According to The New York Times Arts Beat blog: Russian royals loved to collect figurines of their subjects. The Fabergé workshops produced about 50 sculptures in semiprecious stones and gold representing peasants, servants and the occasional Gypsy singer and street sweeper.
Two of the works, with glittering eyes and thick gray beards, realistically portrayed Imperial Cossack bodyguards. A depiction of Dowager Empress Marie’s servant Alexei A. Kudinov remains at Pavlovsk Palace near St. Petersburg. A statuette of Empress Alexandra’s bodyguard, Nikolai N. Pustynnikov, was long thought lost.
It was actually sitting in an attic in Rhinebeck, N.Y. In the 1930s, a Fabergé collector had acquired it in Manhattan from the dealer and industrialist Armand Hammer. It re-emerged this summer, with original receipts, when a descendant’s estate was cleaned out. Stair Galleries in Hudson, N.Y., will auction it on Oct. 26. (It is estimated at $500,000 to $800,000.)
“This is really a major addition to the literature — it’s a historical discovery,” said Gerard Hill, a Fabergé specialist who researched it for Stair. Fabergé fakes have been proliferating lately, Mr. Hill added, but he is convinced that the forgotten Cossack is real. “The expression in the face — nobody can do that these days,” he said.
Fabergé artisans carved sardonyx, nephrite and cacholong to capture Pustynnikov’s careworn forehead, creased boots and chest medals.
The figurine was part of mounds of Soviet booty that Hammer helped sell off to shore up the Communist regime with hard currency. According to “Selling Russia’s Treasures: The Soviet Trade in Nationalized Art, 1917-1938” (M. T. Abraham Center/Abbeville), a forthcoming book by nine Russian scholars, “Hammer effectively acted as the main intermediary in the efforts made by the Soviet government to ‘export the world revolution,’ a role which proved quite profitable.”
Objects that he imported, with czar provenance, have reappeared in the last few months. A two-inch metal cross brought $5,100 at a Skinner auction in Boston. An enameled icon painting of the Resurrection sold for $50,000 at Humler & Nolan in Cincinnati.
More Imperial possessions are going on view in the next year. The Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg is renovating a palace in St. Petersburg for his Fabergé collection. Another Russian billionaire, Alexander Ivanov, keeps adding to his Fabergé museum in Baden-Baden, Germany. In November, an exhibition at the Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis, “The Romanovs: Legacy of an Empire Lost,” will contain some of Hammer’s wares.