Empress’ Present: “Egg Clock for Doctor Metzger”
On November 25, 1991, a lot offered at Sotheby’s auction in Geneva contained the “egg clock” with lily bouquet in the genuine case by the firm Fabergé. Evaluation: 25,000 – 35,000 Swiss francs or $17,000 – 24,000 (US). The new owner paid 146,500 Swiss francs. Some “experts” could not understand how they could miss such an exclusive item as Fabergé Easter egg. The same “experts” started to attribute the egg to the Austrian masters, thus mystifying the history and blaming the firm Fabergé for counterfeit, although the firm has been manufacturing the imperial eggs already for 8 years.
The origin of the item was irreproachable. The clock was exhibited earlier at 1978 exhibition “Doctor Johann Georg Metzger and His Time” in the university city of Leiden (Holland). The 1991 catalogue mentions that the egg clock resembles “Madonna Lily,” the famous imperial Easter egg from the Armory Chamber. However, the auctioneers could not imagine that some other egg could be a prototype for “Madonna Lily.” Therefore, Dr. Metzger egg exhibited at 1992 Fabergé exhibition in Tsarskoye Selo together with the Easter egg from the Armory Chamber collection caused a real commotion.
Doctor J. G. Metzger (1838 – 1909) was born in Holland. On April 2, 1886, he came to Russia for the first time and started healing Alexander III. For his efforts, he was awarded with St. Stanislaus order, Second Class. On December 23, 1893, Doctor was awarded with St. Stanislaus order, First Class, which gave him and his heirs the right for the Russian nobility. The Tsar signed the invoice for the egg the same day. This coincidence was not by chance (the date was cited in the book “Johann Georg Metzger 1838 – 1909: Life and Activities,” University of Leiden, 1971, p. 89). During his concealed stay in Saint-Petersburg in December 1983, Doctor Metzger received the “Egg clock” by Fabergé, which cost 2,000 rubles and was paid off by Alexander III. The most important holiday for Russian Orthodox believers is Easter, whereas it was Christmas for Doctor Metzger. So, it was a well deserved present. It also coincided with Dr. Metzger’s silver wedding anniversary. The Russian Imperial Court has always appreciated the stars of foreign medicine at their true worth, but such torrent of awards and gifts confused even the courtiers. However, the saying is right: “There is nothing more valuable than health!” Moreover, when the health of the Imperial Family is concerned.
Inscription under the photo:
“CLOCK, nephrite, “vermeil” guilt silver , chasing, engraving, height 25 cm. Case is genuine: “C. Fabergé, Petersburg, Moscow.”
Origin: the present from the Empress Maria Fyodorovna to Doctor J. G. Metzger.
Doctor Johann Georg Metzger has many times conducted the massage sessions with the members of the Russian Imperial Family including the Empress Maria Fyodorovna, Great Princess Xenia Alexandrovna, and, in particular, Great Princess Olga Alexandrovna who had been heavily injured during the 1888 crash of the imperial train in Borky.
Being an outstanding physician and the founder of the scientific massage theory, Doctor Metzger had many patients belonging to the most of European royal families, mainly from Germany and Denmark. Doctor was extensively working in Wiesbaden and had many Russian aristocratic patients there. In his memoirs, Fyodor Oom, personal secretary of the Empress Maria Fyodorovna, mentions that Doctor’s royalties were unprecedentedly high.
In 1892, Doctor Metzger received an extremely high royalty for his work for the Empress Maria Fyodorovna: 30,000 rubles. It was fixed with amazement by the state secretary Lamsdorf. From His Majesty’s Cabinet, Metzger received the following presents: cuff links with diamonds worth 550 rubles and brooch with diamonds for his wife worth 1,500 rubles. Both items were made by the jeweler Bolin. The total amount was 2,050 rubles. The gifts of such value from the Cabinet were only received by the physicians-in-ordinary on the occasion of the imperial children’s birth or by the functionaries in the rank of minister.
On December 22. 1893, the jeweler Carl Fabergé presented to Alexander III “Jadeite Clock, Louis XV, price 2,000 rubles.” On January 9, 1984, he submitted the invoice for this clock. It is the highest price for Fabergé’s clocks, at the level of imperial Easter eggs.
Doctor J. G. Metzger.
Photo from the book “Johann Georg Metzger 1838 – 1909. Life and Activities,” University of Leiden, 1971.
