From “Russian Tea-houses and Tea-drinkers” in Chatterbox, 1867
How greatly tea is used in England by every class of society, we all know… But greatly as tea is used in England, it is still in Russia more common. From the palaces of the great and wealthy nobles, down to the wretched hovels of the poor peasants, tea is the universal beverage. – James F. Cobb
Antique Russian Carved Coconut Tankard with Imperial Portraits
Finely and elaborately carved coconut mounted as a tankard with silver gilt mounts and gilded interior. Features the profiles of Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, and Elizabeth
Russian, 19th Century
Height: 6-1/4 inches
Russian Antique 11th Artel Enamel Kovsh
Gilded silver and shaded and cloisonné enamel kovsh with geometric and floral motifs on a blue ground. A kovsh is a traditional Russian drinking cup, originally carved out of wood in the form of a duck. In this decorative kovsh, the bird-like form is clearly evident.
By the 11th Artel, Moscow, ca. 1910
Length: 4-1/8 inches; height: 2 inches
Russian Antique Decorative Arts and Jewelry
The most noted Russian jeweler from the late 19th century to 1917, the year of the Revolution, was Carl Fabergé. He produced some of the world’s finest enamel work, featured on many different types of items, ranging from clocks to frames to jewelry. Works of art included sculpture such as hardstone flower studies and miniature animals, and household items such as bellpushes, often made for the Tsar and other wealthy Russian families. Original Fabergé works of art have become some of the most coveted antique items on the market. (More to come.)
Antique Russian Gold and Lacquer Charka
Gold-mounted red lacquer charka, the handle set with an emerald.
By Carl Hahn, workmaster A. Treiden.
St. Petersburg, ca. 1890.
Length: 1 3/4
Austrian-born Carl August Ferdinand Hahn founded his company in 1873. He became an important supplier to the Imperial court and was awarded the distinction of purveyor to the court during the reign of Alexander III.
ALVR Blog: A Toast to Russian Art
Once simply traditional Russian drinking vessles, the kovsh and charka assumed an increasingly ceremonial status over the centuries, evolving into works of art. Check out our video or continue reading below:
The kovsh form has existed in Russia for centuries, originating as a type of drinking vessel in the shape of a duck. They were made of wood, and some were also made out of tightly woven cloth. In the 16th century, they evolved into presentation objects and began to be fashioned in silver. By the 17th century, kovshi (plural for kovsh) designs became more elaborate, rendered in both gold and silver.
Two examples of kovshi in our collection were made by the Russian Court Jeweler Carl Faberge (1846-1920). While famous for his Imperial Easter Eggs, he designed a wide range of decorative objects, often transforming traditional Slavic forms into his own beautiful precious jeweled vernacular. This yellow kovsh features rich guilloché enamel, a technique typical of Fabergé’s work, and for which he was renowned, and in this special case over 18k gold. The 5-ruble coin of Empress Elizabeth (r. 1741-1762) set in the base is a modification of an old Slavic tradition of insetting metal objects with coins. Traditional in form with a European touch, it’s an exquisite example of Eastern and Western aesthetics converging into a beautiful design. It was made in St. Petersburg, Russia’s window to the West, where art and architecture followed a European model. Moreover, we’re particularly fortunate to have Fabergé’s watercolor sketch.
Our other Fabergé kovsh, of particularly impressive stature, was by contrast made in Moscow, and its polychrome enameled design reflects those origins, a hallmark of the eastern, Muscovite style. This circa 1910 example is Fabergé’s take on Slavic Revival, a stylistic movement that emerged in the nineteenth century when Russian artists turned to the medieval past for design inspiration. Also referred to as Pan Slavic, this style was a specialty of Fabergé’s Moscow branch. Featuring contrasting fluid, bold art nouveau forms on the handle and upper portion of the cup, with purely geometric designs in a pastel palette on the base, this kovsh is also distinguished by the inscription on the handle, translating to “To the good memory of Russian friends,” for its 1914 presentation.
The charka, or charki (plural), is a small cup used for drinking strong drinks, predominantly vodka. They were traditionally made of silver, and their designs varied widely. Like kovshi, in time they evolved into decorative objects, some inscribed as presentation gifts, others with drinking maxims. This example is by Alexander Treiden, head workmaster for the Russian court jeweler Carl Hahn (1836–1899), Fabergé’s highly regarded contemporary. Simply designed in red enamel and gold, the handle is set with an emerald.
No longer simply drinking vessels, over time the kovsh and charka became objects as worthy of display as any other work of art. And to that, we raise a toast!
Antique Russian Niello Dessert Service
Gilded silver and niello dessert service, each piece richly decorated with intricately designed illustrations of gun dogs, wild game, and game birds set against varying landscapes. 34 pieces, comprising two sugar tongs, two cake servers, six coffee spoons, six teaspoons, six dessert spoons, six knives, and six forks.
By Nicholls and Plincke, St. Petersburg ca. 1850.
Images celebrating the hunt were a common design motif in nineteenth century decorative arts. The St. Petersburg firm Nicholls and Plincke, also known as Magasin Anglais, was established by two Englishmen, Constantin Nicholls and William Plincke, in 1829. One of the most important retailers of luxury items in Imperial Russia, the firm initially imported English silverware and also later produced designs inspired by it, in addition to a wide range of important works of silver, and thereby catered to Russian aristocracy’s growing taste for western design.
Niello is a method of decorating metal using a metallic alloy composed of silver, copper (or zinc), lead, and sulphur, which produces a blackish hue. Used by the ancient Egyptians and the Romans, the technique later spread throughout Europe. It is known to have existed in Russia since the tenth century, and figured prominently in Russian decorative arts over the centuries.
Russian Pan Slavic Silver Bogatyr Beaker
Antique Russian silver beaker with repoussé and chased design depicting two bogatyrs, heroic warriors from Slavic folklore. Cyrillic inscription along bottom: “zastava bogatyrskaya,” meaning “bogatyrs’ outpost.”
Russian, ca. 1900.
Height: 3 7/16
Antique Russian Enamel Kovsh
Russian gilded silver and enamel kovsh, decorated with a polychrome scrolling floral design and twisted rope border, the bowl terminating with an acorn finial.
A kovsh is a type of Russian drinking vessel, the oval shape modeled from a boat, with some versions designed as birds and ducks. Originally made of wood, silver versions emerged in the 16th century as the form increasingly assumed a ceremonial status.
Moscow, late 19th century.
4-3/8 x 2-1/4 x 2-1/4
Antique Russian Diamond Brooch
Old mine diamond brooch set in 14k gold.
By Lorié, Russian, ca. 1895.
Length: 2 inches
(approx 6 cts)
Red lacquered papier-mâché Easter egg with a depiction of the Resurrection on one side and a cathedral on the other. The interior inscribed in Cyrillic: From the St. Petersburg Old Believers Accepting the Priesthood.
By the Lukutin Factory, with their three Imperial eagle mark.
Russian, ca. 1890.
Height: 6-1/4 inches.
The Lukutin Factory was the most important creator of lacquerware in 19th century Russia, and held the Imperial warrant. Fabergé is known to have embellished Lukutin works with gold, silver, and gemstones.