Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Home Beautiful: Queen Alexandra's Elephant Bell-Push, 1896-1900

Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection
Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Alexandra, consort of the rather lusty Edward VII, amused herself while her husband was dating other women by collecting the work of the House of Fabergé—especially wee animals made of precious stones. This collection was one of the few things upon which Queen Alexandra and her daughter-in-law, the Duchess of York (later Queen Mary, Consort of George V) could agree as both enjoyed this particular hobby.

When one collects Fabergé animals, it’s only natural, after amassing a few hundred, that one would start to commission unusual pieces to make the collection a little more exciting. So, why not a bell-push shaped like an elephant?

Here, made between 1896 and 1900 in nephrite, silver, and guilloché enamel, and rubies we see such a bell-push. Even though Fabergé was bes known for opulent decorative items, they did occasionally produce practical items, among which bell-pushes were some of the most functional and complicated. Such bell-pushes were designed to sit upon a desk.

Here, the push-piece is in the form of a silver elephant set with cabochon ruby eyes. The elephant is a reference to Queen Alexandra’s native Denmark, where the elephant is incorporated in the design of the senior Danish order of chivalry.

The elephant, here, stands on a tapered platform of salmon-pink guilloché enamel with a nephrite base. It bears the mark of Fabergé ‘s Karl Armfelt; with a silver mark of 88 zolotniks (1896-1908); and Fabergé in Cyrillic characters.

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