammer. Hammer sold the figure in 1934 to the mother-in-law of the collector in whose estate it was found.
The figure’s whereabouts had not been known since its sale in 1934, so its reappearance after almost 80 years has caused excitement in the art world. Nicholas II ordered two portrait figures from Fabergé in 1912, this one and one of Alexei Alexeievich Kudinov (1852-1915), the personal bodyguard of Nicholas’s mother, the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna. The Kudinov figure is in the collection of the Pavlovsk Palace on the outskirts of St. Petersburg.
Hardstone carvings from Carl Fabergé’s workshop are extremely rare, and portrait figures are far rarer than figures of generic types. This 7" tall lifelike figure with cabochon sapphire eyes is made of nephrite and jasper with gold and enameled details. It comes in its original Fabergé fitted holly wood case. It was probably made when Henrik Wigstrom (1862-1923) was supervisor of the Fabergé workshop in St. Petersburg and many of Fabergé’s sought-after hardstone animals, flowers, and figures were made.
For more information, go to (www.stairgalleries.com).
Originally published in the November 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest