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Pushkin's Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance - Brilliant start to the 2nd Auction Week 2008 with silver highlights at the Dorotheum Vienna


A Russian monumental bowl

Silver-gilt Transylvanian pectoral

A knight with withdrawn mien,  standing with his arms folded across his chest, one foot resting on a horse's skull – this striking detail from a Russian monumental bowl ("ladija") adorns the title page of the Dorotheum Vienna's latest silver catalogue for the auction on 26. May 2008.

This bowl of silver and crystal glass, a work of art created around 1917 by Pawel Owtschinnikow, renowned purveyor to the imperial court, turned out to be the evening's top lot, eventually selling for the sensational sum of 248.800 Euro, far more than anybody expected. A second figure at the front end of the ornamental bowl represents a soothsayer consulted by Sir Oleg, the entire scene being based on a poem by Russia's national poet Alexander Pushkin: The soothsayer foretells that the knight will loose his life to the bite of a poisonous serpent crawling from the skull of his favourite steed. The highly coveted bowl bears the court purveyors' mark along with a dedication and the Moscow Kokoschnik hallmark of 1908-1917 (Cat. No. 338).

Another outstanding sale was preceded by a ten-minute bidding contest between a telephone bidder and a Dorotheum representative (acting for an anonymous buyer). The anonymous bidder finally came out ahead, acquiring the silver-gilt Transylvanian pectoral, measuring 11,5 cm in diameter, for 67.400 Euro. Set with turquoises, pearls, various glass- and imitation stones, and bearing the maker's mark SS, this late 17th century jewel from Hungary/Transylvania, in present-day Rumania, is of much earlier origin than the more common Transylvanian jewellery created during the second half of the 19th century. The attractive jewellery piece was originally estimated at 2.000 to 3.000 Euro (Cat. No. 1).

Russian objects – as well as Russian buyers – made their weight felt in the traditionally strong silver auction of the Dorotheum: A pair of silver-gilt girandoles from St. Petersburg, 1839, were sold for 36.900 Euro (Cat. No. 157), while a five-part tea- and coffee set from St. Petersburg (1866) by Nikols & Plinke, purveyors to the court, rose to 32.000 Euro (Cat. No. 168).

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