Important pair of Russian malachite urns

imperial lapidary factory, ekaterinburg, signed and dated 1862

Each in three sections, the everted rim over detachable collar, the body with fluted shoulder and lobed base, on conforming fluted socle and square base, the underside of each inscribed in ink in cyrillic "Ekaterinburg, M.N. Krasnikov, 1862 March 1st". (2).

H: 27, D: 13 in.


Property from the collection of Henry C. Gibson and his descendants, sold to benefit the Henry Foundation for Botanical Research, Pennsylvania.
Estimate $20,000-30,000

First discovered in the Urals in 1635, malachite quickly became a favored material by Russian stoneworkers. Artists at the imperial lapidary workshop in Peterhof developed innovative techniques for its application, cutting the stone into thin veneers which were then carefully arranged on a smooth surface to create a decorative and seamless effect. Despite their success with the material, the distance between Peterhof and the malachite deposits proved challenging and in 1765 the imperial administration established the workshops at Ekaterinburg in closer proximity to the material's source.

It is possible that these urns were made for the May-November 1862 International Exposition in London, which did include works from the Ekaterinburg stoneworks as listed in the printed catalogue for the Russian section. We have been unable to trace any other piece signed in ink from the Ekaterinburg workshop, yet these are inscribed by the maker and dated March 1862, two months before the exhibition opened. Henry C. Gibson acquired many pieces from International Expositions, and photographic evidence records these urns as being in his collection as early as the 1880s.

Sold for $81,250 (buyer's premium included)