The executor of a Rhinebeck, New York estate made a huge discovery in the attic of George and Betty Davis, finding a rare Fabergé figure that recently sold at auction for $5.2 million. An unassuming wooden box held a hardstone portrait figure of Nikolai Nikolaievich Pustynnikov, who was a loyal personal Cossack bodyguard to Empress Alexandra Feodorovna.
Auctioneer Colin Stair spoke to WNYT Newschannel 13 and described the unique touches in the figurine, “Little sapphires in the eyes, little gold trim and gold braid and all these elaborately inlayed and enameled double-headed imperial eagles."
Tsar Nicholas II commissioned the famed artisans to produce the figure for his wife, Empress Alexandra in 1912, only a few years before the revolution that led to the fall of the Romanov family.
Just 50 figures were known to have been carved by Fabergé. The rarity of such figures is close to that of the Imperial Easter Eggs though production of portrait figures of known historical persons is even more rare for the House of Fabergé.
The bill of sale shows that the figure was acquired by Armand Hammer. Then in December 1934 the antique was sold at the Hammer Galleries in Manhattan to Mr. George Davis for $2250. It remained in the Davis family until the recent Stair Galleries auction in Hudson, New York.
The pre-sale auction estimate was $500,000-$800,000 for the authenticated figure that was found 6 months ago. Bidding began at $500,000 and when the gavel fell, famed London-based jeweler, Wartski, won the auction with a phone bid of $5.2 million. Wartski also paid a 15% commission on the piece for a total price of $5,980,000. Wartski specializes in the work of Carl Fabergé and Russian works of art and released this statement following the auction: “The purchase of the figure is a continuation of our long-running tradition of acquiring Imperial Russian Works of Art.” The jewelers continued, “Wartski were Armand Hammer's prime rivals in the 1920s and 1930s in buying the confiscated Imperial treasures from the Soviet government. We have over the years owned 20 of these rare hardstone figures, as well as a dozen of the legendary Imperial Fabergé Easter Eggs.”