of Small Collectors

françaisversion française article # 20




by Claude-Charles Feÿs, photos by Raoul Verbist

The hall of Imperial Russian Silverware of the Musée Royal de l'Armée et d'Histoire Militaire of Bruxelles

the hall's opening 
on October 2, 2001

(part 2)

Description and photos of some pieces

Descriptions obtained by documentation supplied by members and historians of the Museum, the SRAMA and guided visits to the Hall.
(photos taken in the Museum 'stage room'; in the Museum 'cabinets' and at Courbevoie - Paris in the headquarter of the Amicale des Cosaques de la Garde - Guard Cossaks Association)
Photos copyright Raoul Verbist, ASCAS and SRAMA member.
punch bowl punch bowl
The outstanding silver-gilt punch bowl at the time of its restoration.
detail of 
punch bowl detail of 
punch bowl
Details of the punch bowl with the three winners of the battle of Leipzig against the French Emperor Napoléon, in 1813:
the Tsar Nicholas I, the Austrian Emperor and the King of Prussia
This punch (or soup) bowl weighing over 110 pounds and made by Ovchinnikov, one of the most famous Imperial Russia silversmiths, is a unique piece made by the method of lost wax casting. Its overloaded Rococo form, inspired to Louis XIV and Louis XV style, contrasts with the simplest shape of Art Nouveu pieces made in Russia at the beginning of 20th century.
This bowl is decorated with paintings on porcelain of the last Romanov Dynasty Tsars in military uniforms and scenes of the 1813 Battle of Leipzig with the glorious Cossacks charge. The bowl has a gilded removable liner on the inside. It was originally in the Cossak Guard officers' mess of St. Petersburg and was designed and created by silversmith Ovchinnikov to celebrate the centennial of this battle against Napoleon.
The back of the bowl is inscribed with the names of the Cossaks Regiment Commanders and the date of their appointment. On the front of the bowl there's the Cross of the Knights of Malta Order, exibited also on the Regiment's flag (Tsar Paul I was the 72nd Grand Master). The Malta Cross was added to the Regiment's banner on September 14, 1911. The base is decorated with trophies of weapons, trumpets and military hats.
The bowl has Ovchinnikov hallmarks on the body and on the lid.
The gilded silver
Fabergé bowl
The wide silver-gilt Fabergé bowl
This silver bowl is not representative of the Fabergé style, usually distinguished by well balanced small artifacts realized with the use of various silversmithing techniques. This is a heavy, serial production, machine-made, and hand-finished piece, engraved on request with a particular dedication. On the other hand, Fabergé firm employing several thousands of craftsmen in its workshops, had a production of ordinary artifacts: dishes, silverware, bowls, etc.... and only selected masters were devoted to the production of high level artworks such as enamelled eggs, frames, snuff and powder boxes, figurines, jewels, cases, etc....
the gilded 
silver trumpets
The silver gilt trumpets
The 22 silver trumpets were made by Romo, a musical instrument maker.
It is a common practice to use the outstanding sonorous tone of silver and silver-plate to make trumpets or flutes. Less usual are decorations, engravings and gildings to mean that these are 'honor trumpets'. These trumpets have their original cords and flocks and a device to modify the octaves. This is proof that in 1913, the centennial of the Battle of Leipzig, they were made not only for decorative purposes but also to play music such as the Mendelssohn's Wedding March, that is the Guard Cossack Regiment's March. Every octave has a corresponding number on a trumpet.
The trumpets are of three types and dimensions constituting a really particular orchestra. All the pieces have 84 zolotnicki (875/1000 purity degree) hallmarks and the maker's mark Romo.
The candlesticks
These tall and heavy candlesticks made by Ovchinnikov represent a Cossak in the uniform of the period of Catherine II. It is intesting to note that the Cossack's figure of these clandlesticks has the same form of other objects of the collection, so that it's likely that Ovchinnikov used a single mould for a large set of military inspiration items.
All candlesticks have their detachable candle holders.
silver gilt 
centerpiece cup 
with cover
The silver gilt centerpiece cup with cover  
This silver gilt centerpiece has a double-headed eagle cover and two Cossacks, one of which is a lancer, standing at each side. It was made by silversmith Ovchinnikov and offered by the officers of the Cossack's Guard Atamansky Regiment to the St. Petersburg Guards Officers' mess for the centennial of the Battle of Leipzig in 1913. The centerpiece has the 84 zolotnicki hallmark.
The silver gilt kovsh
The silver gilt kovsh
