Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014
Imperial presentation box
Gem-set presentation boxes set with a miniature portrait of the Tsar or the imperial couple were presented as remuneration for service rendered or, in the case of foreign recipients, as a demonstration of good relations between the two nations. This box was one of the last imperial presentation boxes ever to have been given on behalf of the Tsar. It was made in Wigström’s workshop, where it was completed on 30 September 1916. It is richly decorated in dark green guilloché enamel, the gold beneath the enamel engraved in a radiating sunburst design, edged with oyster-coloured enamel and richly set with ten brilliant-cut diamonds in circular mounts and two borders of rose-cut diamonds. In the centre of the lid is a miniature of Tsar Nicholas II by the court miniaturist Vassily Zuiev; the radiating guilloché enamel emanating from the miniature emphasises the status and power of the Tsar. Nicholas II wears the uniform of the 4th Imperial Family Rifle Guards and the Order of St George, which he received on 25 October 1915. The ledgers in the imperial cabinet archives reveal that the miniature was allocated on 5 May 1917, almost two months after theTsar’s abdication. The recipient was a member of the French Academy, Gabriel Hanotaux (1853–1944), to whom the box was presented by Grand Duke Nicholas (first cousin once removed of Nicholas II) on behalf of the Tsar. Hanotaux was Minister of Foreign Affairs between 1894 and 1898 under President Faure and developed the rapprochement between France and Russia. It is notable that, in spite of the political turmoil in Russia, this box managed to reach its intended recipient. Queen Mary acquired it and gave it to King George V on his birthday, 3 June 1934.
Mark of Henrik Wigström; gold mark of 72 zolotniks (1908-17); Fabergé in Cyrillic characters
Text adapted from Fabergé in the Royal Collection