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F-BA-clock triptych frame green Inv 6016
Photograph courtesy Sotheby's London
 Three Fabergé clocks with a triptych frame design
by Workmaster Johan Victor Aarne, St. Petersburg, circa 1899-1904

This beautiful and exceptionally rare Fabergé two-colour guilloché enamel clock & photograph frame by Workmaster Viktor Aarne came up at auction at Sotheby's London on 4th June 2019, Russian Works of Art, Fabergé & Icons sale, Lot 248.  

It was previously pictured in Dr. Géza von Habsburg's book “Fabergé Imperial Craftsman And His World”, published in 2000, shown below. If you do not have this excellent publication, I would highly recommend that you add it to your library bookshelf.     
I was thrilled to see this remarkable timepiece come to market, after being hidden away in a private collection for so long. It was a joy to see it first-hand at the sale preview organised by Helen Culver-Smith, Sotheby's head of department. It is a triumph of Neo-Classical design, with the stylistic references to Ancient Greek culture for which the House of Fabergé is renowned. 

It features two colours of translucent guilloché enamel: apple-green and oyster-white, over a wavy engine-turned background. The central square panel contains a Hry Möser & Cie 8-day clock movement with its typical white enamel dial with Arabic chapters and open gold hands. The clock bezel is set with split seed pearls, the white enamel border is applied with berried laurels and rosettes. The hinged side panels house rectangular frames also bordered by seed pearls, and with shaped rectangular reserves applied with foliate swags, honeysuckle & acanthus details. The gold ribbon bow, so often found on Fabergé frames, in this example secures a heart-shaped laurel wreath, symbolising the triumph of love. Struck with workmaster's initials BA in Cyrillic for Victor Aarne, marked Fabergé in Cyrillic, St Petersburg 88 Zolotnik Assay mark, and scratched Inventory N° 60167. Width: 8¼in (ca. 21cm).

F-BA-clock tryptich green Inv 60167 GvH 2000 p272.jpg

A second execution of this design, this time in red & white guilloché enamel, was sold at the historic Lily & Edmund Safra sale at Sotheby's New York on 3rd November 2005, Lot 24. It sold for US$ 632,000 (Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium), over double the low estimate. The clock had been acquired by the Saffras from New York specialist dealers A La Vielle Russie. 

It is enamelled in two colours of translucent red and oyster white, being the Danish Royal colours, over guilloché engine-turned grounds. The side panels contain miniature portraits of the two youngest sons of Prince Waldemar of Denmark (1858-1939), the brother of Empress Maria Feodorovna, who gifted the piece. The Empress's nephews, painted on ivory panels by  Johannes Zehngraf, are Erik (born 8 November,1890) and Viggo (born 25 December,1893). Zehngraf (1857-1908), a Danish national, was the chief miniaturist in the Fabergé firm in St. Petersburg, specializing in portraits of the Imperial family.

F-BA-clock triptych frame red white-SNY-Safra-2005 11 03-L24.jpg

Looking for comparables in my digital archive, I found a third tryptich clock by Aarne of the same design composition in different colours, this time in translucent lilac & green guilloché enamel, with scratched Inventory N° 10435, width open 8¼ inches (ca. 21 cm.) height 4¾ inches (ca. 12 cm). It came up at auction at Sotheby's London a few years ago. For some reason, I cannot find the Lot number reference, and will make an effort to track it down and publish it here. 

F-BA-clock tryptich lilac green Inv N° 10435-SL-01.jpg

We can see the original ivory panels on the rear cover, in the photo of the clock when closed, shown below. The contrast between the opulent sobriety of the ivory when the piece is closed and the explosion of colour and decorative details that are revealed on the inside, providing a true feast for the eyes, is a signature feature of many pieces by Fabergé!

F-BA-clock tryptich lilac green Inv N° 10435-SL-02.jpg

One of the delights of studying pieces by the House of Fabergé, is that we can all enjoy them without having to own them! I hope you have enjoyed reading this article as much as I have in writing it and sharing images from my digital archive.


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F-BA-clock tryptich lilac green Inv N° 10435-SL-03.jpg
F-BA-clock triptych frame green Inv 60167V REAR-CL 20219.jpg
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