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Carl Fabergé, St Petersburg, 1899-1903, Combined timepiece and photograph frame. Silver-gilt and three-colour gold, translucent enamel, moonstone and pearls, 12.5 x 24 cm © Khalili Collection courtesy of Khalili Family Trust

Enamels of the World 1700-2000 from the Khalili Collections, to be exhibited at the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, from 8 December 2009 to 14 March 2010, is the inaugural presentation of a remarkable new facet of the Khalili Collections.  The exhibition will feature some 320 pieces selected from approximately 1,200 works in the enamel collection.

Enamelling has been an essential accomplishment of the virtuoso jeweller for more than 3,000 years, and many ancient works rank among the treasures of European and Asian art.  The relative speed at which the enamellers could travel in the 18th and 19th centuries and the ease with which motifs and techniques could be transferred from virtually one end of the industrialised world to the other, has given their work a truly international dimension.  Professor Nasser D Khalili’s achievement has been not just to present their work but to show them working in a global environment and, whether European or Asian, transcending the boundaries of national frontiers or individual enterprise.

The exhibition includes splendid enamelling by the most prestigious European masters.  The firm of Fabergé is represented by twenty-six works including a combined timepiece and photograph frame, while the work of Feodor Rückert, a workmaster who regularly supplied Fabergé, is seen in three items dating from different periods of his career including one of his great masterworks, the Ol’sen kovsh.  As a whole the collection magnificently displays the great variety of work produced by enamellers ranging from precious personal accessories such as jewellery to clocks, vases, and even pieces of furniture. At the same time fascinating differences may be noted in the use of the same technique in different locations such as China and Japan. 

The impact of patronage is well illustrated by many works in the exhibition.  Specific commissions include the small almanac made for the Empress Marie-Louise, second consort of Napoleon I, to commemorate the birth of their son, the King of Rome, and the casket made for Elisabeth, Queen of Roumania, which she gave to the French painter Jean Lecomte de Nouÿ.  Other works were made to order for royal and imperial households; among these is the Russian cigarette case by Hahn with a diamond-set imperial eagle.  In other instances enamelled works of art were used to commemorate an event such as the spectacular charger by Pavel Ovchinnikov that was presented by the city of Moscow to Emile Loubet, President of the French Republic, during his state visit to Russia in 1902.

The importance of the Khalili Collection and the number of wonderful pieces made by Russian craftsmen make its unveiling in one of the world’s greatest museums, the State Hermitage Museum, entirely appropriate and in keeping with Professor Khalili’s wish to share his collections with the world and to promote greater understanding between people of different cultures.

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Large kovsh, Carl Fabergé, over-stamping workmaster’s mark Feodor Rückert, Moscow, 1899-1908. Silver-gilt, opaque and painted filigree enamel, cabochon amethysts, 29.8 x 38.3 x 24 cm © Khalili Collection courtesy of Khalili Family Trust

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Covered cup. Unmarked, by Jean-Valentin Morel.  Sèvres, 1858-60, the vessel, possibly Burgundy, 14/ 15th century. Rock crystal, silver-gilt and gold with translucent, opaque and painted enamel, cabochon rubies, height 20.8 cm © Khalili Collection courtesy of Khalili Family Trust

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Corsage ornament, René Lalique, Paris, circa 1903-1905. Gold with en ronde bosse, plique à jour and champlevé enamel, cabochon rubies, facetted and cabochon peridots, 4.5 x 21 cm © Khalili Collection courtesy of Khalili Family Trust

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Box. Signed and inscribed Raqam-i kamtarin Muhsin al-mashhur bi-Halabi [Drawn by the most humble Muhsin known as ‘The Aleppan’], Iran, Qajar dynasty, period of Fath ‘Ali Shah, circa 1800. Gold, translucent and painted enamel, 3.4 x 8.9 cm © Khalili Collection courtesy of Khalili Family Trust

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Two vases. Attributed to Kawade Shibataro, Nagoya, circa 1910. Copper, silver wire cloisonné enamel with some silver foil, silver mounts, height 34.5 cm © Khalili Collection courtesy of Khalili Family Trust

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Evening bag. Engraved signature, by Aloisia Rucellai, Florence, circa 1968. Gold and platinum, translucent enamel, diamonds and rubies, 13.9 x 19 x 5.1 cm © Khalili Collection courtesy of Khalili Family Trust

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Almanac. François-Regnault Nitot, Paris, c. 1811. Gold, opaque champlevé, translucent and painted enamel, pearls, vellum, 5.9 x 3.8 x .9 cm © Khalili Collection courtesy of Khalili Family Trust