Charles J. Winston, New York, 1968. Rosalinde & Arthur Gilbert.
V. B. Semyonov, "Malachite", 1987, p. 184, illustrating an identical malachite tazza with no handles and a gilt bronze base with cornucopias and p. 187, illustrating an identical malachite tazza but with differing handles and a gilt bronze base with cornucopias. Anna Maria Massinelli, "The Gilbert Collection: Hardstones", 2000, p. 204, no. 89, illustrating this piece and noting that "As indicated by the inscription on the base: G G Müller, St Petersburg, this vase comes from one of the many private workshops in the Russian city. Malachite objects produced by the Russian workshops were very much admired at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851 for their technical virtuosity. Large vases similar to this can be found in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg."
An extremely fine nineteenth century Russian gilt bronze mounted malachite tazza by G G Müller of Saint Petersburg, stamped on the base G G Müller/St Petersburg, the circular dish with a moulded rim flanked by a pair of ornate scrolled acanthus-wrapped gilt bronze handles, above a spreading columnar shaft and a rectangular plinth set upon a squared gilt bronze base with foliate banding
Saint Petersburg, date circa 1840
Height 59 cm, width 50 cm.
Almost identical Russian tazze made at the Peterhof Lapidary Works but without the gilt bronze handles were gifted by Tzar Nicolas I to the Infanta Luisa of Spain to mark her marriage to the Duc de Montpensier in 1846 (illustrated in J. Kugel, "Trésors des Tzars - La Russie & l'Europe de Pierre le Grand à Nicolas Ier", 1998, p. 297). Russia's passion for stone cutting and particularly that of malachite began in the eighteenth century but reached its zenith during the 1840s and 1850s, when the present tazza was created. By then the technical expertise needed to create mosaic malachite was fully developed; the skilled craft was carried out by numerous experienced artisans, often members from the same families who passed on the technique of working hard materials from generation to generation. Infinite skill was necessary to create works of art from malachite since it was relatively fragile and difficult to work.
There were three main centres in Russia that transformed malachite, jasper, porphyries and other decorative hard stones into tazze, urns, vases, pedestals, candelabra and other luxury objets d'art. The oldest was the Peterhof Lapidary Works, where the present piece was almost certainly made. Founded in 1721, along the shores of the Gulf of Finland, the Peterhof factory was only a few miles from Saint Petersburg and thus perfectly situated to cater for the insatiable demand for decorative stone artefacts to grace the Imperial residences. However the works were a long distance from any mines or quarries; thus a few years later a second Imperial lapidary works was opened at Yekaterinburg, in the heart of the Urals where rich deposits of malachite and other hard stones were quarried. In 1786 the Kolyvan Lapidary Works in western Siberia were opened, which specialised in the creation of colossal pieces made from the stones extracted from the Altari Mountains.
As here the brilliant verdant green malachite pieces were often offset by sumptuous gilt bronze mounts, which in keeping with other Russian artefacts of that period reflected the French Classical style. By the 1840s the two main Parisian bronziers whose designs were the most influential in Saint Petersburg were Claude Galle (1759-1815) and Pierre-Philippe Thomire (1751-1843). In particular the bronze mounts adorning the present tazza owe much to Thomire's designs, comparing for instance with his use of bold acanthus scrolls for a gilt bronze tazza as well as a candelabrum, both dating from the early 1830s (respectively illustrated in Hans Ottomeyer and Peter Pröschel, "Vergoldete Bronzen", 1986, p. 389, pl. 5.16.18 and p. 392, pl. 5.17.9).
This magnificent work was once owned by the prestigious New York gallery, Charles J. Winston which, founded by the latter in 1918 and continued by his son, specialised in fine antique furniture, decorations and lighting fixtures. It was subsequently in the acclaimed Gilbert Collection, formed by Rosalinde & Arthur Gilbert.