AN EXQUISITE PAIR OF HARDSTONE AND GILT-BRONZE MOUNTED CANDLESTICKS

July 2 2009, 4:21pm

The art of crafting decorative objects from hardstones developed in Western Europe in the Renaissance, but in Russia, the lapidary arts did not flourish until the mid-18th century, when St. Petersburg was being built. Peter the Great founded the first imperial Russian lapidary in 1721. By 1800 Russia's rich mineral deposits were vastly exploited and countless varieties of stone were discovered; interest in geologic exploration was so intense it had been called "a common disease" by Empress Catherine the Great. This pair of candlesticks is an example of the early work of the Russian manufactories. A pair of columnar table decorations made at Kolyvan in 1790 for the Stroganoff Palace, now in The Hermitage, are a related example from the late 18th century. Both pairs use red jasper for the top and base, and quartz for the shaft. Count Alexander Stroganoff (1733-1811) was a great patron of the arts, president of the Imperial Academy of Arts and director of the Imperial Lapidary works.