Two lavishly illustrated inventories of jewellery belonging to Ksenia Aleksandrovna, the Grand Duchess of Russia, are highlights of the Russian Sale, taking place on the 30 November 2011 at Bonhams, New Bond Street.
The albums served her as a personal, visual diary and are almost completely unrelated to political circumstances, which the Grand Duchess elaborated upon in correspondence and personal accounts elsewhere. Each birthday, name day, Christmas and Easter was marked with jewelled gifts from her inner circle comprising of her tutors, close friends and family. The modest pendants and lockets of the young girl are recorded, small gifts from the courtship of Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich (‘Sandro’) who was later to become her husband, and the simple rings marking the birth of her seven children. Grand Duchess Ksenia’s wedding celebrations marked one of the last times the Crown commissioned jewellery from the Treasury. The exquisite emerald, ruby and sapphire jewellery sets gifted by her parents, as well as the diamond necklaces, tiara and the pear collier-de-chien, by the jewellery house Bolin, were all recorded and annotated by Kensia in the inventories offered by Bonhams. The notes simply read “from Mama and Papa for the wedding”.
In the albums, there are notations of pieces given to her daughter Princess Irina, her sons and other family members. Alongside the extravagant wedding jewellery, emeralds and prize pearls and dozens of entries featuring enamel work are included. As the entries progress, revival styles are recorded evolving into Art Nouveau and then Art Deco. The thirty two years of gifts recorded in Grand Duchess Ksenia’s inventories spanned huge changes in the customs and fashions of jewellery. The Grand Duchess’ personal circumstances also altered drastically throughout the history of the inventories, as she lived through her father’s and brother’s reigns, the Revolution and two world wars, ending her days in an apartment in Hampton Court Palace, England where she died in 1960.
PERSONAL ILLUSTRATED INVENTORIES OF JEWELLERY AND BIBELOTS FROM 24TH JUNE 1880 TO 1905, AND OF JEWELLERY FROM 12 JANUARY 1894 TO 25 MARCH 1912, IN TWO VOLUMES
I. the first, smaller, volume from 1880-1905. 4to (22cm. x 17.5cm.), on 91 ruled leaves of text with drawings in watercolour and bodycolour, some heightened, of which the first 20 leaves are written on rectos and versos (i.e. 39 pages of inventory, the first page with list of the twelve months with their birthstones), containing 74 entries (no.4 omitted and crossed through) with Russian text on versos and French translation on rectos, with no. 75 in Russian only; the following 43 leaves written on versos only containing entries 76 to 265 (no.147 and 241 with brief annotation on recto, no.194 with annotation on pinned slip of paper), with 4 additional drawings dated 1892 between nos.177 and 178; the final 27 leaves on rectos and versos containing entries 269 to 499 with briefer descriptions, the front free endpaper inscribed ‘S.A.I. la Grande Duchesse Xenie Alexandrovna’ with her signature in Cyrillic ‘Ksenia’ below, the back endpaper with pencil inscription ‘305 eggs’, in original half roan and cloth boards, the upper cover stamped in gilt with crowned cypher ‘KA’, rather worn, stitching weak, spine partly loose and lacking central section, marbled endpapers with Russian printed label ‘I. Baliasov’s Shop, Nevskii prospekt’.
II. the second, larger, volume from 1894 to 1912. Folio (34.5cm x 21.5cm.), on 99 ruled leaves of text with drawings in watercolour and bodycolour, some heightened, of which the first 18 leaves are written on rectos and versos (no.17 on verso only), followed by 26 leaves on rectos only, 8 on versos, and a further 47 on rectos only, with 426 numbered entries, of which all but no.62-64, 219, 221 and 422-426 are illustrated), 11 illustrations on card pasted on leaves, 9 with annotations on stitched slips of paper, followed by blank leaves, in original diced maroon leather, the upper cover stamped in gilt with crowned cypher ‘KA’, marbled endpapers.
Estimate: £150,000 – 250,000,
US$ 240,000 – 390,000, € 170,000 – 290,000