A silver-mounted seed-pearl and enamel clockFabergé, workmaster Henrik Wigström, St. Petersburg, 1908-1917
Lot 180* Y
A silver-mounted seed-pearl and enamel clock
Fabergé, workmaster Henrik Wigström, St. Petersburg, 1908-1917
Sold for £ 72,000 (US$ 100,402) inc. premium

Lot Details
A silver-mounted seed-pearl and enamel clockFabergé, workmaster Henrik Wigström, St. Petersburg, 1908-1917
A silver-mounted seed-pearl and enamel clock
Fabergé, workmaster Henrik Wigström, St. Petersburg, 1908-1917
square, the ground of translucent celadon green enamel over undulating sunburst engine-turning, the seed pearl bezel enclosing the white enamel dial with black arabic numerals and pierced hold hands under domed glass, all within finely chased acanthus tip borders, with ivory back and scroll strut, fully marked, scratched inventory number '19874', 91 standard dimensions: 11 x 11cm (4 x 4in).


    Acquired in Russia between 1903-1917
    Collection of Prince Mikhail Cantacuzène, Count Speransky and Julia Dent Cantacuzène Speransky-Grant
    Thence by descent

    Rarely does an object appear at auction that so clearly symbolizes the way in which the history of the United States and Russia and that of their people were intertwined during certain periods. This magnificent clock with a remarkable provenance embodied such a connection. It originally belonged to the Russian Prince Michael Cantacuzène, Count Speransky (1875-1955) and his American wife Julia Dent Grant (1876-1975). Born at his ancestral estate in Ukraine in 1875 to Prince Nikolai Cantacuzène and Elizabeth Siscard, Mikhail (Michael) Cantacuzène was the great-grandson of Count Speransky, the Russian statesman under Emperor Alexander I. Educated at the prestigious Page Corps School and Imperial Alexandrine Lycée, he served as the Russian representative to the USA in 1892 and later was appointed to a diplomatic position at the Russian Embassy in Rome. It was there, in 1893, that he met the seventeen-year old Julia, an American equivalent to a Russian royal. Born in the White House, she was the first grandchild of President Ulysses Grant and was popularly alluded to as the 'Daughter of the Nation'. When her father, Frederick Dent Grant, was appointed the US Ambassador to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the family moved to magnificent Vienna, where young Julia made her formal debut into society at the court of Empress Elizabeth of Austro-Hungary. Assisting her maternal aunt, Bertha Palmer, who was on the Board of Lady Managers of the World Columbian Exposition, Julia travelled across Europe promoting interest in the upcoming exhibition and collecting art at the same time. The attraction between Julia and Michael must have been instantaneous, because they became engaged after three short weeks. A four-month engagement followed, with a wedding on 24 September, 1899 at Beaulieu, an Astor home in Newport, Rhode Island which was the main social event of the season. Perhaps it was right from the start of her new life as a wife of a Russian Prince that Julia was introduced to the magnificent works of the 'Prince of Jewellers' Carl Fabergé, because among the gifts presented to the newlyweds there was an enamelled clock presented by Michael's mother, Princess Cantacuzène. Given the fact that she arrived from St. Petersburg, where by that time Fabergé's works were the most fashionable accessory, it is likely that a clock very similar to the present example was among the luxurious presents given to the young couple.

    During the next eighteen years, the young Prince Michael and Julia lived between their winter residence in St. Petersburg and summer estate in Ukraine. Michael left the diplomatic service for a military career, and soon became Aide-de-Camp to Emperor Nicholas II. In 1915, as a Commander of Russian Cossacks he led 15,000 men in what has been called the last great cavalry charge against a fortified position in military history. The family left Russia in the aftermath of the Russian revolution, escaping from St. Petersburg via Finland and then to the United States with a few precious belongings and with Princess Julia's jewels sewn into her clothing. It is most likely that the present lot was part of the that small group of items taken by Julia from her palatial dwellings in St. Petersburg. Avid supports of the White Army and the Tsarist regime, both Michael and Julia played an active role in the counter-revolutionary movement in Washington, DC but became progressively less active in the organisation after the Soviet government defeated all political and military opposition. Julia Cantacuzène became a writer and wrote many captivating stories about her life in Russia before the Revolution and the Russian people. Her books included Russian People; Revolutionary Recollections (1919), Revolutionary days; Recollections of Romanoffs and Bolsheviki, 1914-1917 (1920), and My Life Here and There (1922). Prince Mikhail Cantacuzène joined the family business in Florida and became a manager of the Hyde Park citrus grove and later a Vice President of the Palmer bank. Until the very end of their lives they were deeply interested in Russian affairs and cherished the years spent there.
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