An array of enamel items from the House of Fabergé will lead sales at Christie's Russian Works of Art auction in New York today (April 16, 2012).
An intriguing silver-gilt cloisonné and en plein enamel casket will undoubtedly draw the greatest attention. The intricate box, covered with elaborate floral and geometric motifs, features a central enamel plaque depicting Tsar Ivan the Terrible admiring Vasilisa Melentieva, after Grigory Sedov.
The Russian Tsar was infamous for his outbreaks of rage and his persecution of nobility, yet this delicate enamel shows him gazing gently at one of his young wives. The Fabergé box has the mark of Feodor Ruckert and is expected to bring $200,000-300,000.
It is matched by another similar enamel casket, this time depicting Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich departing for the hunt, with an estimate of $180,000-250,000.
The caskets will be joined by a fantastic jewelled three-colour gold, silver-gilt and guilloché enamel desk clock. This rectangular clock by the Russian jeweller, made in 1903, is enamelled in translucent lilac and is studded with diamonds set in entwining wreaths.
An estimate of $150,000-200,000 has been set for the piece, considerably higher than that of a similar Fabergé clock in the sale. A simpler, triangular clock featuring the same lilac enamel will sell for $70,000-100,000.
Outside of the Fabergé items, the sale will also feature several other striking pieces from Russia, including a late 19th century bronze model of a bear hunt. The bronze depicts a huntsman clutching an axe while engaged in a struggle with a bear. This uniquely Russian piece was cast by Woerffel, after the model by Nikolai Lieberich. It is expected to bring $45,000-65,000.
The Russian Works of Art sale will take place later today in New York and is expected to realise between $2.9m and $4.3m. The auction takes place just one day in advance of Sotheby's Russian Works of Art, Fabergé & Icons sale tomorrow (April 17, 2012).
The sale could well exceed the estimates of the auction house. The Russian market is particularly buoyant at the moment, with the wealthiest 20% of the country's inhabitants seeing incomes double since the end of Communism in 1991. The country's middle class is expected to grow to over 40% by 2020.