Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Unusual Artifacts: A Miniature Nephrite Piano by Fabergé, Before 1896

Miniature Piano in Louis XVI Style
Michael Perchin
Before 1896
Nephrite, Enamel, Gold
The Royal Collection
Of the myriad little treasures that Mary of Teck collected throughout her long life, a great many of them were works by Fabergé. Queen Mary had a special fondness for Fabergé’s miniature “objets de fantasie.” These objects included several specimen of miniature furniture in the form of bonbonnières (candy dishes) thus allowing the Queen to combine her love of art with her passion for good food.
The craftsmen at Fabergé relished the chance to showcase their keen skills with such objects which allowed them to replicate in precious stones and metals the real materials of the full-scale object. This miniature piano of Siberian nephrite was made by Fabergé master craftsman Michael Perchin (whose work often caught the attention of Queen Mary) and is carved and polished to resemble ebonized wood (though it has faded to a greenish color now).

The piano’s lid opens just as the lid of a real piano would, allowing for use as a bonbonnière. More impressively, the front drops down to reveal a keyboard of gold and enamel. The keyboard is inscribed C. Fabergé.

Like many of the Fabergé items in Queen Mary’s collection, this wee piano originally belonged to Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna. It can also clearly seen in one of the display cases in photographs of the exhibition of Fabergé held in St Petersburg in 1902. The masterpiece came into Queen Mary’s hands between 1922 and 1931.

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