The clock corresponds to its description in the invoice including the time and price. The clock was paid off by the Emperor Alexander III and presented to Dr. Metzger as a gratitude for his work involving the treatment of the Imperial Family. Already mentioned Lamsdorf notes that the massage sessions of the Empress Maria Fyodorovna were thoroughly concealed. Such an expensive present was not made public as well. No inventory lists involving the property of imperial palaces and residences dated 1894 – 1917 or later describe even similar clocks.
Snake (medical symbol) on “Dr. Metzger clock” is twined in the form of the stylized letter “M,” which may be interpreted as “Metzger.” Were it deemed “Maria,” the imperial symbols should be present.
In 1994, the photo of “Nephrite candlestick decorated with gold in the style of Louis XV” was found in the archives of Tatyana Fabergé. Collation of the candlestick photo with the studied clock allows to draw a definite conclusion on the similarity of both masterpieces: Louis XV. Both items (candlestick and egg clock) were made of gilt silver.
Earlier (1992) the Catalogue of Fabergé Exhibition in Tsarskoye Selo proved the stylistic coincidence of the lily bouquet decorating “Dr. Metzger clock” and the stone lily bouquet of “Madonna Lily” egg presented to the Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna in 1899.
In the process of examining the clock, the inventory number 46822 was found. Invoice fails to indicate the number: it was not a part of the common practice at that time. The indication of numbers in invoices became standard in 1895 – 1896 when the active work of the firm Fabergé for the Imperial Court required the monitoring of invoices origin. The firm Fabergé started to keep the Main Inventory Book from August 1842. By summer 1893, about 46 000 items were manufactured. The archives contain the firm’s invoice to the Emperor of July 31, 1893, for 8 items taken for making gifts while traveling to Denmark. The numeric range of the items is from 46192 to 46379. August 1894 was under the numbers of about 48500. According to the Main Book, production capacity of the firm amounted to 2000 – 2200 items. Invoice to the Empress Maria Fyodorovna of October 19, 1893, cites six items in the range from 46856 to 46948. We may draw the conclusion that number 46822 is attributed to the Main Book record made in the second half of 1893. The Main Inventory Book used to fix the items ready for sale. The sale process took no more than a year. The 1893 Price List noted: “if an item is not sold within a year, it is subject to remelting.” Saint-Petersburg city hallmark (“anchors,” “88” silver standard (916 metric standard)) and French import hallmark were revealed on the item, because Dr. Metzger moved to Paris on January 20, 1893, where he died 16 years later. The clock mechanism contains the inscription “MOSER Saint-Petersburg,” which definitely indicates its Petersburg origin.
Nephrite was actively used by the firm Fabergé for making expensive presents to the Imperial Family members and for diplomatic gifts. Historian Pylyayev writes about its extreme rarity. Over 50 years before 1917, only 200 tons of nephrite were excavated. Karl Werfel whose firm was owned by Fabergé had the monopoly concession for nephrite mining. Franz Birbaum, chief foreman of Fabergé firm, defined six nephrite grades including the superior grade “dark green, translucent.” “Dark green grade may be cut in thin flakes, thus acquiring the rich dense color and becoming translucent.” “Being simultaneously solid and viscous, free from cracks so obstructing the dressing of many other gems, it gives the opportunity to bring the manufacture to the utmost perfection.” (F. Birbaum, History of the Firm Fabergé, 1992). One knows the 1908 Easter egg of nephrite, “Alexander Palace.” We also know the nephrite gifts to the German Emperor: Tsar Cannon made in 1898 (2,200 rubles) and bowl made in 1906 (4,500 rubles) as well as nephrite egg “Apple Blossom” for Varvara Kelch.
At the world’s biggest exhibition of Fabergé items in America “Wilmington-2000,” Dr. Metzger Easter egg from Michel Kamidian’s collection was exhibited in the central hall among 20 other masterpieces including the imperial Easter eggs from the Armory Chamber. Insured value of Kamidian’s Dr. Metzger egg amounted to $2,500,000. The famous imperial masterpiece, Easter egg “Madonna Lily” of 1899 from the Armory Chamber collection, was stylistically manufactured according to Dr. Metzger egg template.
Conclusion. Due to the availability of all hallmarks, inventory number of Fabergé firm, engraving “MOSER Saint-Petersburg,” French import hallmark, firm’s genuine case, and the document from the archives, one may ascertain the identity of Dr. Metzger clock with the clock worth 2,000 rubles mentioned in the invoice of January 8, 1894, and draw the conclusion that the given masterpiece is classified with the group of imperial egg clocks.