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62nd Fine Art Auction | 07. December 2019
Gift for the 50th anniversary of Rud. Sack, manufacturer for agricultural machinery in Leipzig-Plagwitz, by Dr. Walter Lessing, director of "Rabotnik", collective for agricultural machinery, Moscow.
Silver, 88 zolotnik, parcel-gilt. Hull-shaped corpus, the front segment with the sculptural figure of a falconer in historical robes on a galloping horse, flanked by additional falconers. On top of his right raised arm a falcon. Large "J"-shaped handle, on either side an ornamental relief, showing a fox and a rabbit. The rear of the body with the engraved dedication "Dem Hause "Rudolf Sack", die dankbare Act.-Ges. "Rabotnik"" and on the opposite side: "5. Mai 1863–1913". At the bottom marked "K. Fabergé" in cyrillic letters, above the two-headed eagle. Besides with the mark of the district administration of Moscow (oval and circle) as well as with the engraved inventory number "21601".
Compare Goldberg, T.: Verzeichnis der russischen Gold- und Silbermarken, München 1971, no. 870, 1938, 1941.
We thank Dr. Juliane Gohla, great-granddaughter of Rudolph Sack, for kind advice.
We thank Mrs Sabine Lessing, wife of Dr. Walter Lessing's grandson, for kind advice.
L. ca. 49,3 cm, h. 25,7 cm, weight approx. 4,8 kg.
The kovsh, a traditional Russian drinking vessel with the shape of a ship's hull has been in use since the Middle Ages until the 19th century throughout all levels of society. Originally a kovsh was made from wood and used as a mere basic commodity for serving food and drinks. At the beginning of the 18th century the tsar ordered gilded kovshs to give away for special merits for the country. During the 19th and beginning of the 20th century gold- and silversmiths like Fabergé created exceptional and frequently monumental kovshs of the highest quality on customer order for representation.
In 1887 Fabergé opened a branch in Moscow on Kuznetsky Most Street, a most famous boulevard. From 1900 onwards Fabergé manufactured all large silver objects in Moscow. At that time the city could be regarded as the centre of Russian silversmith business where all major companies had their headquarters and the country’s best silversmiths gathered. Another feature of the Moscow branch was the specialization on the Neo-Russian style. Russian-folkloristic themes and the recollection of Russian history became popular during the second half of the 19th century. Depiction of heroes, elements of fairy tales, epics or historical facts and personalities were seized on. Those motifs were formed three-dimensionally or placed on objects as reliefs. Fabergé designed several monumental kovshs with the bogatyr topic, the heroes from the legends of the medieval Kievan Rus. Likewise the theme of the falconer is deeply rooted in the Russian medieval history. Falconry was regarded as one of the most popular pastimes of the Russian aristocracy, especially the boyars.
The figurative part of the kovsh can be traced back to the sculpture "The tsar's falconer" (1872) by the Russian sculptor Eugeny Alexandrovich Lanceray (1848–1886). A monumental version was presented during the All-Russia Exhibition 1882 in Moscow, where Fabergé participated for the first time and obtained a gold medal.
According to the current research status, two further similar versions of falconer kovshs are known besides the one being offered. One comparable kovsh with slightly differing body form, handle and smaller divergent details with the inventory number "24682" belonged to the Swedish Nobel-family, an important customer of Fabergé. Especially Emanuel Nobel, Swedish-Russian oil magnate of the Branobel Company ordered several objects (further provenance: 20th May 1997 Sotheby's Geneva, lot 290/ 26th November 2012 Christie's London, lot 284). Another kovsh, less elaborate and not expressly attributed to Fabergé, was presented by the Grand Duke Boris Vladimirovich of Russia (cousin of Nicholas II of Russia) to Alfonso XIII of Spain in 1908 (Farnese Regiment). Both kovshs are directly attributed to an archival Fabergé sketch (Fabergé, T., p. 349).
Silver objects originating from the Fabergé Moscow branch usually remained unsigned and were exclusively marked with the manufacturer's name which is why so little is known about the designers themselves. Researchers take this as an opportunity to further scrutinize possible designers and dating of monumental bogatyr and falconer kovshs.
Fabergé, Tatiana F., et al. Fabergé: A Comprehensive Reference Book, 2012, p. 349.
Trombly, Margaret Kelly. Fabergé and the Russian Crafts Tradition, 2017.
- Sparke, C. and Hoff, Dee Ann: "Fabergé's Monumental Kovshes with Bogatyr Themes" in: Fabergé Research Site | Newsletter 2015 Winter.
-Hoff, Dee Ann: "From Bogatyrs to Boyars" in: Fabergé Research Site | Newsletter 2016 Winter.
The Family Rudolph Sack
Rudolph Sack (1824-1900) came from a humble background and worked in his parents’ estate since early childhood. Nevertheless they focused on their son’s education and made it possible to hire a private teacher and later a training in mathematics and technical drawing with a land surveyor. Sack educated himself in the following years and worked as an estate manager for several employers. Upon the death of his stepfather he returned to his home and started improving the common inefficient ploughs. Sack constructed new, productive iron-and-steel ploughs as well as grain drills, harrows or rollers. After being successful within the region, his constructions were discussed in specialist journals and displayed in exhibitions. Sack’s first international client was the beet sugar industrialist Count Alexey Bobrinsky in Bogorodizk / Kiev who ordered 120 ploughs after a visit in 1857 on condition that they would be manufactured by Richard Garetts & Sons in Leiston, England. The contact with the technically advanced industry of Great Britain may have been a contributing impulse to establish an own company with the help of the industrialist and politician Carl Erdmann Heine (1819-1888) in Leipzig-Plagwitz. In 1873 Sack exhibited at the Vienna World’s Fair, went on trade travels and soon exported his products worldwide, for example to Austria and Russia. Within the upcoming years he expanded his business widely und successfully. In 1882 already 50% of the manufactured products were exported, in 1913, the year of the company’s 50th anniversary 72% went into export. Rudolph Sack’s son Paul entered the company in 1881, took over the daily business in 1891 and finally succeeded his father in 1900 as head of the company with growing success (fig. 1). Nearly 2.000 employees worked for Rud. Sack in 1911. An internal correspondence between the company’s export department and Otto Sack shows the beginning business relation to the joint-stock company Rabotnik (fig. 2). The company’s 50th anniversary in 1913 was celebrated on a large scale with international guests (fig. 3).
