Christie’s London will be offering art objects, jewels, and other pieces from of one of the most important private collections of Fabergé masterpieces on November 29, as part of the auction house’s Autumn Russian Art sale.
The collection of 86 pieces is from Harry Woolf, former owner of the London-based pharmaceutical retail chain, Underwoods. It amounts to a portion of his collection of Fabergé pieces that he began collecting in the 1970s when he decided that he needed a hobby, until his death in 2019.
The pieces from the sale, “A Selection of Fabergé Masterpieces from the Collection of Harry Woolf,” include outstanding examples of objet d’art from the House of Fabergé – from jeweled hardstone animals and decorative photograph frames, to pill boxes, scent bottles, silver pieces and jewelry, and a celebrated collection of hardstone animals. The masterpieces from the Harry Woolf collection comprises four main groups of works: hardstone animals, functional works of art, Japonisme inspired pieces, and Russian styled pieces. All the pieces are considered to be among the finest examples that represent the design and craftsmanship of Fabergé.
“Mr. Harry Woolf’s extraordinary Fabergé collection has been described by many as the finest private Fabergé collection in the world. Mr. Woolf consistently displayed an exquisite taste and determination in acquiring the best of Fabergé and has always been a very generous lender to Fabergé exhibitions around the world,” said Margo Oganesian, Christie’s co-head of sale. “He has a strong penchant for Fabergé animals. Harry Woolf’s carefully assembled menagerie can be compared in its quality and variety to the British Royal Collection. As a very successful businessman, Harry Woolf has the passion and tenacity which allowed him to pick the best that was available on the market. His collection is so diverse and exquisite that it is difficult to compare it to any other collection in private hands.”
The collection includes examples of works by many famous Fabergé master artisans and designers, including Henrik Wigström, Mikhail Perkhin, Alma Pihl, Julius Rappoport, Fyodor Rückert, Alfred Tillmann, Victor Aarne, Friedrich Koehli, August Holming, Anna Ringe and Vladimir Finikov. They all helped shaped the style and craftsmanship that was defined by Peter Karl Fabergé (1846 – 1920).
“Carl Fabergé evoked universal admiration even during his lifetime,” Oganesian said. “He managed to lift the art of jewelry to a new level of craftsmanship and ingenuity, creating objects of fantasy unlike anything seen before. The House of Fabergé produced thousands of objects throughout its existence, and every single one of them possesses quality that can be felt.”
With a collection featuring such depth and breadth, Oganesian noted a few items of exceptional quality and technical skill that may be overlooked.
“The miniature egg-pendants by Fabergé have always been very popular with his clients. Produced in large quantities but always chic and of superb quality, these pieces are very appealing for the first acquisition,” she said. “The jeweled silver and gold egg-pendant is estimated at £3,000-5,000 (lot 78). The model of a playful cat in agate (lot 1), as well as the rhinoceros in kalgan jasper (lot 2) are wonderful examples of Fabergé animals. The cat is carved in great detail; the rhinoceros, on contract, is a very surrealist and abstract piece. Both belonged to Edward James (1907 – 1984), a British poet and patron of the surrealist art movement.”
The auction will coincide with an exhibition of Fabergé products at the V&A Museum titled, “Fabergé : Romance to Revolution,” which opens November 20. It will include 10 items Woolf’s collection that are not part of the Christie’s sale.