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AN IMPORTANT MALACHITE CENTRE TABLE 

Origin: Russia
Circa Date: 1803
Stock No: F3B0297
Location: London
Dimensions:
H: 31.9 in (81.0 cm)
W: 21.7 in (55.0 cm)
Price Range:
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A highly important Russian Imperial guéridon table attributed to Heinrich Gambs after a design of Andrej Voronikhin. The table features an inset circular Russian malachite top framed within an exceptionally drawn gilt-bronze guilloche decorated with intertwined flowers and foliage, the whole above an egg-and-dart border. The tripod base supports constructed of mahogany veneered wood with a lioness mask in drapery with surrounding scrolling foliage at the apex, the inward curved legs are mounted with a gilt-bronze female mask with patinated bronze bat wings, while the rear of the legs are applied with brass strips, the whole standing on elaborately fashioned leaf-cast claw and ball feet. This table remains the only table to retain its original condition and finishes.

Provenance:
This table was one of a pair presented in 1803 by Tsar Alexander I as a state gift to the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III and Queen Luise for the Königlichen Palace on Unter den Linden in Berlin.
Thence inherited by descent around 1840 by Princess Luise of the Netherlands.
Private European Collection.

This style of guéridon table was particularly revered among the aristocracy due to the marriage of the revival of the Antique with a utilisation of precious materials, of which malachite is an example. The table is one of a pair which formed part of an opulent collection of state gifts following the first meeting between Tsar Alexander I and King Friedrich Wilhelm III and Queen Luise of Prussia in June 1802. The Russian Tsar was so enchanted with the Prussian Queen that upon his return he instructed his vice-chancellor, Graf Victor Pavlovitch Kotschubej, to commission gifts for her. Documents in the Leningrad state archives support the delivery of a number of gifts on the 12th of October 1803 from St Petersburg to the Königlichen Palace in Berlin, the most magnificent of which was a full length Psyche mirror with a pair of matching splay-legged tripod tables. Although the original Palace does not survive today, the lavish ensemble was clearly recorded in a watercolour by Leopold Zielke (d. 1861) entitled A View of King Friedrich Wilhelm III’s Study in the Königlichen Palais, Unter den Linden, the pair of tables, one of which belongs to Mallett, are clearly visible on the left-hand side of the room framing the mirror.

Burkhardt Göres’ article for Apollo magazine, ‘Russian Furniture for the Prussian Court: A Present of Imperial Friendship’ states that in 1975 two designs by the Russian architect Andrej Voronikhin were formally identified with the gift at Königlichen Palace; one of the drawings clearly depicts a side view of the mirror with the splay-legged tripod table, bearing the monogram of the architect and the date 19th January 1803.

Having received the commission by Royal Command of the Tsar, Voronikhin would have dedicated all of his time and energy into seeing the ensemble completed to the highest standard, thus demonstrating the quality of Russian materials and craftsmanship. For example, The splay-legged tripod base is very delicately executed, able to support the contrasting heavy malachite top through a series of expertly applied brass strips extending along the inside leg. The patinated bronze wings of the chased female heads also provide additional support by channelling the weight further down the legs towards the feet.

Andrej Voronikhin (b.1759 – d.1814) was the son of a serf belonging to Count Alexander Sergeievich Stroganov, although it is generally accepted he was the illegitimate son of Stroganov. In 1777 he was sent to Moscow where he studied architecture, painting and perspective before accompanying the youngest son of Count Stroganov, Pavel Alexandrovich in a ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe in 1785, to widen his knowledge and build on his already exceptional talents, resulting in his ‘freedom’ from serfdom in 1786. Having been recalled to St Petersburg by Count Stroganov in 1790 and subsequently elected to the Academy of Arts, he spent the rest of his life involved in the construction of many Imperial palaces and grand residences including the rebuilding of the Kasan Cathedral, alongside producing many drawings for objects d’art and furniture most notably for Pavlovsk Palace.

Heinrich Gambs (b. 1765 – d.1831) was a pupil of the great German Master, David Roentgen, who made furniture for most of the crowned heads of Europe. By the late 1780’s Gambs was established in St Petersburg , his first workshop, with Jonathan Ott was in the area of the Kalinkin Bridge, and in 1795 he opened another workshop on Nevsky Prospect. Appointed Court cabinet-maker in 1810, Gambs made furniture for Catherine the Great and, after her death, for Alexander I, both of whom commissioned pieces often designed by Andrej Voronikhin, for all the Imperial residences.

Literature:
Antoine Chenevière, Russian Furniture: The Golden Age 1780 – 1840, London, 1988.
Burkhardt Göres, Russian Furniture for the Prussian Court: A Present of Imperial Friendship, Apollo Magazine, February, 1992.

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