Paul Sack’s sons Otto and Dr. Hans Sack succeeded after their father’s death as company directors. In 1945 the Rud. Sack KG was closed by the US American administration, following the confiscation of all property by the Soviet administration. Production started again but all modern equipment was being dismantled and transported to the USSR in 1946. After 1948 the company, now “Leipziger Bodenbearbeitungsgerätefabrik VEB, vormals Rud. Sack” (BBG) was nationally owned and taken over by the Amazonen-Werke after insolvency in 1998.
- Dreyer, Klaus: Die Geschichte der BBG - Von Rudolph Sack bis AMAZONE, 2009.
- Rud. Sack Leipzig-Plagwitz: 1863 - 1913; Lebensgeschichte des Begründers, Entwicklung und heutiger Stand des Werkes. Leipzig, 1913.
The Family Lessing and “Rabotnik”
Director of the joint-stock company „Rabotnik“ was Dr. Walter Lessing (1881-1967), industrialist, politician and, like his father Anton Lessing (1840-1915), a major cultural sponsor in their hometown Oberlahnstein. He also continued to look after the long-term relationship between Russia and Germany. On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Rud. Sack, Dr. Lessing was invited according to the internal, international guest list. Dr. Walter Lessings father Anton Lessing, Royal Prussian councillor of commerce and politico-economic consultant of the German embassy in St. Petersburg, can be considered a pioneer of Russian industrialisation. He laid the foundations for the families’ intensive business relation to Russia and contributed to the extension of railway construction in the country. Anton Lessing moved to Russia in 1864 and established a locomotive factory in Kolomna together with the brothers Amand and Gustav von Struwe in 1871. Lessing was responsible for material procurement as well as finances. Furthermore they founded the Tschelkowo-Society for hard coal mining and after 1881 several iron works in Russia. After Lessing’s marriage with Lydia de Cuyper (1848-1904) their principal residence was Oberlahnstein from the 1880’s on. He was awarded with honours and distinctions and became honorary citizen of Oberlahnstein and his birth city Mühlhausen.
His son Walter Lessing went to Russia of his own accord and supported his father Anton as well as his uncle Adolf Lessing in their agricultural businesses. In 1906 Walter Lessing started working for the administration of a collective for agricultural machinery “Rabotnik” (fig. 4). The collective was under the control of the ministry of agriculture and had been established by Amand von Struwe in 1866. Soon after his entry Lessing was appointed director. With its headquarters in St. Petersburg, “Rabotnik” owned branches in Moscow as well as in Kiev. “Rabotnik’s” task was to establish, supervise and finance factories for agricultural machinery to the point of production, among others a factory in Rjasan where the first Anglo Bulgarian plough was built. Walter Lessing gifted a miniature version made by Fabergé, St. Petersburg, to his father on his 70th birthday. They also represented the company Rud. Sack that delivered numerous ploughs and drill machines to Russia. Between 1912 and 1914 “Rabotnik” grew enormously in the segments total revenue, production and property purchase. In spring 1913 Walter Lessing travelled to Germany to attend the festivities of the 50th company anniversary of Rud. Sack where he met his future wife Anneliese Sack (1881-1967), daughter of Paul Sack. Only shortly before the outbreak of the 1st World War, Lessing left Russia towards Germany. After their marriage in 1919 and birth of their first son Anton-Paul in 1921, the family returned to Oberlahnstein in 1922. Lessing became director of Gauhe, Gockel & Cie., a company for lifting and construction equipment where he worked until 1938. Succeeding family generations occupied important social functions as Dr. Gregor Gysi, advocate and politician or Nobel Literature Prize laureate Doris Lessing (1919-2013), who was married to Gottfried Anton Nicolai Lessing (1914-1979) from 1945-1950.
- Lessing, W.: Vater und Sohn im Zarenreich 1859-1914 vom Sohne, typewritten manuscript, 1957, pp.3 ff., pp. 23 ff.
list of illustrations:
- fig. 1: photography family Paul Sack, private archive of Sabine Lessing.
- fig. 2: letter of the export department of Rud. Sack to Otto Sack: Sächsisches Staatsarchiv, Staatsarchiv Leipzig, 20793, Rudolf Sack, Landmaschinenbau, Leipzig, Nr. 148, sheet 210.
- fig. 3: guest list 50th anniversary of Rud. Sack: Sächsisches Staatsarchiv, Staatsarchiv Leipzig, 20793, Rudolf Sack, Landmaschinenbau, Leipzig, Nr. 143, sheet 1.
- fig. 4: poster "Rabotnik", private archive of Sabine Lessing.
Expertly restored condition. Gilding mostly lost. Few fine hairline cracks. The outside with some scratches, the inside and the bottom with several scratches. Bottom left of the outside corpus with small dents.
L. 49,3 cm, H. 25,7 cm, T. 25 cm, Gewicht ca. 4,8 kg.