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Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Imperial Porcelain Vases for Sotheby’s Treasures Auction

Sotheby’s London have announced that a pair of Magnificent Pair of Imperial Porcelain Vases, Period of Nicholas I (1825-1855), St Petersburg, will headline Sotheby’s Treasures: Aristocratic Heirlooms Sale in London on Tuesday, July 6, 2010.

The auction – the first ever sale of its type at Sotheby’s – will bring together some 21 lots, the intrinsic quality and importance of which will be matched by the extraordinary nature of their provenance. Ranging in date from the 16th to the 19th centuries, and emanating from all corners of Europe, the works in the sale span the entire range of the decorative arts, from porcelain to silver, snuff boxes to furniture, and textiles to objects of Vertu.

Mario Tavella, Sotheby’s Deputy Chairman Europe, who has spearheaded the sale, describes what first triggered the idea: “Someone asked me once: what makes something a treasure? I thought about it…. In my world, the world of objects, a treasure would be something which is not only beautiful, precious, rare and hidden, but which also tells a captivating story. These are the kind of pieces that provoke an almost visceral reaction when we look at them – and these emotive Imperial Porcelain Vases are such objects. It struck me that, in the general course of life, encounters with real treasures happen all too rarely. And so I made it my job to set about finding them. Now, with this sale, we have 21 works of art to which I feel the term treasure can justly apply. It is more than many might hope to see in one place in a lifetime. “Just one of some such treasures is this emotive and historically significant pair of vases, which will provide collectors and connoisseurs of Russian craftsmanship and Imperial masterworks with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire a piece of Russia’s illustrious history and rich culture.”

These exceptional vases, featuring reproductions of paintings in the Hermitage by the Dutch Old Master Jan Van Loo (1614-1670), are among the largest and finest works ever produced by the Imperial Porcelain Factory. Measuring nearly 1.5 meters in height, they are remarkable both for their scale and for the quality of their modeling and decoration. Nicholas I’s keen interest in porcelain and high expectations manifested themselves in the production of truly magnificent and important works. Such grand vases were destined for Imperial presentation to the foreign rulers or constituted part of the dowries of the Grand Duchesses and invariably the choice of paintings for reproduction was determined by the emperor’s personal preferences. These vases, estimated at £1.4-1.8 million and painted by two of the finest porcelain artists of their day, P. Stoletov and V. Yelashevsky, were probably presented by Nicholas I to his daughter Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna (1822-1892), later Queen of Württemberg. The fragile porcelain has survived in its original state since the 1840s and having descended through the family the vases are now appearing on the market for the first time.

Image: Pair of Magnificent Pair of Imperial Porcelain Vases, Period of Nicholas I (1825-1855), St Petersburg. Photo: Sotheby’s