‘Elementary, my dear Maggie’

We’ve been taking our cues from Sherlock this week by using a bit of detective work to uncover details about some of the more intriguing items in our collection…

We have a number of Chinese jade and Fabergé objets de vertu that were collected by Polesden Lacey’s last private owner, Margaret (Maggie) Greville, in the early part of the twentieth century. We know a little about their origins and that some were given to Mrs Greville as gifts by guests such as King Edward VII and that they were in Maggie’s collection when she died in 1942. We need to find out more about when they were made, by whom, and even what some of them actually are.

A red stone Fabergé vanity case with diamonds and emeralds

A red stone Fabergé vanity case with diamonds and emeralds

Last year we spent a day in the Saloon viewing the Fabergé under a microscope. This gave visitors a glimpse of their beauty up close and also allowed us to see if the objects had any markings or inscriptions. Unfortunately, several of our Fabergé items are stone animals which typically aren’t marked, but a few of the other objects are. We’ve been able to interpret some of the markings, such as the gold content, but others are harder to understand. One of the problems is that the writing is so small that it’s difficult to see clearly!

A Fabergé enamelled bookmark. The number '56' means 56 zolotniks (equivalent to 14 carats) and the woman's profile beside it is the Russian hallmark of gold and silver objects, adopted after 1896

A Fabergé enamelled bookmark. The number ’56′ means 56 zolotniks (equivalent to 14 carats) and the woman’s profile beside it is the Russian hallmark of gold and silver objects, adopted after 1896

The jade objects are more difficult to date as very few of them have any markings and, unlike Fabergé, were made over a large period of time. For most, we have very little idea of their purpose – whether they were made for decorative or practical reasons. Deducing their original function often needs expert knowledge.

A Chinese white jade water pot with lizard design. It has a maker's mark on the bottom

A Chinese white jade water pot with lizard design. It has a maker’s mark on the bottom

The next step is consulting experts to help us learn more, so watch this space!

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5 thoughts on “‘Elementary, my dear Maggie’

    • Cher Jean-Michel,
      Merci de nous mettez en contact. Nous sommes très intéressé à connaître plus des informations des articles de Mme Greville à votre possession. Est-ce-que vous pouvez envoyez plus de détails et quelques photos des objects à notre Directeur du Château et de la Collection, Vicky Bevan à vicky.bevan@nationaltrust.org.uk , de préférence en anglais?
      Merci et nous vous souhaitons une bonne année.

      Dear Jean-Michel,
      Thank you for contacting us. We are very interested to know more information about the articles of Mrs Greville in your possession. Could you send more details and some photos of the objects to our House and Collections Manager, Vicky Bevan at vicky.bevan@nationaltrust.org.uk , preferably in English?
      Thank you and we wish you a happy new year.

      • Merci pour vos bons vœux que je vous adresse également
        Madame Liron qui était la dame de compagnie de madame Greville ,était une cousine de ma mère
        C est la raison pour laquelle je possède des photos et des objets de Madame Greville
        Je vais préparer un dossier et vous le faire parvenir
        Cordialement

  1. What a fascinating piece on the Chinese jade and Fabergé objets de vertu that are held in the collection. From memory Geoffrey Munn was conducting some research on selected pieces and was making good progress. At the time Geoffrey had access to archives of the outlet were some of these items were purchased and the late Queen Mothers archives and I am sure if contacted could possibably update any research on this part of the collection..

    • Thanks Paul, I’ll look into that. I’ve also contacted Geza von Habsburg who is another Faberge expert, so hopefully he can shed some light on the items for us.

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