A clockwork silver rhino by Russian maker Faberge is heading to auction at Christie’s.
It’s part of an important collection of Faberge that will be offered in a sale of Russian art in London on November 27.
Faberge automatons are rare outside of museums
The intricately designed piece is less than three inches in size and can walk, while also moving its head and tail.
It’s one of only four such pieces known and once belonged to Prince Vasili Alexandrovich (1907-1989), grandson of Russian Empress Maria Feodorovna (wife of Alexander III).
It was gifted him by his grandmother circa 1914-1915.
The history of the piece up to that point is vague, but it’s thought to have been bought new by a Lord Howe at Faberge’s London boutique in 1909.
Christie’s expert Helen Culver-Smith said: ‘It’s an object that’s been known to us because it’s so well-exhibited...
“Faberge automatons are very rare outside of museum collections, and to be able to handle one, winding the key, watching it walk and wag its tail, was extraordinary.”
The lot is valued at £300,000-400,000 ($400,374-533,832).
An onyx polar bear, also by Faberge, carries an estimate of £200,000-300,000 ($266,948-400,374).
There's a profound attention to detail on this carving
It was originally acquired by Virginia Fair Vanderbilt, of the prominent New York family, in London.
The presentation box bears the initials “B.G. / Scotland. / 1909”.
It’s thought Virginia gifted it to her friend, Berthe de Ganay, on a visit that year.
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