Alexander III and Nicholas II
English Russian
English Russian

Pieces of the Russian history in the Swiss auction house

The Russian sales in December 2010 and 2011 at Hotel Des Ventes were exceptionally successful featuring very rare and important Russian history pieces. The collections consisted of the unrevealed documentary of the Romanov family: letters, photos, postcards, and even watercolours made by the imperial family members. The auctions broke several records, making Hotel des Ventes one of the most famous auction houses in the world.

Alexander III family
Alexander III family

MYSTERIOUS OWNER OF THE COLLECTION

All objects of the collection (the first part revealed in 2010 and then in 2011) once belonged to Ferdinand Thormeyer, whose personality is not yet quite explored by historians. Ferdinand Thormeyer was born 1 Ferbuary 1858 in Carouge in the suburbs of Geneva. In the 19th century it was common to seek fortune abroad, and Ferdinand Thormeyer was not an exception. At the age of 18 he went to the Russian Empire, and after some years of studies was granted the right to work as a tutor at military schools and cadet corpse. In after years he was awarded a number of honorary orders, and among his greatest achievements was his nomination to the post of a tutor to the children of the Emperor of Russia Alexander III, who was the last but one emperor of the ruling Romanov dynasty.

Thormeyer was a modest and reserved person, and not without that reason was he warmly admired by the imperial family. He taught George Romanov and Nicholas Romanov French language and literature, and later became a mentor to Mikhael Romanov, Olga Romanova and Xenia Romanova. The relationship between the tsar’s children and Thormeyer may be called trustworthy, which is documented in their long-lasting correspondence started in 1887, and ended only after his death.

Alexander III
Alexander III

In the letters revealed young Michael, Olga and Xenia discussed with Thormeyer mainly their everyday activity, such as games with cousins, hunting and cycling. As they grew older they changed to thoughts on Revolution, hard life far from Russia, financial problems and difficulties in bringing up their children. It was until his death in 1918 that Grand Duke Michael called Thormeyer “my angel Sesha”, und often ended his letters with the message “Michael, who adores you”. Olga continued to write letters to Thormeyer even after 1944, by when he had died.

During WWII Fredinand Thormeyer served in the headquarter office of the Red Cross where he often visited Russian war prisoners. Soon after his death the valuable collection of photos, letters and souvenirs from the Romanov was carefully preserved and packed by his relatives in travel cases to be stored in the loft.

UNEXPECTED FIND BY THORMEYER DESCENDANTS

Descendants of Ferdinand Thormeyer never suspected the existence of the unique and exceptional collection. The unnoticeable travel cases were carried together with other things during removals and had never been opened. However in 2010 the content of the suitcases was finally shown to Bernard Piguet.

Mikhael Alexandrovich Romanov
Mikhael Alexandrovich Romanov

SIGNIFICANCE OF THE COLLECTION

The find was incredible: around 2000 objects including 1000 handwritten letters, sent by the Romanovs to their mentor Thormeyer, who in return sent back messages of kind words in their good and bad times, 400 telegrams, around 150 photographs, 200 postcards and other memorable documents and objects. One of the pieces was a gifted cigar case made of silver and rose gold with the engraving inside: “Nicholas and George to M. Thormeyer in the memory of three good years”.

The collection included rare letters of Olga Alexandrovna Romanova, photographs of Alexander III, Nicholas II, Mikhael Alexandrovich Romanov and other members of the family never revealed before. The photographs of young dukes and duchesses were exceptionally valuable. By the initiative of Bernard Piguet the entrance to the auction preview in December 2010, exhibiting unique lots at Hotel des Ventes, was free of charge, which allowed general public to become closer to the Russian history.

Some time later, in the heap of old things in the same loft, the descendents of Ferdinand Thormeyer found another set of precious lots – around 300 photographs of the Romanov family, which likewise had never been published before. Some of the photos were hand-signed by Nicholas II, his sisters and brothers. The servants of the imperial family carefully registered the place where the photographs were taken and marked the date. The price on such photos was particularly high. Other important lots of the collection were two photo albums with around 50 photographs each. Some photographs were sold as combined lots, and those more precious were sold separately. Thus the auction run in December 2011 was not less successful than the auction of 2010.

