Saturday, February 28, 2015

Masterpiece of the Week: Bust of Tsar Alexander III, 1900

Bust of Tsar Alexander III
Crown Copyright
The Royal Collection 
Image Courtesy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Alexandra, consort of King Edward VII (1844-1925), acquired this bust by Fabergé of Tsar Alexander III. The miniature bust, dating to 1900, is carved of smoky quartz and mounted on a column of nephrite applied with the imperial double-headed eagle. Obviously, the portrait was created after the Tsar’s death in 1894.

The piece was central to Queen Alexandra’s collection of Fabergé miniatures. Her Majesty was the Tsar’s sister-in-law. It’s possible that the bust was a gift to her from the Dowager Tsarina Maria Feodorovna.

Another bust of Alexander III, cast in gold, was included as the “surprise” inside Fabergé’s Alexander III Commemorative Egg, given to Maria Feodorovna at Easter 1909 by Tsar Nicholas II.

The Tsar and Tsarina frequently visited with their British royal relations, showing close dynastic ties, in England, Russia or Denmark. Queen Victoria recorded such a visit paid by Alexander III (then the Tsarevich) and Maria Feodorovna (Minny) in her Journal on July 1, 1873:

“The Csarevitch led me in [to dinner], as 36 years ago his Grandfather, the Emperor Nicholas had done. He is very goodnatured. I wore the Russian order, & sat between him & Minny.” 

Victoria is said to have mourned deeply when she received word from the new Tsar Nicholas II, that his father, Alexander II, had died. He wrote “dearest beloved father has been taken from us. He gently went to sleep.”

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