The kovsh is a drinking vessel with a side handle evoking the aspect of a ladle or a spoon. The kovsh, carved in wood until the XIV century, was used as an honorific gift with sculptures, decorations and inscriptions. Usually the side opposite to the handle is finished with a double-headed eagle plaque. The most precious kovshs are made in gold or gilt silver. This kovsh is decorated with classical Russian medals, such as that commemorating the 300 years of Romanov dynasty or that commemorating the war against the Turks.
The kovsh is a gift received by the St. Petersburg Guards Cossacks' mess.
The Lancer inkstand
The Lancer inkstand
This silver piece represents a mounted horse Lancer on a marble base holding the lance with the Regiment's banner. The inkstand is in 84 zolotnicki silver and was offered in 1911 to General de Sporé by Lancer Empress Regiment officers. It is lacking one lid.
The silver gilt bowl with fabric imitating 'champlevé' lid
This is the masterpiece of this collection, inspired by Byzantine taste and made in 91 zolotnicki silver (947,92/1000), a comparatively high degree for silver of Russian manufacture. The bowl has Ovchinnikov hallmarks dating to 1874 and its cover, imitating cross-stitch point, is fully hand-made, with soldered silver wires forming pretty motifs intertwined with 'champlevé' parts. The bowl itself attains the highest level of Russian silversmithing, reminding one of the best Aztec jewelry. The 'champlevé' silver was typical of Russia and the best specialists were at Veliky Ustyug. Champlevé technique consists of applying enamel of different colors on to an engraved object and reheating the object in the oven without melting the silver. The cloisonné is another Russian technique done by soldering silver wires according a prefixed drawing and filling the cells with powder of enamel before reheating in the oven.
Couverts en argent 
utilisé au mess du 
Régiment des Cosaques
Silverware of the Cossack Regiment mess
(these silverware are Cossack Officers and White Russians sons and grandsons souvenirs preserved at Courbevoie - Paris)
silver centerpiece 
dated 1905
The silver centerpiece dated 1905
This beautiful 84 zolotniki silver centerpiece is decorated with the 4th Class Cross St. George Order, the most popular Russian Order. It is an Emperor's gift to Cossack Guards' mess decorated with dragons as a souvenir of Russian-Japanese war of 1904, .
The porcelain eggs
The porcelain eggs
Among the pieces of the Museum collection there is a group of porcelain eggs. The gift of Easter eggs was a Russian tradition like the famous Carl Fabergé eggs offered at Easter by Tsar Nicholas II to his wife, the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. The Fabergé, (formerly Fabriguer) belonged to a French Huguenot family which emigrated to Imperial Russia when Louis XV revoked the Edict of Nantes declaring Protestantism illegal. All Imperial eggs are well known and indexed and are now kept by several European Royal Families, Russian Museums and the Forbes private collection in the USA, recently bought by a rich Russian collector. Our good wish is that, returning in their country, the eggs may be presented to the Hermitage or Tsarskoïé Tsélo Museums ! The Easter eggs of the Cossacks' collection were given each year by the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna to the officers of the Cossack Regiments of which she was colonel. They are decorated with the initials AF (Alexandra Feodorovna) in old Russian characters except one with the initials of Nicholas II, and still have their decorative ribbons.
The vodka tumblers
The vodka tumblers
The vodka tumblers
The Museum also has a series of richly decorated vodka tumblers imitating the Cossacks and Lancers military hats. The most beautiful one, unfortunately in unmarked silver, is a red gilt mitre reminding one of Fabergé production for its high level of manufacture. Obviously these artifacts were not thrown over the left shoulder after having been emptied, as this custom wasn't practiced by Russian high society.
silver gilt punch ladle
The silver gilt punch ladles
These punch ladles are very very beautiful. Especially note the essential style and shape anticipating Art Deco.
Silver gilt kovsh detail
Silver gilt kovsh detail
St George and the dragon
Silver gilt kovsh
Silver gilt kovsh
>Champlevé silver tray
The small clock
This artwork has the hallmarks of St. Petersburg master silversmith Sergeï Verkovtsev (assayer D.Ch) and was a gift to a General by his Officers and soldiers. The clock was restored by the students of the Fine Arts Antwerp Academy.
The crystal fruit bowls
These bowls were made by Ovchinnikov and are decorated with 84 zolotniki molded silver Cossacks with uniforms of the time of Catherine II.
Photos copyright Raoul Verbist

back to Part 1)
(click here)

This is the English version from the original French text,
translated by Giorgio Busetto and revised by Jayne Dye