Dress Ornament thumbnail 1
Dress Ornament thumbnail 2
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Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Jewellery, Rooms 91, The William and Judith Bollinger Gallery

Dress Ornament

1764 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

In 1764, the Empress Catherine the Great commissioned the goldsmith Leopold Pfisterer to make a large suite of diamond and Bohemian garnet jewellery. It was composed of a necklace, bracelets and other jewels. On the reverse of the diamond ornaments are tiny holes through which passed threads strung with garnet beads.

Two of the jewels are inscribed with their inventory numbers and gemstone weights in carats. One also has the year of the commission and the monogram of Leopold Pfisterer.

It is rare for such magnificent diamond jewellery to survive intact, because succeeding generations tended to melt it down and re-make it in the latest fashion. The set was formerly part of the Russian Imperial Collection. It was sold by the Bolshevik government after the Russian Revolution of 1917.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Brilliant-cut diamonds set in silver
Brief Description
Dress ornament from a set of 46, shuttle shaped, brilliant cut diamonds set in silver, made by Leopold Pfisterer, Russia, 1764.
Physical Description
Dress ornament, brilliant cut diamonds set in silver. Shuttle shaped. One of a set of 46 dress ornaments (M.95:1-46-1951), the backs of somes pieces inscribed with the Russian royal inventory numbers for 1764, and one with a monogram.
Dimensions
  • Length: 4.2cm
  • Width: 1.8cm
  • Depth: 0.7cm
Credit line
Cory Bequest
Object history
One of a set of 46 ornaments (M.95:1-46-1951). Research in the Russian State Historical Archives by L. K. Kuznetsova has revealed that in 1764 Catherine the Great commissioned Leopold Pfistererer to create a suite of diamonds and Bohemian garnets (Hermitage Readings in Memory of V. Levinson-Lessing, St Petersburg, pp. 22-24.) Along both the edges of almost all the diamond ornaments are small tubes at right angles to the plane of the ornamement, apparently to allow lines to be threaded behind the ornament. These lines were strung with garnets so that that the diamonds appeared as highlights in the swathes of garnets. A virtual reconstruction using one of the diamond ornaments and strings of garnets is shown in the V&A's jewellery gallery on the Hidden Treasures interactive. Hair pins and earrings which appear to come from the same, or a very similar, suite survive in the collection of the Diamond Fund in the Kremlin. These have both the diamond elements and garnets (illustrated in Olga Gorewa et al., Joyaux du Trésor de Russie, Paris, 1991, figs. 24, 25).



One of the ornaments (M.95:13-1951) is inscribed on the backplate: 'G.380./K 339 24/32'. This appears to be an inventory number and a statement of the total weight in carats and fractions of a carat of the gemstones in a large number of ornaments. Another ornament (M.95:28-1951) is inscribed on the backplate with an inventory number, a weight, the monogram of Leopold Pfisterer, and the year of the commission: 'Z.6 St. B. 1325 / K. 98 3/32 LP. [monogram] / 12 No 1764'.



Later the diamond ornaments which are now in the V&A's collection were separated from the garnets. The royal jewellery was kept in the Diamond Room, a strong room in the Winter Palace in St Petersburg. The Diamond Room inventory, 1865, records that a group of 54 diamond dress ornaments were in the possession of the Tsarina Maria Alexandrovna (died 1880), the wife of Tsar Alexander II (assassinated 1881). The ornaments were worn in one of the grandest of all costume balls in St Petersburg, 1903, by Michael Alexandrovich, brother of Tsar Nicholas II, sewn along the edge-trimmings of a short-sleeved garment (illustrated in Prince Michael of Greece, Jewels of the Tsars, London, 2006, p. 147; also shown in the Hidden Treasures interactive in the V&A's jewellery gallery).



At the beginning of the First World War, the royal jewellery was moved from St Petersburg to the Kremlin in Moscow, where it was stored in nine chests in the Armoury Chamber. It remained there after the Revolution in 1917 and in 1922 a committee was set up to catalogue and value it under the chairmanship of Professor A. E. Fersman. The Diamond Fund Catalogue (Moscow, 4th issue, 1925, p. 27, no. 216) notes 45 diamond ornaments of this size and description, 'period of Catherine the Great'. The entry states that the ornaments were no. 266 in the 1922 inventory. Many jewels were retained in the Diamond Fund and can be seen on display in the Kremlin. These include a corsage brooch and earrings, set with spinels and diamonds, which were made by Leopold Pfisterer in 1764, the same year as he supplied the diamond and garnet suite of which the diamond ornaments in the V&A formed part.



While many jewels were retained in the Kremlin, including the 18th-century regalia, others were sold to a syndicate who put them up for auction at Christie's London on 16 March 1927 'in order to close the Partnership Account'. Lot 92 of the 124 lots was composed of 46 diamond ornaments. They were bought for £1150 by S. J. Phillips Ltd. and were bequeathed by Jane, Lady Cory, to the Victoria and Albert Museum after her death in 1947. Lady Cory was a keen pianist, needlewoman and collector, who married Sir Clifford Cory, a Welsh colliery owner and a Liberal policitian.
Subject depicted
Summary
In 1764, the Empress Catherine the Great commissioned the goldsmith Leopold Pfisterer to make a large suite of diamond and Bohemian garnet jewellery. It was composed of a necklace, bracelets and other jewels. On the reverse of the diamond ornaments are tiny holes through which passed threads strung with garnet beads.



Two of the jewels are inscribed with their inventory numbers and gemstone weights in carats. One also has the year of the commission and the monogram of Leopold Pfisterer.



It is rare for such magnificent diamond jewellery to survive intact, because succeeding generations tended to melt it down and re-make it in the latest fashion. The set was formerly part of the Russian Imperial Collection. It was sold by the Bolshevik government after the Russian Revolution of 1917.
Collection
Accession Number
M.95:41-1951

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record createdJune 30, 2005
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