Georgij Aleksandrovich Romanov
Georgij Aleksandrovich Romanov

INCREDIBLE “RUSSIAN ART AUCTION” 2010

6 December 2010 at the reception before the auction the visitors did not show much interest to the imperial collection. The mood changed during the sale, when not only Thormeyer’s pieces were sold at record price, but also the rest of the Russian art lots – icons, Russian porcelain, silver etc. Some pieces were sold at price higher 5-10 times forecast by the specialists of the auction house. The auction beat several world records of the sales of such kind. Bernard Piguet highlighted that the history of the Romanov family attracts interest not only of Russians, but also many people from Europe and around the world.

Sources:

Recommended

Ancient Russia Jewellery

Ancient Slavic jewelleries were mainly found in the troves buried in the times of the Mongol-Tatar attacks in Rus’. Past exhibition “Treasures of Ancient Russia from the Russian Museum Collection” showed unique ancient jewellery pieces as well as the tools used by jewellery masters.

NEXT...
ALL ARTICLES
On June 18th and from June 20th to 22nd, 2018 Swiss auction house Schuler Auktionen will be hosting their next auction in Zurich. Among the lots to be offered for sale are some Russian icons from the XVII — XIX centuries: a large twopartite icon “Unexpected Joy” – “Synaxis of the Archangel Michael” (XIX century), “Christ Pantocrator” (1st part of the XIX century), “Archangel Michael Horseman” (XVIII century), “St. Elisha” (XVII century), “Fiery Ascent of the Prophet Elijah” (around 1600), “Christ Pantocrator” (XIX century), as well as the icon with the bright glass bead embroidered casing and the frame (XIX century).  Next...
  • Views: 6051
On June 6th, 2018 leading Russian art auction house MacDougall’s is hosting their next auction in London. The highlights: Konstantin Somov’s “Meeting in the Park” (1919), Ivan Shishkin's “Pine Forest. Yelbuga” (1897), Pavel Kuznetsov’s “Fountain” (1904), Chaïm Soutine’s portrait “La liseuse endormie, Madeleine Castaing” (c. 1937), Ivan Khrutsky's “Still Life with Fruit and Honeycomb” (1840), Alexander Deineka’s “Woman in a Yellow Dress” (1955), Georgy Nissky’s “Reclining Nude” (c. 1959) and other artwork.  Next...
  • Views: 7383
Martin Hans Borg, Russian art expert from Bruun Rasmussen Auctioneers, Bredgade 33, Copenhagen, Denmark, talks about the Russian art auction on June 8th, 2018, as well as the role of provenance in the selection of items for auctions. “We have contact with the branches of the Danish royal house, which continuously consigns Russian art treasures to our auctions. It always provides an extraordinary touch when there are royal and imperial provenances on the lots that are up for auction. This is also the case at the summer's Russian auction."  Next...
  • Views: 8576
Excercising due diligence in art transactions means using stolen art databases. Obviously, the existence of separate databases renders the work of international art businesses more difficult by imposing additional responsibilities in the verification of provenance.  Next...
  • Views: 13925
Kovalev, Alexey Anatolyevich – research associate of the Russian Academy of Science, the Institute of Archaeology, Russian Academy of Science, member of the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly, the vice-president of the Scientific committee on Archaeological Heritage of the National Committee ICOMOS of Russia – talks about Russian legislation on the protection of archaeological heritage. Alexey Anatolyevich was a member of the working group, which drafted Federal Law No. 245 “On the amendments in the legislative acts of the Russian Federation on combating illicit activity in archaeology”.  Next...
  • Views: 8051
The Responsible Art Market Initiative (“RAM”) formed in Geneva in 2015 offers the Guidelines on combatting Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing for the businesses transacting in the art market in Switzerland and abroad. The focus of the guidelines lies mainly on art dealers, who are at great risk of being used by criminals in schemes of money laundering and terrorist financing.  Next...
  • Views: 2163
Liu Yi is a renowned watercolour artist from Shanghai, member of the China Artists Association and International Watercolour Society. More than twenty of his watercolour works of art won prestigious awards at home and international exhibitions. Liu Yi’s watercolours are held in the collection of museums, local governments, libraries, enterprises, art galleries and international private collections. Mr. Yi is also the author of several books exploring the art of watercolour.  Next...
  • Views: 2516
Vasilisa Neshataeva, Phd, AP International law department of the Russian State University of Justice, author of the book “Cultural Property. Value and Law” (available in Russian and recommended to all interested in art business) speaks about the possibility of creating national control in the Russian art market, protection of a buyer and liabilities of a seller.  Next...
  • Views: 2336
Ariane Moser, COO, Artive, on how to secure art transactions by exercising appropriate due diligence.  Next...
  • Views: 3282